How do some people keep their homes pristine, their offices decluttered, and their lives running like a well-oiled machine while others can never seem to remember what day of the week it is?
It can be tempting to think that it’s a matter of innate personality, or even genetics. Some people are just born organized. You either have it, or you don’t.
But when you look at the lives of highly organized people, that theory doesn’t hold water. The truth is, being organized—keeping your office clean and your workflow clear—is a matter of habit. There are several habits that most highly organized people have developed that ensure they lead lives that are more productive and successful, and less stressful, than their non-organized counterparts. And if they can develop these habits, anyone can. Take a look at the list and see if any of these habits can help declutter your life!
1. A place for everything and everything in its place. Organized people know exactly where to find everything in their living and working spaces, because they planned it that way. This is really the keystone of organization. Find a specific, logical place for every item you own. As soon as you buy or obtain something new, find a spot for it. Container systems can help here, as can slimming down the quantity of your possessions. This type of organization is not only beneficial to the physical spaces you inhabit, it also benefits your mental clarity and helps you maintain a low-stress life.
2. Start and End-of-Day Rituals. The day might begin with a jog with the dog and end with a hot bath and a book. Or it might start with a shower and end with a glance through your schedule to plan for tomorrow. Whatever little rituals you choose to implement for your start and end-of-day routines, stick to them. Rituals like this help organized people stay healthy, motivated, and, well…organized!
3. Set aside daily time for cleaning. There are few things more difficult than cleaning a house or office that has not been cleaned in awhile. But if you regularly maintain your space by investing just a few minutes into cleaning and organizing it each day, it will never become so cluttered that it overwhelms you. Many organization newbies are astonished by how much cleaning they can get done in just a short amount of time when they remain focused. Set a timer for fifteen minutes and don’t let yourself stop or get distracted until the alarm goes off. You might be in for a pleasant surprise!
4. Get it out, put it back. This goes along with number 1, above. Once you have a place for everything in your house or office, develop the habit of putting things back in their homes immediately when you are done using them. We tend to think that putting things away is such a time-consuming activity, but that’s only because we force ourselves to put everything away at once, and usually when we’re already under pressure. Don’t wait until you’re expecting company to tidy up. Do it as you go!
5. Make lists. If there’s one habit on this list that EVERY highly organized person has, it’s this. Making lists—and writing them down—is a way to keep track of what needs to be done, what’s already been done, and when it needs doing. Plus, writing these items down on paper or typing them into an app on your smartphone helps you clear your mind to focus on the task immediately at hand. You can’t concentrate on what you’re doing when your mind is swimming in the sea of what needs to be done.
6. Write everything down. And not just your to-do items. Keep a notebook and pen handy throughout the day to jot down ideas as they come to you, to write little reminders to yourself, or to keep track of deadlines and expenses. Later, you can transfer this information into your planner if you need to.
7. Tracking. Organized people track things. They track their expenses, their progress with projects and goals, the time they spend working and what they’ve accomplished. Tracking the data of your life—especially as it relates to goals you have set for yourself—can help you see the bigger picture, and also narrow down on areas for improvement.
8. Stacking tasks. This is NOT the same as multitasking. Highly organized people tend to be unitaskers—they focus on one activity or task at a time, because they know that the more focus they give to the job at hand, the faster and better the result will be. But that does not stop them from stacking tasks. What’s the difference? Multitasking is attempting to perform more than one function at the same time. For instance, driving while texting, or reading a report while listening to voicemails. Task stacking, on the other hand, is maximizing the time you have to get as much done in your day as possible. For instance, responding to emails while waiting for your oil to be changed. Or figuring out how many errands you can run in the same trip.
9. Delegate. Highly organized people know they can’t do it all on their own. Instead of trying to tackle every to-do item themselves, they pass certain things on to others to do. In terms of keeping the house clean, this could mean delegating dusting to the kids, or it could mean hiring a home cleaning service. At work, it might translate to breaking down your to-do list into things only you can do, and things that someone else can do just as well. Divide and conquer! Know when to delegate, and who to delegate to.
10. Do it now. If highly organized people have a mantra, this is it. There’s no point putting something off that can just as easily be done right now. This doesn’t mean skipping sleep or meals or quality time with your loved ones, but it does mean keeping your inner slacker in check. When you’re about to do your daily fifteen minutes of cleaning and your brain tells you, “wait, let’s just check our Twitter feed first. Just for a minute…” you can firmly reply, “No. Do it now.”
11. FOCUS. Here’s an acronym for you: Follow One Course Until Successful. Don’t let minor distractions get in between you and your goals, and don’t have so many goals at the same time that your focus is always splintered. Pick an item, do it, check it off the list, and pick a new one.