Manage Yourself to Stay Organized

By Sue Becker

I don't know of anyone who doesn't feel as though they're constantly being pulled in a million (OK, maybe a dozen) different directions. While the pace of life can be frantic, it is possible to stay on top of it all. Establishing some simple habits to manage the flow of information and stuff can help you gain control of your busy life. Here's a brief overview of how to manage what's coming at you:

Manage where you have to be. Use a calendar, planner or electronic tool to track appointments, events and to-dos. Write everything here so nothing slips through the cracks and you don't double-book yourself.

Manage what you have to do. Use a prioritized task list to keep track of all the random things you have to get done. Don't rely on your great memory to pull you through - at some point something important will get forgotten. Move things from intention to commitment by identifying when you'll do them.

Manage demands on your time. Don't commit to doing something before you consider how it will impact other things you want to accomplish. Evaluate whether requests for your time are in alignment with your goals and priorities. Be comfortable saying "no" when taking on a new commitment cause you to have to postpone or eliminate achieving an important goal.

Manage your paper flow. Create a system for each piece of incoming paper. Make it your mission to do something meaningful with each item you handle. Don't just put it down to deal with later — do something to move it along on its journey towards completion.

Manage your email. Email can be an incredibly intrusive drain on our time. Rather than letting it take over your day, have set times to check it (preferably not first-thing in the morning). Just as with paper, be purposeful with each email you read. Don't follow the "skim and delay" technique in which you skim a myriad of emails looking for the most fun or interesting one, and end up with a bunch of opened but unprocessed messages. Determine what the next step is for each email you open, then take that next step by deleting, forwarding, responding to, filing or marking the email for future action.

Manage your space. Organize your home and office so everything has a place where it belongs.

Spend 15 minutes at the end of the day getting things back where they belong. Whether it's at your workplace or in your home, take time to tidy your space, no matter how tired you are — once you start letting things slide, they can quickly get out of control. Enjoy the psychic benefit of starting your day with a clean slate rather than yesterday's mess.

While the steps I've described are simple (i.e., easy to understand), I know that putting them into place isn't always easy. Take on just one item at a time, allow yourself to misstep and start over, and give yourself a chance to make the relevant behaviors a habit before you take on the next step.

Internationally known organizing and productivity consultant, author, and speaker Sue Becker of From Piles to Smiles® enjoys helping people live better lives by creating customized systems to overcome their overwhelming paperwork, clutter, and schedules. She specializes in helping people who are chronically disorganized, especially people with AD/HD and is Illinois' first Certified Professional Organizer in Chronic Disorganization.

Sue invites you to sign up for her FREE Starter Kit: 5 Proven Ways to Organize and Simplify Your Life at - you'll learn simple ways to discover the freedom of an organized home, office and life.

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