Wouldn’t it be great to be more organized? I mean, there must be a way, right? You’ve seen others who seem to have their sh** together. The question is, how exactly do they do it? Do they have more hours than you have? Do they hire help? Or do they have fewer responsibilities? This all might be the case but the real answer is, they do what it takes to be more organized. And it’s not witchcraft. Learn how you too can organize your life by putting a couple of things in place.
What does it look like to be organized
Being organized means something different to everyone. Perhaps you want to feel less stressed. Running from one appointment to the next is draining your energy. You would love to have a moment to yourself. Maybe being organized for you, is having a tidy home and a meal planned for every day of the week. Most of us want to have more time and get more done and that’s where organization skills become a handy asset.
What if you’re naturally chaotic
You might think being disorganized is your nature but I have good news for you. Organizing can be learned. To be more organized you need to create the right environment around yourself and adopt the right habits. Let’s jump right into how you can do this.
12 simple hacks to be more organized
So here’s what you need to do if you want to become one of these highly organized people. Some of these things you might already be doing. But here’s the truce. They might seem obvious to the extent that we think we can skip them. Organized people understand that they need to take the time even for those steps which seem redundant.
That’s a huge one and the reason why it’s on top of the list. Most of us can’t be better organized because we simply do everything without asking ourselves if it’s important or not. Your task list can be immediately reduced by aligning it with your list of priorities.
How often do we keep pushing tasks from one day to the other only to realize after two weeks that it was completely superfluous? Or we put other people’s priorities on our to-do list, making everybody else a priority instead of ourselves. I don’t say that we can’t have people in our lives who are a priority for us. But the minute you start to arrange your schedule around everybody and their neighbor’s cat, you’ll never be organized.
Set your priorities and create your day around these priorities first. If you have time left, you can always take on other things as well.
Once you know what your priorities are, you start putting your priorities first. This makes it easier to say no to things that aren’t a priority or at least not for the moment. Even if it’s difficult to say no, you can’t make space for everything. Some things have to go.
“The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” Stephen Covey
Write everything down
This is the point most people think they can skip. You might be one of them if you think ‘I don’t need to take a note, I’ll remember this’. And maybe you can. Maybe your brain is a giant super-computer and there’s lots of space left in your iBrain. You’re simply not making the best use of your brain by dumping a lot of unnecessary information in there. Writing down all your tasks and ideas will free up headspace and it becomes easier for you to focus. Try it out and see what a huge relief it’s to know that you don’t have to remember every tiny detail.
Related post: How to brain dump for clarity
There are lots of ways you can do this. Though it’s always best to create some kind of system. You want to use less brainpower and the information you write down must be easily accessible. It won’t be much help if you write everything down and then don’t remember where.
Bullet journals are great for this kind of thing. You can create categories for the different kinds of information you want to stock. Everything is in one place and you can add information anytime.
Be realistic about your time
For most of us, it’s hard to estimate how much time a task will take. We always over-schedule ourselves because we’re not realistic about our time. This is the biggest chaos factor in our days. As a result, we’re late for appointments, don’t finish our to-do list, and have to constantly rearrange our schedule. This makes us feel stressed and out of control.
The first step you need to take to create a realistic schedule is to start tracking your time. It’s not very difficult to do. There are apps you can use like Toggl or you can use the timer on your phone. I like to use a time cube. For every task on your list note the time it took you to complete it. If you do this for one week you already get a good feeling for your time. I bet you’ll be surprised when you see how much time things take. As a bonus, you can also see how much time you waste.
Another step which can help you to be more realistic about your time is to look at your day as a whole. How much time do you have at your disposal? We all have 24 hours in a day. You can’t cheat on that. But you can find out where and why you’re not using your time well.
Let me give you an example. First, look at the non-negotiables. You sleep for 8 hours every night. You work from 9 am to 5 pm. That’s another 8 hours. You can add 2 hours of commute every day. Let’s not forget that you need to prepare and eat dinner. Another 2 hours plus one hour to have coffee and get ready in the morning. This leaves you with 3 hours. Do this calculation for your day. It’ll give you a clearer picture of how much time you have.
Make shorter to-do lists
Now that you know your priorities and how much time you have, it’s time to apply this to your to-do list. If you tend to write mile-long lists of tasks you should know by now why you never finish them.
A good and reasonable number of items is three. These 3 tasks should be your priorities for the day. Even if you only get those done and nothing else you will feel like you’ve accomplished something.
Try to work through your tasks in order of importance. They should be neither too small nor too big now that you know how long each task takes.
Related post: How to finish your to-do list every day
Automate your tasks
This will leave you with a handful of tasks that aren’t a priority but still need to get done. I am talking about maintenance tasks that you do on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. With these tasks, it’s best to automate them if not fully but at least partially.
Let me give you some examples of which tasks you can automate. Depending on your situation this could be email, accounting, cooking and grocery shopping, working out, cleaning and more.
This doesn’t mean you don’t have to do the work though. But you can save time by using tools, batching similar tasks, and creating routines. Take cooking as an example. You can save a good amount of time if you create a meal plan. A meal plan allows you to buy groceries for the week in one trip to the supermarket. You can save even more time if you cook several meals at a time.
Related post: How to get more done with batching
There are many tools available that help you to automate tasks from accounting software to social media scheduling apps. It’s worth to have a look at which tools could be of interest to you. Here you can find some of the tools I use in my business.
When we talk about automation it’s important to look at routines. Creating routines for repeating tasks and appointments will save you time and reduce stress. Organized people create routines for everything. By doing this, you never have to ask yourself what you should do when. You won’t let tasks fall through the cracks because they’re fixed in your schedule. You no longer waste brainpower on scheduling these tasks.
