How to Be Organized In Just 12 Steps

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    Did you know that organized people also tend to be happier in their day-to-day lives?

    Some of this is because organizing is a way to take control over your life. When you’re keeping track of your time and using it wisely, you tend to feel better about yourself and your accomplishments.

    But if you learn how to be organized, other doors open as well. Employers are more likely to promote organized people, and organized individuals are more relied upon in familial and social relationships.

    "For every minute spent organizing, an hour is earned."

    When I was younger, I didn’t feel organized at all. I always forgot about important due dates for my school assignments and even my bills. I found myself missing appointments or being late for meetings. People around me were frustrated, but not nearly as frustrated as me!

    I constantly felt like I was on the verge of panic. There was a nagging feeling that I was forgetting things, but I didn’t have any organizational tools to tell me what they might be. Finally, I sat down and took some time to learn how to be organized, and I’ve never gone back.

    How to Be Organized

    How to get organized

    1. Create a Single To-Do List

    The biggest and most helpful action you can take is to create a single to-do list.

    Many people have separate spaces where they keep track of their household chores, school assignments, work needs, and personal goals. But the more places that you store information, the harder it is to access everything at once.

    Having one to-do list confers a few distinct advantages. By keeping all your information together, you can create a clear plan for how you’re going to make the most of each day.

    It can help to color code different tasks. For repetitive tasks, try using checkmarks to tick off whether you’ve finished your daily work.

    Some ideas for different color-coded categories include:

    • Cleaning and home maintenance tasks

    • Any errands that need to be run outside the house

    • Work-related or administrative tasks

    • Educational assignments and study needs

    • Family, childcare, and pet care needs

    • Exercise and physical fitness tasks

    • Any groups of activities that repeat every day

    2. Organize Your Inbox

    There’s a good chance that your email and work inboxes aren’t as organized as they could be.

    Instead of having all of your important emails sitting with your unimportant ones, try creating different folders for different types of emails. You can quickly sort new emails into these folders to make it easier to find them.

    Also, you should unsubscribe to any mailing lists that you don’t want to be on. They just clutter up your inbox with coupon offers and information about promotions that you’ll never be interested in.

    Some basic folder ideas include:

    • Work-related emails
    • More specifically broken-down project-related folders for a work email inbox
    • Sales and promotions you’re interested in
    • Personal mail
    • Mail related to your finances

    You can create sub-folders inside your folders to create a more precise organizational system. The exact shape of the system will vary depending on your setup and needs.

    3. Don't Respond to Emails As They Arrive

    This tip for how to be organized might startle you: Don’t respond to emails as they arrive. After all, every time you respond to an email, you simplify your task list – right?

    Maybe in the short term, yes. But if you want to know how to be organized for the long term, this isn’t an efficient use of your time. You interrupt your workflow every time you answer an email, and you end up scattered and struggling to keep track of the conversations you’re having.

    Instead, try following these steps:

    • Mark emails as they come in if they require a response, but don’t reply to any except ones that require urgent attention.
    • Set aside a specific block in your schedule each day to write email replies.
    • Keep a note-taking system to make notes on your email conversations for easy reference.
    • Use the same basic email reply formatting or template to speed the process.

    Making time to reply to all your emails at once will save you a ton of time. It will also keep your responses relevant and help you remember your conversations more easily.

    4. Don't Procrastinate

    This is one of the hardest habits to overcome when learning how to be organized, but you need to stop procrastinating.

    It’s easy to leave tasks until the last minute. But this will add to your stress and cause you to rush, which means your final product may not be the quality that it should be.

    When you have a multi-step project, break down the steps ahead of time. Assign yourself due dates for each of the steps so you’re not left with the entire project the night before it’s due.

    If you find yourself with a lighter to-do list for a certain day, try getting ahead of schedule on some of your future tasks. You should use each day to make the burden on your future self lighter.

    You might also find yourself procrastinating when you’re overwhelmed by a project and aren’t sure how to start. That’s why one of the biggest skills in how to be organized is to break down larger projects into bite-sized pieces.

    5. Keep Your Home Organized and Tidy

    Your home is where you sleep, eat, socialize, study, and do other work. The way your home looks and feels reflects your headspace. If your house is messy and disorganized, it’s easy to become overwhelmed.

    Some people find that even if they clean once a week, their homes are still disorganized and messy. These are a couple tips for how to be organized on a consistent basis in the home:

    • Put away items as soon as you’re done using them, and throw away trash as soon as you create it.

    • Wash your dishes immediately after using them or put them directly into the dishwasher rather than letting them sit in the sink.

