The majority of us are not born with outstanding organisational genes, if we were our toys and books as children would have been lined up in designated spots, our school bags would have been packed the night before with everything we needed, and our assignments would have been started well in advance of when they were due, all without our parents needing to ‘remind’ us.
As we grew up and became more independent, most of us learnt and developed strategies and habits that allow us to achieve what needs to be done and meet deadlines whether at work or home. Admittedly this comes easier to some than others so if you’re still refining your processes, here are 10 tips to help you to be more organised in 2021.
1. Write things down
No one can remember everything so trying to is pointless and will only make you feel less organised. Sooner or later you’ll remember late at night you forgot to buy milk, make that booking or prepare that report; worse still you might forget altogether until you need it. While it might seem obvious, writing events and appointments in your calendar, and tasks in a to do list so you know what’s coming up is vital in being more organised.
It doesn’t matter if you use pen and paper, or an app on your phone, whatever works best for you, fits your lifestyle and will help you stay organised is fine as long as you’re writing things down.
2. Make a list
This goes hand-in-hand with the above. Making, or sorting, your tasks into a to do list, task list or checklist (it doesn’t matter what you call it) can help you see what needs to be done now and what can wait until later. Try to be specific and break tasks down into smaller jobs if you can.
Having to prepare a presentation, for example, may be easy to put on your list but we all know it’s rarely as simple as that. Do you need to research something or pull stats from somewhere? Are you going to need input from someone else? What are you going to include? Will you need images? All of these sub tasks often sit below a main task and can make us delay starting a big project. Having smaller tasks that can be ticked off as you go is a great motivator for productivity and the feeling of organisation.
3. Start early
Yes, this was what our teachers and parents were always on about at school. Leaving stuff to the last minute makes you feel rushed especially when unexpected things come up as they always do. None of us know what’s around the corner but printing that form, taking 10 minutes to make those appointments you’ve been putting off, paying that bill, or buying that birthday present when you have some spare time can significantly improve how organised we feel.
Imagine getting to the day before Mother’s Day and knowing you’ve just got to write on your card because you purchased one when you saw them at Easter rather than having to face the last minute crowds. Instant organisational star!
4. Plan ahead to avoid the morning rush
Mornings are a challenge for many people trying to get everyone sorted and out the door on time. We all get tired at the end of a long day and have good intentions of getting up early the next morning to get organised but, let’s be honest, how often does that happen? For those of us who aren’t as perky in the am, planning the next day the evening before can make a huge difference to how smoothly the morning routine, and our day overall, runs.
By incorporating the next morning’s tasks, such as choosing and ironing clothes, getting out the things for breakfast, and packing lunches, gym bags or school bags, into your evening routine you’ll avoid the rush and may even have time to enjoy that cup of coffee.
5. A place for everything
We’ve all heard the saying, a place for everything and everything in its place. Just the thought of decluttering, sorting through that pile of papers on your office desk, or going through the wardrobe and donating things you no longer wear is often a barrier in itself to getting organised. Yes, it can be time consuming and daunting to think about doing a whole house, for example, so break it down to individual bookcases, in trays or rooms. While this is easier said than done, once completed finding items you need will be easier and tidying up faster as you’ll have a dedicated space to put things.
For a lot of people, delegation is thought of in negative terms. They don’t want to seem bossy, like their whinging, or that they can’t manage their workload. The reality though is most of us have at least a few things on our lists that we could easily delegate to someone else to help our own organisation. Maybe it’s getting your child to pack their own lunch, asking your partner to buy the milk on their way home so you don’t have to make a special trip, or sharing admin tasks around the team instead of having one person alone do them. Delegating tasks to others isn’t a sign of weakness, it shows you trust others and their ability to complete tasks.
7. Keep working at it
Getting organised isn’t something you do once then simply forget. Staying organised requires you to keep working at it. There will always be items to put away, new tasks to add to your lists, and new appointments to attend. None of us will ever be on top of everything every day. No matter how hard we try, life will get in the way and you’ll be too busy or tired to complete everything on your to do list daily and that’s ok. However, by setting up a routine and continuously working on dealing with new things as they come up, eventually, you’ll form a habit that makes getting back into the swing of things easier.
8. Embrace technology
We all know we should try to reduce the time spent on technology but our computer, laptop, and smartphone can actually be really useful in keeping us organised. Take online banking for example; setting up direct debits or adding bills and future dating payment is a great way of ensuring your bills are paid on time without you having to remember to pay them. Paying on time will also help improve your credit score.
There are also a multitude of apps out there that often sync to your calendar where you can create lists, monitor appointments and assign tasks to family members. These can be really useful for ensuring everyone within your household or family is on the same page and knows what is going on. You can even set reminders so no one has an excuse for forgetting important tasks and dates.
Of course, in a work environment, you can’t go past a CRM such as Salesforce to significantly improve productivity and efficiency.
9. Don’t multitask
Now this may seem counterintuitive to being more organised but bouncing from one task to another without completing them actually takes longer. We’ve all been guilty of it at some stage, often it’s because we get interrupted, but chopping and changing tasks instead of remaining focussed is a bit like trying to lay pavers from opposite ends. You’ll achieve the result eventually but the time taken to walk back and forth will increase the overall project time. By focusing on one job until it’s finished, or you reach a natural stopping point, then moving onto the next you’ll actually achieve more.
10. Do it now
Regardless of how good our organisational skills are, our old ‘friend’ procrastination can get the better of all of us at some point. Our intentions may be good but, for whatever reason, our motivation levels take a dive and suddenly we’re back to what seems like step 1. However, by dealing with things the first time where you can, you’ll automatically become more organised as some tasks won’t even make it to a list.
Take for instance the simple task of collecting the mail. Don’t put the mail on the kitchen bench to sort later. If you’re not going to read the junk mail, throw it in the bin as soon as you bring it inside (or better yet put it straight into the recycle bin outside). Open bills and mail when you collect it and sort those that need to be followed up. Taking 1-2 minutes to deal with the mail when you have it in your hands not only deals with it immediately, it stops it becoming something you need to do later.
The same goes for things we pick up around the home or office – books, papers, coffee cups, clothes, the list is endless. If you have it in your hand, deal with it straight away rather than creating a job for later. Doing this is like instantly ticking off a task, regardless of how small it may be.
As with most new things in life, being organised takes practice and actively working towards modifying existing habits, some of which have been built over a lifetime. Making small changes is often the easiest way of forming new habits and changing lifelong routines. Few of us could run a marathon without training and the same is true of changing lifelong routines. Setting a goal and making small changes is often the easiest and most effective way of forming new habits that will stay with us for life.