Tools you’ll need:
1. Leave the past behind. If you’ve had trouble in the past getting organized and you tell yourself that ‘you’re just not made that way’ – leave that in 2008 and start fresh. Anyone can get and live an organized lifestyle. I should know! I was not born organized and had to learn it, make it my own, and maintain. The key is to have a home for everything and set up simple systems. Write down right now – I am an organized person and it feels great. In fact write that 10 times and you’ll be ready to start!
2. Mind-map your home or office so you have an Organizing Action Plan. Take a plain white sheet of paper (or use the form at www.elizabethhagen.com/mindmaptemplate) and draw a circle in the middle and write inside the circle My Organize Home or My Organized Office. Now, draw lines (I call them branches) out from the circle for each room in your home or for each major area in your office that needs to get organized. Then draw smaller branches out from the main branches of areas in the room that need to be organized. When you’re done look at your mindmap and start prioritizing what you want to get done 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc. Circle these items and put a 1, 2, 3, etc by them. Now you have a plan. Get these priorities into your calendar as appointments and little by little you will get your home and office organized using your MindMap and the START™ Method. To see an office mind map go to www.elizabethhagen.com/officemindmap.
3. Start small. Look around your home or office and find one small drawer to start with. A junk drawer is a great idea since it’s called a ‘junk’ drawer for a reason – it’s mostly junk! Get some large black garbage bags and a box labeled ‘take to another area’, take everything out of the drawer and put it all on the floor.
4. Use the START™ Method to organize this drawer. The START™ Method works anywhere – closet, drawer, cupboard, garage, etc.
Sort – go through everything on the floor and this is your time to be ruthless. Get rid of broken tools, things you don’t even know what it is, and all those keys that don’t belong to anything. If you find something that you want to keep and it belongs to another part of the office or home place it in the ‘take to another area’ box and bring those items away WHEN YOU ARE DONE with the junk drawer.
Toss – do this the same time you are sorting. Throw, recycle, shred, or give away items you no longer need or are broken.
Appoint a Home – after you’re done sorting and tossing you now know that all of these items ‘belong’ in the junk drawer. They have a home. From now on when that stapler is out and about you know you can put it back in the junk drawer.
Restrict to a Container – as much as possible restrict any items you organize to container. The guideline is ‘one category per container’. Get some interlocking drawer bins and one will be for pens, one for makers, one for stapler/staples, etc.
Take Back Control – put everything back in the drawer in it’s container and just look at your junk drawer now! It’s a thing of beauty. You’ve just taken back control of your junk drawer and you feel fantastic!
5. Organize all of those thoughts in your head. It’s impossible to prioritize all you need to do when your to-do list is in your head. Get a package of 3×5 cards (get a fun color like hot pink or neon green) and write down one thought/to do per card. These cards are now called your Action Cards. When you complete the task on the card you can chuck it into your trash or recycle bin and it feels a lot better than crossing of an item on a to-do list.
6. Stay focused. The number one killer of productivity is not being focused. Get a simple kitchen timer that you can twist the time to a certain number of minutes and it has a loud ring when the time is up. The next time you are working on a project and you feel torn to go ‘check your e-mail a minute’ STOP. Don’t do it or you’ll be lost in e-mail land forever. Set your time for 30 minutes and work on your project. When the timer goes off set it for 10 minutes and you can check your e-mail for 10 minutes. When the timer goes off set it for another 30 minutes of project time.
7. Stop using post-it notes. I love post-it notes as much as anyone but they cause a lot of clutter. Using your Action Cards will help but also get a small spiral notebook in a ‘happy’ color. Keep all of your phone messages in this notebook. This will get rid of a lot of post-it notes! Date the page and at the end of the day see which ones you can cross off and which ones you need to take care of the next day.
8. Bunch your errands. Another great use for another spiral notebook is to keep track in this notebook things you need to get. Write down any office items, things you need to get for the kids, etc in this one place. Do errands just ONCE a week and take your Errands Notebook along. When you get back home check and make sure you’ve gotten everything and throw the paper away!
9. Use one calendar. It’s up to you if you like paper-based or a computer calendar but please use one calendar. The only way it works to use more than one is if you are really disciplined to enter calendar items in all of your calendars and most people aren’t! The minute you get an invite, bill pay notice, plan a meeting, etc go to your calendar and enter it in. This way you’ll always know your calendar is up to date.
10. Use the words of Henry David Thoreau Simplify, Simplify, Simplify. Start buying less and when you do bring something new into your home make it a rule to give away something. You’ll find that getting organized and living an organized lifestyle will bring you peace, success, and joy!