Sometimes life comes at you fast and before you know it you’re so overwhelmed with things to do that you can barely get anything done at all. What makes a looming to-do list even more stressful is when you cannot even keep track of all that you have to do.
A cluttered life makes for a cluttered mind and I don’t know about you, but I certainly cannot be very effective at work when my life is a mess around me. Granted, I exhibit many of the signs of a classic type-A OCD personality, but regardless of what kind of person you are, things will just generally run more smoothly if you stay organized.
Here’s some tips that I’ve come to use over the years that help me keep everything in order…
A cluttered life makes for a cluttered mind.
I am a huge proponent for lists. My mind is usually working at a million miles an hour and as soon as I think of one thing I need to do, I’m on to the next, so without some way to keep track, things fall through the cracks. I have lists for everything, I have probably even made lists for lists at some point. And not only does it help you know what you have to do, it feels great when you can cross something off and move on to the next task.
Getting your priorities straight can be pretty straightforward, like if you have a paper due on Monday and one due on Friday, you should do the paper due on Monday first. But it can also be a huge exercise in self-discovery to figure out what you value and what things should come before others. In my own life I’m usually juggling work, blogging, writing, photographing, social life, travel, the basics like health, eating, sleeping, and the like, and any number of other things floating in and out. Would you rather get an extra hour of sleep or a jump start on a project due next week? Is it in your best interest to go to a party the night before a big meeting? Priorities, people – they’re important.
Keep your workspace clean
How people can work and focus amidst piles of clutter will forever baffle me, and maybe that works fine for you, but for the rest of us it’s distracting, at best. Especially on your desk or at the table you work at, you should try to keep everything neat so that you can focus your entire attention on your work rather than giving your periphery vision every excuse to get preoccupied.
Buy a planner
I love planners. You can lay out, all in one place, your weekly schedule so that you always know where you should be and when, and when you are available or not. This way you aren’t double booking yourself or overexerting yourself. You can plan your time, set aside time for yourself, and keep everything together. There’s something to be said for spontaneity, I’m sure, but in everyday life having a plan from day-to-day makes so much more sense.
Make your bed every day
This simple task can start each day strong by getting you into a mindset of organization and cleanliness. Being organized cannot just apply to one or two things in your life, rather it is a mentality created through habit by making every aspect of your life more in order. Making your bed every gives you an easy win first thing in the morning.
Science has shown that trying to push through and work for hours on end without stopping actually allows you to retain less information than if you take constant breaks. So every once in a while, take 15 minutes for yourself to scroll lazily through your phone or meditate to get your mind more at peace. You’d be amazed how much more efficient you can be if you don’t exhaust your brainpower.
Successful people know what they want and they go out and get it.
Create short and long-term goals and update your plans to reach them
When we’re younger, our goals are pretty much laid out for us—go to school, get good grades, make it into a good college, or some variant of these. But as we get older, goals become more personal. Maybe you would like a promotion in your job by the end of the year or you want to be making $100K a year by the time you are 25. Whatever you want in life, it can help to set goals and actually write them down because then they become real and tangible. But this is not enough. You also need to think about what you are going to do every day, every week, month, and year to help you work towards those goals. Successful people know what they want and they go out and get it, they don’t just sit around dreaming of their big break.
Before buying something new, get rid of something old
For me, in particular, this applies to clothes. I will admit I have a bit of a fashion addiction, but one of the best ways I have found to mitigate that clutter is this simple rule: If I want to buy something new, I need to get rid of something old. The rule may not apply to every single thing in your life, but it’s often a good thought exercise and will make way for new things rather than holding on to the old.
Get an app to keep your finances in check
Money management is not easy. I mean, there’s an entire profession dedicated to wealth management, though that’s generally reserved for the uber-wealthy. For us common folk though, we have to keep our own finances in order, and one of the best ways I have found is the website/app called Mint. It allows you to create budgets, link all of your accounts in one convenient place, and save for the future, amongst other features. It’s a great step towards reducing your monetary stresses.
And if you struggle to save, check out Qapital.
Keep things in the same place
Don’t be the person who is running around in a big ball of stress wondering “where did I put my keys/coat/wallet/etc.?” Especially for those important things that you use every day, have a dedicated space to keep everything. Sure we all lose things once in awhile, but having a place that you always put things makes it much harder to mess up.