Want to be a dragon slayer? Stay organized! OK, so maybe having a clean workspace isn’t exactly the same as saving your village from being annihilated by a flying flamethrower, but this is your story of staying on top of your stuff, so embellish away!
I don’t do many “listicles” (articles with lists), but now that I’ve started another semester I’ll need to stay on top of readings, papers, quizzes, discussion questions, etc. …not to mention blog posts here, producing the new podcast and, oh yeah, my full-time job. So, I thought it a good time for a post about staying organized. Here are seven arrows I have in my dragon-slaying quiver.
#1 Make a To-Do List
Do it. Every day. Some days mine is only a mental list, but I still work through it! And yes, you are more than welcome to give yourself the satisfaction of writing down items on it that you’ve already accomplished just for the sheer satisfaction of crossing them off. But having a to-do list really does orient you to being productive with your day. Don’t go crazy either. Set out to accomplish 5 or 6 tasks, depending on their complexity, and don’t beat yourself if you don’t get to everything. That’s what tomorrow’s list will be there for.
YES! You are more than welcome to give yourself the satisfaction of writing down items on it that you’ve already accomplished just for the sheer satisfaction of crossing them off.
#2 Find Your
Happy Productive Place
According to sleep experts, working in your bedroom is not a good plan. It’ll throw off your sleep cycles because your body and mind are conditioned to be sleepy when you’re in there. The Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard recommends, “Keeping computers, TVs, and work materials out of the room will strengthen the mental association between your bedroom and sleep.
The kitchen is also not a good place. It’s fine for the kids’ homework, but it’s often the main thoroughfare of the house and not the place for protracted concentration. You need a place that says, “I’m here to get stuff done.”
Instead, make space in the basement or convert a spare bedroom or closet. Last year I converted the closet in my spare bedroom office into a “cloffice”. Yes, that’s right, my office is a closet. And I love it.
For the three years I was working full-time and going back to college to get my B.A., I converted an under-staircase closet space into a fully functional, productive, office. My chair was outside the closet and I faced into it. It was real office, complete with internet, lighting, corkboard, desk, and more. I also painted it an energizing bright color to inspire creativity and alertness. I also ran an electrical extension cord into a walk-in bedroom closet at an apartment when I was doing some graduate work. That 4′x5′ space was my main office for 18 months. Trust me on the whole cloffice thing.
In full disclosure: Right now my work area has all kinds of notes and papers strewn about so, yes, it is cluttered. Hypocrite? No. They’re legitimate active action items. When I’m done with them, they will get filed or trashed.
A clean work area is an inviting work area. It’s why writers like a cup full of sharpened pencils, even if they never use them. They just make a writer feel productive. And sometimes feeling productive is half the battle. Your area doesn’t have to be immaculate every day, but when you see it starting to get out of hand, crank some tunes and de-clutter.
#4 Be Realistic about Staying Organized
Time management is a discipline, just like proper eating, regular exercise, or getting into the habit of brushing your teeth every few days. All of these are good things to be doing but until we convince ourselves of the usefulness of any (or all) of these, we won’t do them. Or worse, we’ll try to do them all and give up by the end of the week. Don’t put yourself under that kind of stress. Try to be efficient in one area of time management long enough to start seeing and believing in the benefits of it. Then you’ll want to keep going. Take it one day, one task, at a time.
#5 Find What Works for You, Today
When I first got an iPad I literally spent hours researching how to be productive with it. I read blog after blog touting all the “must have” productivity apps. You name it, I tried it. And none of it worked for me. You know what worked? A dollar store composition notebook and a nice comfortable $3 pen that, incidentally, is way more enjoyable to write with than the $40 fountain pen I once bought. Experiment. They don’t even have to be big changes, small changes can yield big results. Find what works for you, and do it. And when it gets routine and stops working, change it up.
#6 Manage Time Well
The sheer volume of productivity some people accomplish in a lifetime is astounding. We can’t all be as productive as William Carey, who seemed to never stop taking in information and turning it back out in service to others. But that does not excuse us from being undisciplined with our time. Time management may mean eliminating distractions, getting up earlier, adjusting to the unique rhythms of your own internal clock (however weird it may be), or simply saying no to others’ expectations and unnecessary obligations.
#7 Keep Moving Forward
Life is part proactive and part reactive. It just is. Sometimes our job is to react, to be the guy or gal who handles the next task in the chain. I see that a lot in my life as a project manager, and just because I’m the PM, doesn’t mean I’m immune to! I probably have more tasks on a project than anyone else. Oftentimes my day is simply to react and do the next thing to hit my inbox. That’s OK, and it’s also biblical,
Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might…Ecclessiastes 9:10 ESV
Why do we need more than one arrow to slay the time-wasting clutter dragon? Because we all battle our own dragon. And your fire-breathing foe will need to be vanquished differently than mine. What matters most is not which arrow, or how many we use–but that we rid the world of ugly, unproductive, time-wasting dragons. Speaking of sulphur breath, I’m off to brush my teeth.
How about you? How do you stay organized to manage your time and all of life’s obligations? Comment below!
Image: Alexander Zick (published 1899) [Public domain]