Science and Sensibility

A psychological potpourri

How to Get and Stay Organized: Part 1

Stay organized and avoid feeling swamped.

You have dishes piled up in the sink. Unread newspapers clutter your table. You can't see where the dust leaves off and the furniture begins. You feel overwhelmed at the thought of keeping on top of email, studying, cleaning, making and keeping luncheon dates, preparing for holiday events, scheduling your weekend activities, meeting deadlines, or filing paperwork. This anxiety is taxing, distracting, and a stimulus for procrastinating. Start changing that pattern now and your future will start looking brighter.

Maintaining a sense of orderliness can feel like paradise compared to missing deadlines and duplicating efforts caused by misplacing objects or files. By progressively mastering efficiency techniques, you can make them automatic and habitual.

Successful companies have priority organizing systems that may be their most valuable asset. These control systems govern how they do business. Developing a proprietary control system to organize your time and activities, takes a four-step process:

1. Identify organizing objectives.

2. Develop an effective organizing system.

See All Stories In

Find a Therapist

Search for a mental health professional near you.

3. Practice your system to increase your efficiency and effectiveness by meeting your organizing objectives.

4. Revise and update the system.

You can build an efficient organizing system using this four phase way to build your propriatary control system and parts two and three of this  how to get organized series. If the system you develop saves you just fifteen minutes per day from rummaging for misplaced items, ruminating over what to start, or railing against yourself for letting things pile up, you will gain the equivalent of almost twelve eight-hour workdays each year! But you'll probably save far more time than that. You'll also avoid a lot of needless stress and strain.

As a practical matter, you can't stitch this time together into twelve or more consecutive days. Nevertheless, you’ll avoid many needless strains by getting and staying better organized. Getting these stresses off your back may be worth more than the time that you save.

Catch Up, Keep Up, Get Ahead

As delayed tasks from the past pile up, you get an extra pain in the present. This distracts from actions to make for a better future. Imagine what it would feel like if you could confidently get rid of this pain, keep up-to-date, and get ahead of things to open more time for future activities that you really want to do.

Here’s a tip. Organize your work into three groupings: catch up, keep up, and get ahead. Catch-up activities are the things left undone that haunt your present. Sure, you can probably stretch them out a bit more, but why let them linger, or "season." Like rotting fruit, they will eventually attract attention. To support your efforts to get beyond this pattern of delay, make a cross-out sheet of what to do. Block off time. Plan to work by project. Tackle them in a bits-and-pieces fashion: attack chucks of work and whittle down the list. Eventually you want an empty catch-up file.

Keep-up activities are current. If you get them out of the way, they don't make it into your catch-up category. Plan to complete reasonable things in a reasonable way within a reasonable time.   This do it now strategy will help you get timely things done and avoid procrastination.

Get-ahead activities include doing what advances your enlightened long-term interests. Suppose you want to start your own business. Your get-ahead plan can involve marketing research, developing advertising materials, creating a proprietary control system, financing the operation, and testing the viability of your plan.

As you free time from catch-up and keep-up activities, you have more time available for advancement activities as well as old-fashioned fun. Challenge yourself to place your greatest emphasis on keeping up and getting ahead. You'll have less work to carry over from the past. You'll feel less stress from clutter hanging over your head from the past.

Organizing procrastination is likely to be your constant companion. This is the process of putting off either developing or executing an effective organizing plan. If you fall into this trap, click on any or all of the following:  learn to comfortably beat deadlines, substitute productive actions for procrastination distractions with End Procrastination Now, and learn follow up with tips from Part 2 and Part 3 of this how to get and stay organized series.

(c) Dr. Bill Knaus

Dr. Bill Knaus, Ed.D., is the author of more than 20 books; one, "Overcoming Procrastination", was co-authored with Albert Ellis.

more...

Subscribe to Science and Sensibility

Current Issue

Dreams of Glory

Daydreaming: How the best ideas emerge from the ether.