As a global business consultant, I travel. A lot. And I must admit that, at first, I wasn’t very good at it. Being in multiple countries with multiple time zones in just a few days’ time meant that I needed to be really organized. After a few missed meetings, late night appointments and near-missed flights, I decided to seek the help of productivity specialist, Lori Krolik, President of More Time for You. She taught me the magical life lesson of mastering checklists.
I’ve learned that without them, you’re doomed.
Here’s what she told me:
“Create checklists for the places you travel to, especially globally, when you might need special medicines or articles of clothing. For example, you might need Malaria medicine in certain humid, remote, climates. Or that easily packable down coat when traveling to cold weather. Pull the checklist out each time when you’re getting ready to go to make sure you aren’t forgetting anything.”
It was as if that advice opened a Pandora’s box of how to organize my life. Not only was I able to be in the right place at the right time no matter where I was on the globe, but I began to physically and mentally cut through clutter in all aspects of my life—professional and personal.
And, now that I have it together, I want you share with you the ten secrets of how to organize your life, too.
How to Organize Your Life Right Now In 10 Easy Steps
First, you’ve got to believe in yourself that you can be the conqueror of clutter. The way to do this is to hone in on what needs to be organized. Don’t be daunted. Think, what areas are the most disorganized? What areas are stressing you out and making it difficult for you to achieve certain tasks like scheduling meetings or fixing supper? Start that checklist and tackle one before moving onto the next.
There’s a trend among organized people. They start their mornings with the same routine every single day—no matter if they’re going to work or staying home. A lot of successful people like to start the day by making their bed – this way they start the day with a small achievement. This simple act of getting ready for the day no matter where it may take you can change your perspective and help you be more productive. It’s the simple knowledge that you’re prepared for anything—inside or outside the house.
Write everything down.
Sure, we live in an age where pen and paper is antiquated but it’s a great way to remember things. Write out those checklists and savor the triumphant feeling you have when you get to mark things off. For important dates and errands, feel free to use your smart phone. But no matter what, write (or type) it somewhere. To-do lists do no good floating around in your head.
Master the calendar.
Speaking of dates, my productivity guru, Lori, also shared some important advice when it comes to scheduling meetings—be sure to use the notes section in your calendar. Don’t rely on your memory when it comes to recalling who is calling who, or what is on the agenda, or for me, what time zone the call is meant to take place. Auto-conversion doesn’t work sometimes, so she advised me to put all relevant times and time-zones manually in the body of the invitation.
Be an anti-procrastinator.
Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but procrastination only adds to stress—and disorganization. The longer you wait to do something, the harder it will be to get the task done (plus, you’ll likely do a worse job because of the pressure and time constraints). Getting things done as soon as you can nixes the feeling of having something hanging over your head. Try it! It can be liberating!
Give everything a home.
Some people love, love, love label makers. And, I never quite understood it. Those little machines seem to have an underground fan club of highly organized people. And now I know why—I’ve learned those little things can be a powerful weapon when it comes to getting organized. Pick one up and head to the Container Store and get a host of bins, boxes, and folders. Then go crazy. Give everything in your life its designated place. If everything has a home, you’ll lessen your chances of losing anything. Think of the time you’ll save not looking for your keys! This goes for email, too. Create folders and send those emails home.
Get rid of junk regularly.
A big key to how to organize your life is spending time on a regular basis, whether it be every week or every month, to go through and declutter. Get rid of things you don’t need. A rule I have for clothes and personal items is, if I haven’t used it in a year, to bring it to Good Will or a consignment shop. Also, if I purchase something new, like a new sweater or pair of shoes, that means I must get rid of something. This also helps fight the clutter war.
Put things back where they belong.
Now that everything has a “home”, make sure it stays that way. Don’t use that flashlight and then stick it in a nearby cupboard. Take a moment and place it back in the neatly labeled container you got it from. That way when you need it next, you’ll know where to look.
Share the work.
One of the perks of being really organized is freedom from being really stressed and overwhelmed. And freedom from being really stressed and overwhelmed means demands that you not have too much on your plate. Really organized people know how to delegate. If you find that your plate is overflowing, prioritize and consider dropping or delegating the less important tasks. It’s okay to cancel plans so that you have time to think. Or, even, just to breathe.
That brings me to my last secret of how to organize your life—
Stop trying to be perfect!
Organized people have the image of being perfectionists but the truth is, they aren’t. It’s just the illusion they’ve created because they have the space and time to do what’s important well. If you feel like you must do everything perfectly, you’re not going to get anything done. So try to do the best you can for the most important stuff, and be okay with “good enough” for the others—or ask for help. This will help you combat procrastination and free up your time.
Since I discovered these secrets of how to organize one’s life and work, I’ve been much more productive while being less stressed. It seems contradictory but by investing a little bit of time into organizing every day, I’ve been able to have more time to do the things I want—and do them well.