6 Life Changing Tips for the Organizationally Challenged

Megan Van Schaick

life organizationI’m not the most organized person in the world ... the universe ... the cosmos.

I'm great at cleaning out and re-ordering my M.A.C. lipglasses. My CDs are in alphabetical order, as is my bookshelf (alpha-by-author, of course).

The rest of the time, I fly by the seat of my pants, relying on notes on my envelope/napkin/hand. I'll spend 6 hours making cupcakes for a friend's pre-school class instead of walking my dogs or getting the laundry done. Yeah. I know. I know! (Is it any defense to say I've always been like this? No? Okay, then.)

In my quest to keep my life together I’ve employed various techniques -- my recent favorite is the dry erase board calendar on my fridge. I put all my appointments there, I jot needed grocery items there -- you know, stuff. But it doesn’t do any good if I forget to, say, update it?

So I’ve been doing some research, and rounded up a few tips that have made a big impact in my life ...

Simplify. I don’t mean simplify my life -- there’s not much I can do about that. But I don’t need three dry erase boards, Post-It notes, a day planner, Outlook alerts, a PDA, and my cell phone. Now, everything goes in one or two places, at most. I don’t forget to write things down and I don’t misplace odd notes. The days of 12 Post-Its stuck to the computer monitor are gone!

Notebook. I have one notebook that goes with me everywhere. (I’m a card-carrying member of the Moleskine fan club, but use whatever works.) I write down everything people say that I might need to remember: doctors, bosses, husband, vet -- because I will forget it in the hustle of the day. This is also the place where I jot any brainstorms I have for art pieces, articles, the house, whatever. It goes to bed with me, too -- for those times that I wake up in the night and need to make a note.

To-do list. This is how I end each day. Into the notebook goes the next day’s to-do list -- everything I want or need to get done. I cross off throughout the day, and at the end, carry over whatever isn’t done into the next day’s list.

Time management. I don’t mean making efficient use of my time -- I think most time management tips are crap, and for someone who seriously bucks authority, those kinds of rules just don’t work for me. What I mean is that I control my time. I set goals for the day that I have to accomplish, but if I want to go check out CNN.com Facebook, I do. If I need a coffee break, I take it. And as much as possible, I control how much of my time other people manage.

Stress management. Don’t laugh -- it IS possible. Kind of. I know I’ll never get stress out of my life, but if I control how I react to it, I stand a much better chance of making it through the day, the week, the month -- without things falling apart. So I do some things like deep breathing and meditation, other things designed to take care of me, such as a bubble bath (alone, NO interruptions) every once in a while. During the day when stress hits, I force myself to slow down, analyze, and prioritize. If I can delegate, I do. If not, it goes on the list and I go on with my day.

No. Just, no. Learning to say no, and sticking to it, is the single best thing I’ve ever done. And that’s not just telling other people no. It’s myself, as well. No to taking on more than I can handle, no to working so much that I forget to take care of me, no to allowing unnecessary activities to stress me out, no to chores (because, let’s face it, the dusting can usually wait).

You've heard my tips, now give me yours -- help me dissolve some of the chaos that is everyday life!


Image via Megan Van Schaick/Silver & Chalk

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