Getting Organized — Not Your Typical Advice

Getting organized is on a lot of peoples’ “to-do” list. The problem is, there’s usually also a bunch of other things on that same list, so organization gets made a last priority. Getting organized is not a one and done deal — It involves continuous effort.

Being organized is all about being efficient. I could sit here all day and tell you that having the cleanest desk is the key to success, but I don’t believe that. Here are some things to remember when trying to organize your work, life, and everything else.

Write everything down

The shortest pencil is better than the longest memory.

You’re better off writing things down, regardless of how good you think your memory is. Any time an event comes up, immediately put it in your calendar. Writing things down as they come avoids any confusion.

Whether this is a tangible, hand written planner or an electronic one, having your events and responsibilities laid out somewhere you can refer back to is key in staying organized.

During my day, I constantly have sticky notes, notepads, and my planner scattered around my desk for various notes. While electronic notepads are great, sometimes I need to physically jot things down. This may look messy to some, but this is my way of “being organized.” I always have my priorities and tasks written down right in front of me and I can stay on top of everything.

Declutter and delete

Clutter isn’t just handheld. Have you ever wasted time searching though your computer looking for a specific file? I know I have — Not only is it frustrating, but it’s time consuming as well. Refresh your computer files and email inbox regularly by going through and deleting anything that is no longer of use to you. Make this a daily/weekly habit to make your life easier.

In a survey by Brother International Corporation, it was found that 56 percent of office workers admitted to spending up to 30 minutes “looking for files they cannot find” on their computer, while more than one-in-three say they “somewhat” or “very” often must spend time reprinting previously created documents because they have been misplaced.

The estimated amount spent annually on looking for misplaced items in the office is $89,840,657,069 among full-time office professionals. It is also estimated that 38 working hours (or close to one work week) per person each year are lost as a result of looking for misplaced items in the office.

That’s A LOT of time and money wasted.

Let things go

Clutter happens because we simply have TOO MUCH STUFF. You may buy something because it’s on sale or because you think you’ll use it later. The truth is you probably will never actually use it. You may be holding onto a book you swore you’d read or clothes you were planning on wearing, but the reality is that all these things do is take up space.

I know how it feels. It actually hurts to come to terms with the fact that buying these things was a waste of time and money. The more you’ve committed emotionally or financially to an item, the more you want to keep it around. Researchers at Yale found two areas in the brain associated with pain (the anterior cingulate cortex and insula) light up in response to letting go of items you own and feel a connection towards. Your brain sees the loss of physical possessions the same as something that causes you physical pain.

Not a one size fits all concept

Recognize that there is a difference between being organized and being tidy. Many people think that being organized is about being clean and tidy, but the truth is everyone’s tolerance for clutter is difference. Organization is about is having a system in place that helps you place, change, and evaluate things easily in a way that WORKS FOR YOU.

I’m not the most organized person in the world, but I know myself and I know my space. My parents used to say my room was a mess, but in my mind I knew where everything was. For some, the right amount of mess on their desk can help achieve greater creativity, defy convention, and even be more productive. Researchers have found that certain people need a bit of a mess in their surroundings to feel inspired and get work done.

Above: Steve Jobs (Apple) Left: Zuckerberg (Facebook) Right: Tony Hsieh (Zappos)
‘’If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk?’’ — Albert Einstein
Left: Mark Twain Right: Albert Enstein

So no, being completely clutter free isn’t the key for everyone. While I believe it’s important to rid yourself of clutter you don’t need, I believe you can be organized in any enviroment. Everyone’s brains work differently, so for some people it’s not necessary to be “tidy” all the time. No Pinterest post telling you how to stay tidy is going to fix to your productivity issues — figuring out how you think and function best is. Being an organized person and thinker is not a one size fits all policy.

Being organized means you have a plan, a way to execute it, and ways check up on yourself. These tips will help you stay organized, but the real key to maintaining order is your own ability to focus and prioritize. For productivity tips, check out our last post:


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