Are you wanting to get more organised, or want to learn how to achieve your goals? Below you can find 5 simple and easy ways to get yourself there...
1. Write everything down.
And I mean everything. When we hold things that we need to do in our head it is like juggling balls in the air. You constantly have to keep coming back to that ball over and over again or it will get dropped. This can be tiring for your brain, not to mention stressful. Plus having about 10 or 20 balls in the air (as we often have a lot to do) means there is much higher chance of you dropping a few - adding to stress and definitely lowering your ability to stay organised.
Writing everything down, however, is like putting all those balls down on a table in front of you. You can see them all clearly, you can access whichever you want, you don’t drop any and you’ve dramatically reduced your cognitive load in needing to remember everything and keep it in your head.
I practice this myself. Not only do I write down things like meetings and appointments, as well as tasks I would like get done, I also write things down like “get milk” or “go for a walk”. Things that aren’t crucial, but that I would likely forget if I didn’t have it written down. It means I don’t need to struggle with remembering anything task or work related - and can instead use my memory for remembering books I’ve read or design trends.
2. Get rid of clutter.
Some people like to practice the old saying of “it might look messy, but I know where everything is”. Now I know that this can be true, and being messy doesn’t mean you don’t know where to find things, but it can reduce your ability to be really organised. It might mean you need longer to find things, as instead of the important thing being one of the only things on your desk, you might need to move 10 other things to get to it. This can slow you down and reduce efficiency.
Getting rid of clutter can also reduce the visual load in your brain. Our brain works hard at blocking things out and reducing the load because it is actually only capable of doing a few things at once - if we took in every sound and every tiny detail all the time it would be overwhelming and totally exhausting. This is why we habituate to sounds (when that clock starts loudly ticking initially it is all you can hear but then eventually you don’t even notice it - you habituate to it) and even why we stereotype people (instead of taking in every detail our brain makes a quick assumption to save time). So when we have lots of clutter our brain is actually being constantly distracted and is continually trying to block those things out so that we can focus. This can lead to mental exhaustion and can increase stress.
So clear out the clutter. Get rid of most of the things on your desk except those things that are either really important, or really beautiful. Get more organised by reducing things that pull your attention and slow you down.
3. Technology is virtual clutter.
Clutter doesn’t only include items on your desk or things in your office, it also includes technological clutter. Things like files on your desk top, heaps of tabs open on your computer (I am definitely guilty of this one at times!) and also all the notifications we might get daily from Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, emails, texts and voicemails. Everything that goes “ping” or shows up on your computer is a form of clutter that can increase you cognitive load, and lower your ability to be focussed and organised.
To reduce this, turn your phone on silent for a while, and maybe even on do-not-disturb, so that you don’t get notifications and pings every few minutes while you are trying to concentrate and get things done. Turn off notifications for things you don’t need, or those notifications that you usually ignore to help further reduce the load. Also unsubscribing to emails you no longer want or read can help reduce email clutter as well as the notifications.
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4. Book out time for enjoyable tasks.
If you’ve read some of my blogs before you probably know I am big on self care. It reduces stress, increases productivity, improves our health and improves our mood. Being organised doesn’t just mean getting more work done, it means organising our lives to help us achieve what we want, this means fun stuff too. That lunch you would like to have with a friend “one day” will never actually happen unless it is booked in and planned. Nor will that massage you’ve wanted, or that hike you’d like to do, or that new hobby you’ve been wanting to try. It needs to be planned and booked.
And the bonus side of this is that doing more self care will actually increase your productivity. So doing something enjoyable means that when you do sit down to get work done you will be more focussed, more efficient and more creative. So fun tasks equals better work - super bonus!
5. Set SMART goals for the bigger things.
This one works really well for bigger goals and things that you want to achieve - which is all part of being organised: making sure you get the small things done, remembering tasks you want to do, looking after yourself so you can be more productive, and working out your larger goals for the year. Working out those larger goals also helps to define what your smaller ones need to be for the year ahead.
SMART goals stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time Framed (there are different interpretations of the letters - you can read the various ones on wiki here - but I find those words really work best for me and the clients I work with).
So for example, lets say your larger goal for the year is eating healthy. Well, what does this mean? What does healthy even mean to you? Are you still reaching your goal if you have chocolate sometimes? How do you know if you have achieved your goal? SMART goals mean you narrow this broad goal down so you can actually achieve it, and know you have.
So for example, let’s say that eating healthy means eating salad every day. Is this specific? Yes, you are planning on eating 1 salad each day (not just “eat healthy” which is not specific). Is it measurable? Yes, you either eat your salad or not. Is it achievable? Yes, eating one salad is achievable (not like saying “I will run a marathon each week” which physically might not be achievable, and especially if you are not a marathon runner). Is it realistic? Hmmm, lets come back to that one… Is it time framed? Yes, you are making it once a day - which has a time frame attached to it - not just saying “I will eat salad often”.
Now back to that realistic one. Is salad once a day realistic? And this is where I would usually advise to aim small. There is nothing wrong at all with having a big overarching goal, like being much more healthy and eventually eating salad twice a day every day for a year, but it’s really important to set the goals in stepping stones. Think about how you feel if you make a goal and don’t achieve it. Often we can feel like failures, and think “what’s the point” and then give up entirely. Whereas when we start achieving goals we feel more inspired and more motivated. So this is where I think - the smaller the better. Instead of one salad a day what about saying one salad a week for a month. Then two salads a week for a month, and so on. Still achieving your overall goal for the year, but keeping you on track, achieving your smaller goals so you feel good.
Getting more organised has not been easy for me personally. I used to like to “go with the flow” and just see what happens. And while I still like to do this sometimes, I have seen that getting more organised has helped lower my stress and make me much more productive. And now I can’t imagine going back to just trying to remember everything (and often forgetting most things) and that last minute rush to do something I had totally forgotten about! And booking things in like a coffee catch up with friends or family has meant that it actually happens, instead of it being something we just talk about.
What do you think? Are you already naturally organised or is this something you still need more work on?