Over the next few months I plan to write a series of articles on becoming more organised and productive in all aspects of life.
I think that most of us at one time or another wish that we were more organised, from simply scrabbling around looking for car keys to trying to remember where we saw that article we wanted to read, the restaurant that was recommended, the receipt for the goods we want to return etc.
All of us have some systems we use, the simple list, important document box / Drawer, Diary, Filing cabinet etc.
Over the years I have used a number of tools to better organise home and work activities. Some have worked well others have proved to be less than useful. At this point I think it is worth pointing out that you should not make a distinction between home, work, leisure etc when looking at organisation you should be developing a method of organising your life across all aspects and activities.
Last year I spent a lot of time looking at both the theory of organisation and the tools available. Over the next few months I want to share my experience. I will cover the tools that have worked for me and those that didn’t fit so well.
The reason I intend to include some of the tools that didn’t work for me is based in the fact that being organised is a very individual concept. One persons organisation can look like absolute chaos to someone else. What might be quick and easy for you might be a chore for someone else. There is no magic bullet, the methods that work for you will probably be a mix of things from various places.
The benefits of good organisation are many and common to all :-
- Things don’t get forgotten, and you reduce the number of times that you have that nagging doubt that you have forgotten something important.
- Reference material can be found quickly and easily.
- You can concentrate on what needs done.
So what is the basic requirements of a system of organisation.
- There must be a lack of clutter, both mental and physical
- The system should contain the information you require
- Information must be easy to access
- The system should remind you of activities, relieving you of that task
- It must be flexible enough to cope with your needs
1st Focus on Clutter
On a more general level organisation needs to become a way of life, as you organise the task in your life you also need to address the physical environment. I, like many, am a natural pack rat, I keep things just in case they might be handy in the future. Over time this just develops clutter, drawers and cupboards full of stuff that is of no use and just consumes space.
If you are serious about getting organised then you need to be honest about what you have around you. Is stuff where it should be and should it be there at all? Over the last year I have been much more focused on identifying needless hording. Am I perfect? No, but I am making progress in removing more and more unnecessary clutter from my environment.
For me there is a balance between some degree of clutter and entirely clinical space, but I must say that the reduction of clutter has been a positive experience, I can find things more easily than before because so much rubbish has gone. This is an ongoing process requiring constant vigilance against sliding back to old ways always asking the question is this necessary?, before putting it in a drawer or cupboard.
2nd Caution – the quest can be addictive
One pitfall for me was the addictive nature of exploring techniques and tools. I became more involved in trying out different tools rather than focusing on what worked for me. There is an element of the grass is greener that can creep into developing a system that works. You begin to wonder if that piece of software or hardware might be better. Before you know it you are re-inventing the wheel on multiple platforms and tools and losing the very benefits you started out looking for.
Having come tantalisingly close to being well organised things slipped as I tried new tools and techniques and before long I was heading back to disorganisation. I have now refocused and surprisingly I am back to using the basic tools I started with.
Don’t get me wrong it has been a worthwhile journey but I let it distract me from a working system. In hindsight I would suggest getting a working system and sticking with it, then research useful tools once you are comfortable with the system you have developed.
In forthcoming posts I will look at :-
- The basics of organisation
- Analogue tools
- Digital tools
- Hybrid systems