    • Use a clothes hamper for laundry, and put away your clean laundry as soon as it’s finished drying.

    • Make sure that all of your items have a “home,” so you have a space to put them when they’re not in use.

    • Use labels and other organizational systems for things like clothes, books, papers, office supplies, movies, and any other large collections of objects you have.

    6. Stay Away from Bargains

    This pointer doesn’t refer to bargain bins or sales in stores. It’s about making bargains with yourself. Maybe you find yourself saying, “I’ll pick it up tomorrow,” or, “I’ll take the trash out later, I don’t feel like it right now.”

    That’s the devil talking.

    The more you let things pile up, the more overwhelming it will be to get back on track. Making bargains with yourself is just a way of making excuses to get out of doing work. To be truly organized, you have to be willing to use self-discipline.

    With that said, you might have days when you truly don’t feel well enough to get everything done. Cut yourself some slack. It’s best if you leave some leeway each day for tasks that don’t get finished. Make sure that you don’t overbook yourself, and that you’re leaving time to engage in self-care behaviors and rest.

    7. Delegate Responsibilities

    No matter what organizational system you’re using, you can’t do everything yourself. You need to get support and help where you can. An easy way to do this is by delegating responsibilities to other individuals.

    Some examples of delegating responsibility include:

    • Setting up clear responsibilities for roommates.
    • Having kids and spouses be responsible for certain household chores.
    • Having coworkers manage certain aspects of a project that you don’t need to complete yourself.
    • Being clear and open when you have too much on your plate to take on a new project.

    8. Create Powerful Daily Routines

    One of the best tips is to create daily routines made up of helpful habits. Sometimes, the idea of starting a new routine can seem overwhelming. A good way to begin is by making the routine simple at first and then adding more tasks.

    For example, maybe you brush your teeth and wash your face every morning. After a week or so, you can add “getting breakfast ready” or “taking medication” to the list. When these routines become habit, your life will be a lot more streamlined and efficient.

    The same method of routine-building can help at work. Maybe you get in, check your emails, sort them, deal with any organizational needs that cropped up over the night, and then touch base with coworkers.

    9. Don't Get Attached to Things

    This is another difficult principle to adhere to. But it’s best not to get attached to things, especially material things that serve no purpose.

    That’s not to say that you have to get rid of everything that doesn’t immediately serve you. But if an object no longer serves its purpose or makes you happy, there’s no reason to keep it in your life.

    Getting rid of unwanted materials means that your space will be less cluttered, and you’ll have an easier time organizing the objects you do still own.

    10. Declutter Your Office Desk

    Desks tend to pile up with unnecessary objects, documents, and scraps. But they function best if you know exactly what’s in your drawers and how to use it.

    Follow these steps for a basic decluttering:

    • Empty each drawer completely one by one.
    • Get rid of unnecessary papers. Sort necessary documents and folders into different categorized piles. Do the same with office supplies.
    • Make sure everything in or on your desk is useful.
    • Give each drawer a specific purpose when sorting supplies and papers. Use labels if need be.
    • Make sure the desk surface is clear enough to work on, even if you have supplies and documents stored there as well.

    11. Powerful Morning Habits

    We’ve all been there: You hit the snooze button three times, and then suddenly you’re rushing around half-dressed and fifteen minutes late. You burn your toast, miss your morning coffee, and forget your work laptop at home.

    Creating morning habits can help avoid this. Some habit examples include:

    • Waking up an hour before you need to leave
    • Laying out clothes the night before
    • Cooking breakfast while you brush your teeth and wash your face
    • Warming up the car ten minutes before you leave
    • Engaging in fifteen minutes of meditation or yoga

    12. Reward Yourself

    Organizing your life shouldn’t be a miserable process. You should reward yourself whenever you accomplish a goal or create a new organizational system.

    For example, maybe if you follow your morning routine for a whole week, you’ll treat yourself to a chocolate bar you really like.

    Or maybe when you complete a big class project, you’ll take a bubble bath to celebrate.

    Whatever the reward is, it should make you feel good about what you’ve done and encourage you to keep going.

    Final Thoughts

    One of the most insidious beliefs is that you can’t learn how to be organized. Many people believe that organization is a talent or a personality trait rather than a skill you can learn.

    It’s true that some people are more intuitively organized than others. But you can learn how to be organized even if you feel like the most disorganized person in the world. The most important thing is finding a system that works for you.

    • A good organizational system will relieve your stress instead of adding to it. Finding the right one is worth any amount of hassle.

    1. Consider multiple options for achieving your goal.
    2. Determine the options that you can use if your primary plan falls through.
    3. Take the time to document these options and figure out how to implement them, before you need to use them.

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