Household chores are a good example. I like to do a little bit every day rather than cleaning for several hours once a week. That’s why I created a routine for what to do when. It takes the guesswork out of the thing and I know everything gets done. Mondays are for laundry, Tuesdays to clean the bathroom and so on.
You can create routines for everything. The more you stick to routines, the more you’ll feel in control of your time. The most important routines and where you should start are morning and evening routines. But there are so many more from workout routines to beauty routines.
Related post: How to simplify your morning routine
A clear space equals a clear mind. When there’s too much stuff around us, we can find it difficult to concentrate. There’s, for one, mental clutter that we can get rid of by writing things down. But there’s also physical clutter that takes up brain space. Too many things could mean that every time you need something you have to go searching for it. It could also mean that when you want to work on your desk, you first need to clear a space before you can even sit down.
When clutter builds up it gets overwhelming. The more we have, the harder it’s to keep everything under control. We’ll spend time and energy on it which could be better spent otherwise.
You don’t have to become a minimalist to be more organized. Though limiting the things you own to those you actually need makes it easier for you to use and take care of them. Start by decluttering one thing at a time e.g.books, files, kitchen cabinets. When I started decluttering I’ve found that the things I had kept all this time, though I wasn’t using them anymore, we’re weighing heavy on my shoulders. Finally getting rid of them was liberating.
Create a dedicated space for everything
Even with less stuff, to be more organized and to keep it that way, there’s one trick you need to implement. Every object needs a dedicated space.
Have you ever wondered why some people’s homes are always tidy? I can tell you how they do this and it’s very simple. For every object, they choose a dedicated space to put it. If you don’t have a space to put things they’ll pile up. You never know where you put something the last time you used it. Sometimes you don’t even remember that you have it.
Once you’ve chosen the right space for every object it’s easy to access it when you need it. When you are finished using it, you put it back where it belongs and nothing will ever be lying around or piling up somewhere.
Use your calendar
Above we’ve talked about setting priorities. Though simply by putting those priorities on your to-do list they won’t get done. If you want to bulletproof your system you need to schedule your priorities into your calendar.
Your calendar is the best organizational tool you have. Sadly we often don’t make good use of it. We only mark things we easily forget like birthdays and the dentist appointment we would rather avoid. We put tasks in our calendar and then we don’t look at it. So how can you use your calendar to be more organized?
The first step is to take the time to plan our days and weeks. Sit down and go through your appointments and tasks. Give each of them a time slot. If you’ve been writing everything down as we’ve talked about above this should be easy. I like to do this once a week.
Start by blocking out the time for your non-negotiables. If you’re working from 9 am to 5 pm from Monday to Friday, during this time you won’t be available. Put this into your calendar and don’t forget to include your commute. Add social obligations and appointments, as well as the time you plan to cook and eat dinner.
Next, schedule your priorities. What’s important to you and what do you want to spend time on? I recommend you put your priorities on autopilot so that they’ll become actual habits. If you want to workout 3 times a week, block these workouts at the same days and time each week.
Schedule tasks instead of goals. If your goal is to write a book put smaller action steps into your calendar like ‘outline the first chapter’. This is less overwhelming and more actionable than seeing a time block in your calendar every day which says ‘write book’.
Create deadlines to avoid procrastination. We often have tasks that don’t have a specific end date. It’s easy to push them from one day to the next until they come haunting us at night. By giving them a deadline you make sure they will get done.
As the last step, always schedule some time to catch up. Let’s be honest, a perfect schedule doesn’t exist. No matter how much you plan, there are always things that fall through the cracks. Things will pop up and you need to rearrange your schedule. To have a bit more flexibility it’s best to leave some space for unexpected changes.
This goes without saying but I still want to add it here: Look at your calendar every day.
Ask for help
The perfectionist in us often tells us that we have to do everything by ourselves. That nobody can do it the way we do it. We’re persuaded that nobody even wants to help us, so we never ask. And we don’t want others to think that we’re unorganized and not able to get stuff done.
Get over it! Honestly. You’re not alone. We all have people around us who would jump to our rescue if only we get over the fear of asking them. You don’t need to do everything yourself. In some cases, and this might sound a bit harsh, you’ll have to oblige the people around you. This is often the case with family members. Responsibilities can be divided instead of loading everything onto your shoulders.
Some tasks and be hired out. There’s often shame involved in the refusal of hiring somebody. We feel bad about ourselves when we must admit that we can’t do it all. Why don’t we rather look on the positive sides? Hiring somebody to help you can free up time for you to invest in other projects. Organized people know their limits. They hire the right people to do the job which saves them time and energy.
Cut out distractions
When we want to be more organized, we have to cut out the noise. There’s no way around this. Focus only on one thing at a time instead of juggling all at the same time. That’s why it’s important to know your priorities and say no to those things which aren’t important.
Related post: Why you need to stop multitasking
It’s hard because there are many distractions around us. We’ve become almost deaf to the noise and the impact it has on us. We get caught in a loophole of distractions which swallows up our time. By the end of the day, you feel disorganized and unproductive. You’ve spent an hour on Instagram instead of working on your project and you’re not sure how this happened.
From social media over email and messages to the coworker who always keeps interrupting you, there are many reasons you are distracted. It’s time to create rules and adopt healthier behavior around these distractions. You can do this by setting time limits for things like Instagram or answering emails. Put your phone away while you’re working on a task. Set boundaries by telling people they can’t reach you during a specific time. Take back control of your time and you’ll be better organized.
Which of these steps to become more organized have you tried? Did it help you? Leave a comment below!
Note: This article contains affiliate links which means I may make a small commission when you purchase through one of my links. Please see the disclaimer for more information. Thanks for your support!