I won’t make the case for being over-the-top organized. I’m not, and I don’t think that I should change to be so. Trying would likely stress me out as much as my “mess” would stress out the person who is meticulously organized. However, I’ve talked to several writers, artists and creative people who want to improve in this area.
It’s important to try different ideas and build your own system. Organizing doesn’t work if you simply squeeze yourself into someone else’s program. For example, if you like to leave reference items out until you’re finished with a project, don’t change it because some guru chimes “Put everything away at the end of every day.” Instead clean off your desk when your project is finished so you can start new. Here is a “novel” way to get started.
Be Sherlock Holmes
Before you make sweeping resolutions about how you’ll organize so much better this year, do some serious detective work. Think through an ordinary day. Observe your work areas. Take notes and figure out where your problem areas are. For example: Does clutter accumulate in one central area?
This could be because you’re tired when you come home and put everything on your table or desk. Establish a special place for important things like files, keys, and mail.
Do you forget dates? Creative people often lose track of chunks of time and have some difficulty with dates.
If you want to remember birthdays or an important meeting, you can try marking your calendar a week before the date (such as, “send card by today – Tues. the 5th” or on Monday you could note, “Important meeting on Thursday - call today to verify.”) This way, an important date won’t sneak up on you.
Enlist Scotland Yard
It may or may not be possible to enlist others around you to help you in your efforts. Informing them of your goals will at least increase the chances that they won’t try to work against you.
Determine a time to put on your uniform and become a “clutter cop.” It could be once a week or once a day. Don’t make it a long shift. 15-30 minutes of focused time can accomplish a lot. Take time to put items away, throw out trash, and attend to other things you’ve identified on your list. Don’t let it become overwhelming by trying to do it all at once. Complete one task or area at a time.
Put the criminals behind bars
Through careful reasoning, you’ve identified some “criminal” habits. Before you take off your uniform, look over the list of areas you needed to work on and give yourself an evaluation. Did you do better than last week?
The goal is not to become someone else, but rather to have more control over your time, your space, and reduce frustration in your areas of difficulty. If you’ve moved forward in your goals, then give yourself an A+. In the beginning, you have to think about new ideas, but after a while the habit does the work for you. You’ll suddenly look back and realize you’ve made the changes in thinking that were necessary. I mentioned in the previous post that it takes 2 or 3 weeks to establish a productive habit, and about 6 months to unlearn a destructive one. It takes patient and persistence.
Let’s help each other out. What has worked for you? Please, share it below.
P.S. Yes, this post came about because I’m excited about the new episodes of Sherlock on PBS. As they say, check your local listings.