Ten Tips: 10 Habits to Acquire for a More Organized Life

My New Year’s resolution is to have a more organized life. This post is not about buying more stuff to put your existent stuff in.

I’m trying to create a new system to have not only my space, but my thoughts and my life more organized. I proud myself in having a fairly organized home, everything has its place. My husband calls it borderline insanity because I have containers to store more containers, but I just call it good sense.

What I need now is to take the next step in having a more organized life; scheduling, planning ahead and task management are big issues in my life. I always feel like I’m running and trying to do a million things at once.

So here are the 10 tips I found out there to help me out.

1. Find a system that works

For the past years, I’ve bought so many scheduling apps, spend so much money thinking they would fix my life for me. Spoiler alert: they didn’t. Turns out, I’m not very tech-y. Most of the time, I don’t even know where my phone is. I’m old school, I like the good old pen and paper, I like writing things down and underlining them.

And as it turns out, according to experts, writing things down actually helps to improve your memory. “The very nature of handwriting means you have to write and organize as you are thinking, and that kind of organization affects how you are interpreting the information. It’s the way the hand writing forces you to organize your thoughts that leads to deeper processing.” Dr Helen Macpherson of the Deakin University told The Huffington Post Australia.

Of course having your schedule on your phone has its advantages, it can send you alarms and reminders and you can schedule multiple tasks at once. Plus, you can share it with the whole family in no time. It’s certainly easier and faster.

If you’re artsy, you can go for a bullet journal style. It’s a great way to stay organized, creating your own tables and making it uniquely yours. Plus, is a fun hobby.

And there’s always the big kitchen calendar. Is something you can DIY and create your own system. Each type of task has a different color and all members of the family have easy access to it.

Whatever rocks your boat, pick one and get to work.

2. Write (or type) everything down

Making to-do list are obvious, but to take the next step in organization, you have to write down everything. No matter how good your memory is, small details are bound to be forgotten when life gets crazy. Every task, every birthday, every commitment should be written down. This frees your mind from the energy you waste in having to remember things.

Author David Allen points out how “uncompleted commitments take up psychic energy, each one making you just the tiniest bit more tired, more distracted, and therefore less productive”.

3. Give yourself deadlines

Just making to-do lists is not enough. Simply writing down “fix cabinet door” doesn’t fix the cabinet door. I found out that I take so much pleasure in just making the list, that crossing things of it doesn’t matter as much.

So, by giving myself a deadline, picking a specific date and time to perform the task; a) I can prepare myself mentally beforehand (in the case of the broken cabinet – do I need tools?, do I need to go to home depot?) and b) it’ll make me feel good by crossing it off the list (or bad if I don’t do it on the specific date).

4. Do one task at a time (and finish them)

There is time enough for everything in the course of the day, if you do but one thing at once, but there is not time enough in the year, if you will do two things at a time.” ~ Philip Stanhope

At this moment I have 5 unfinished posts. I started writing them, got distracted or got more excited about something else and never finished them. I get bored easily and committing to things is a big problem for me.

Leaving things unfinished is like having a big dark cloud over my head, is overwhelming and distracting me with guilt because it keeps getting pushed to the next day and the next. It’s time to end that cycle.

5. Schedule breaks

Most of productivity posts out there will tell you that taking breaks on a busy day prevents fatigue and you’ll return to your work refreshed and ready to be even more productive. Even though this is really good advice, my break scheduling has more to do with procrastination then mental fatigue.

Procrastination is another thing I’m trying to kick this year. Is hard to stay focused when you have 100 tabs open (literally and figuratively). If I don’t schedule specific break times, I’ll just take a break whenever I’m stuck in a sentence. Can’t finish a paragraph, here’s a cat video. Can’t think of the word, play some stupid game. Don’t get me started on the black hole that is instagram.

Having a specific time (and, more importantly, duration) for a break it’ll prevent me for getting distracted when I’m supposed to be working.

6. Get a head start

The best way to hit the ground running in the morning is to start the night before. Productivity experts say: “Before leaving your workspace, or before going to bed, take 10 minutes to look over the next day’s commitments.”

