If my dad could sit you down and tell you, he'd let you know that I'm the most scatter-brained, disorganized, shockingly messy person to walk this planet. But there are even organizing tips for the most scattered of us, meaning there's hope for us all if we want it. Now, I'm completely cozy in my rat's rest of a room, with its magazines and books toppling over one another in fat stacks, and clothes spewed on any available surface. But when it comes to my desk and my work, I need some semblance of order or else all would be lost.
I don't need everything in its pretty place, but I do need things to move along and be handed in correctly. So what's a chronic messy person to do? Hitting up experts, it seems like the antidote to this ailment is to cut back on the amount of things you introduce to your system (i.e: things, which translates to clutter), and make as many lists as your heart can take.
If you're one that's constantly buried underneath the avalanche that is their desk, then read on. Below are 11 life organizing tips for the most scattered of us.
1. Go Mad With A Purge
The less stuff you own, the less you have to tidy, which means the smaller the chance you'll get something scattered. While it might feel like you need a hundred filing cabinets, storage boxes, and chotskies for your desk, the more you have floating around, the more you have to keep track of. Business writer Neil Patel at entrepreneur site Inc pointed out, "You can't create a productive workspace without The Purge." Get in there and toss out anything and everything that isn't essential to your office or your workflow.
2. Deal With Paper Instantly
Rather than letting your paper files (or even worse — emails!) pile up on you, follow the 'touch-papers-once' rule to keep yourself on top of things. Business writer Nicole Fallon from Business News Daily suggested, "As soon as you've reviewed a printed document, either file it away, toss it or take action on it to decrease your desk clutter. You can apply the same rule to your email inbox." By tackling things immediately as they pop up, you save yourself headaches and scary paper piles in the long run. While it may not be possible every time, you can make an effort to do it most times.
3. Schedule Literally Everything
Did you put off an email and have to remember to respond to it later on? Schedule it. Do you have to read that one industry blog to stay on top of innovations and ideas? Put it on the calendar. Do you have a hard time remembering to floss before bed? You guessed it — schedule it. The more that you put down on your planner and the less you keep in your head, the more productive and forward charging you'll be.
Sallee Poinsette-Nash, Business and Brand Troubleshooter, tells Bustle in an email, "The key to being super-productive and enjoying it is getting every single one of those bothersome tasks, important projects and catch ups with friends out of your head...right now! The more you can get out of your head and on to your schedule, the faster you'll get things done. I schedule absolutely everything because if I've scheduled it, I won't be thinking about it. If I'm not thinking about it, I'm more focused and effective." So is your planner out yet?
4. Give Absolutely Everything Deadlines
From answering a particular email to doing a yoga video this evening, give absolutely everything on your to-do list a deadline. This is the only way to truly get on top of your to-do list. Business writer Julie Neidlinger from web agency Today Made recommended, "Determine what has a specific deadline. Determine what is flexible. Determine what has no deadline, ever, and decide whether you want to bother with those things at all. If you do, decide upon a deadline of your choice and treat it like a real deadline." By putting an end-date on everything that crosses your desk, you have a plan of action on clearing it off your to-do list.
5. Use Tools That Are Effective, Not Complicated
There's a reason why most professionals still swear by the pen-and-paper to-do list: If organizing your tasks takes longer than doing them, it's not what you call effective. Poinsette-Nash points out, "Remember, when the imputing takes longer to schedule than completing the task itself, it's probably time to go back to basics! I use my Google calendar for everything — it's not that pretty but it's foolproof, synchronizing across all my devices and able to be changed at a moments notice." Use something fast and simple or else you'll give up on the tool and go back to your chaotic, messy ways. Another great to-do list platform is Trello — that thing is an organizing godsend.
6. Always Clean Away Your Work Space
Whether it's your desk or your computer, before you call it a day always tidy up your work space. It might seem annoying during the moment (especially when you just want to go home come five o'clock,) but getting into the habit will leave you feeling more on top of things. Fallon pointed out, "Make sure that nothing extraneous is left out on your desk at the end of the workday, David said. This means your workspace will be clean and ready for a fresh start in the morning." You won't be dealing with last night's clutter every morning, allowing you to start the day at a run.
7. Get A Handle On Your Emails
Sometimes a person needs a little help when it comes to their emails, and with that is SaneBox. Nina Radetich, Marketing Consultant at Radetich Marketing + Media, shares with Bustle in an email, "My favorite new tool is called SaneBox (sanebox.com). If you feel like you’re drowning in email, SaneBox will help you swim to the top and take a breath. It helps you prioritize by filing emails that can wait in a 'SaneLater' folder and sending all the newsletters you never knew you signed up for to a 'News' box." That way you can neatly pack away all your distractions into a file until you're ready for them. Radetich continues, "It even allows you to send reminders to yourself in a couple weeks. So if you want to follow up with a hot prospect, but want to wait a bit before you do, SaneBox will remind you by re-surfacing that email in your inbox." You'll never feel like you're grasping as loose ends when it comes to your inbox again!
8. Break Things Down Into Action Steps
If you're one that gets burried with procrastination or is a mess with projects because you have a hard time organizing action steps, then a solution for you is creating an outline of what needs to happen and in what order. Neidlinger advised, "Whether we choose a formal method of planning out our work flow and breaking it down into chartable dependent tasks or not, it is important that we don’t jam up our work flow out of avoidance of the unpleasant. First things first." A great tool to use for this is Trello — you make a note-card with a project, and in that note-card you can write action steps you can later tick off as you complete.
9. Pick Your Three Most Important Tasks
While putting all your to-dos down on your calendar is immensely helpful, sometimes we pack our days full of unrealistic expectations. In order to avoid spending the majority of the afternoon doing menial tasks, Radetich recommends always identifying your top three priorities for the day, and then focusing most of your energy on ticking them off. She shares, "This means while you’re working on those tasks, put your phone in airplane mode, shut down Facebook, and turn off email."
You can also take your organization a step further by planning ahead. Radetich recommends, "Most days, I identify my 'top 3' the night before so when I sit down at my desk the next morning, I’m not thinking 'hmmm, what should I do next?'" You'll start every day focused and on schedule that way.
If you keep these tips handy then you'll quickly see that even the most scattered of us can become organized.
Images: Trinette Reed/Stocksy