This is something I always avoided for fear of losing sleep over tomorrow’s tasks. My brain doesn’t really like to sleep and I have suffered from insomnia ever since I can remember. That is why I don’t schedule doctor’s appointments or important meetings first thing in the morning, because if I do, there’s a 100% percent chance I won’t be sleeping at all that night.

But ever since I started writing this post, I decided to give it another go, I still don’t think I’m prepared for big meetings at 9AM, but to do a quick survey the evening before at tomorrow’s tasks means I waste no time in the morning deciding where to start, gathering materials or even what to wear.

I even found myself crossing small, quick household to-dos from tomorrow’s list, like taking out the trash, emptying the dishwasher or loading the washing machine. It made me feel much lighter knowing that tomorrow’s me have one less thing to do and it helped me sleep better.

7. Do the worst first

Mark Twain knew best when he said “if it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.”

We all have that one task on our to-do list that we just don’t want to do. Maybe is a huge overwhelming project or maybe is just an unpleasant phone call. Whatever it is, do it first and let the satisfaction of a job well done carry you into the rest of your day.

My whole life I’ve been doing it the other way around. Doing the easy, quick things first and always letting the big ones for later. I realize now that it was just another form of procrastination, because, of course, the big ones were always tomorrow’s me problem.

Writer Michael Hyatt talks about slaying your dragons before breakfast. “There’s nothing more motivating for the rest of your day than crossing that monster off your list first thing in the morning “.

8. Batch process (not to be confused with multi-tasking)

Blogger Laura McClellan says “Group similar routine tasks and schedule certain times during the day to knock them out. By batching similar tasks, you save the time lost to ramping up multiple times a day and reap the benefits of momentum.”

Returning e-mails or phone calls at a specific time or times instead of as they come. A concept that makes a lot of sense for someone who receives a lot of e-mails and phone calls on a regular basis, as a self employed, stay at home, part time blogger, not my case.

So, I started thinking how can I adapt this concept on my day to day.

  • bundle together all errands that require me to leave the house and do them all the same day: grocery, dry cleaner, shopping for materials for DIY projects etc.
  • the clean as you go approach, I’ve never been one to do the dishes as I cook, but since I started I’m finding cleaning the kitchen a breeze. I even started prepping ingredients for future meals while cooking, dicing more onions than need for tomorrow’s dinner and cutting up fruits and veggies for a healthier lunch tomorrow.
  • as for work, instagram is a big part of it and it’s very time consuming. So instead of shooting, processing, posting and captioning/tagging each photo individually, maybe trying to bundle together more photos at the same time.

9. Set goals and celebrate the wins

Life Hacker Leon Ho tells “Without worthy goals, you will never be motivated to get things done.” more importantly, “set goals that are challenging, but achievable”.

Imagine you’re an athlete, your desire is to win the race, but you have no control over the race’s outcome. All you have control over is how well you do in the race, so your goal should be to finish the race in a specific amount of time. This way, even if you don’t win the race, you are victorious nonetheless.

Or in my case, I would like to get more instagram followers. But I have no control over the numbers. All I have control of is the content I put out there. So my goal should be to post a certain number of times a week or a day, and do the best I can to be engaging on the captions.

To stay motivated for whatever you do, reward yourself every now and then. Keep track of your small wins and milestones and celebrate them. So whenever you struggle about your progress, you see how far you’ve come.

10. Get an early start

Starting the day early gives you time to sit, think and plan your day. Or so they say. I hate mornings, mornings are my arch-nemesis, my kryptonite. As far as I’m concerned, the early bird can have the worm, because worms are gross and mornings are stupid.

My brain doesn’t like mornings, it simply won’t function before 10AM. Perhaps it has something to do with the afore mentioned insomnia, or perhaps my brain is a night owl. And apparently, night owls don’t get worms.

By waking up late, I always have this feeling that I’m trying to catch up with the day. That feeling you get when you look at the clock and is already 2PM and you haven’t done enough with your day. It always makes me fell useless. And with all those blog posts of successful people out there telling me that waking up early is the key, maybe I should give it a go. I mean, they can’t all be wrong. Right?

So, as far as New Year’s resolutions go, this is the biggest one for me. Watch out, gross worm, I’m coming for you.