If we did the things we are capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves.
We are all capable of great things. It might not be the stuff that makes the front page of the New York Times (or BuzzFeed), but we all have some type of greatness inside us.
We just need some help at times. A nudge, more or less.
Nowhere do we need that help than more than when it comes to personal organization.
These days we have so many responsibilities, so much stuff, so many demands on our time; that getting and staying organized has seemly become the key to the realm.
Get it right and so many great things open up for us.
The problem is organization tips are as common as trolls on the internet. Some tips though stand out and make an impression. These are ten that I’m currently experimenting with during my month-long organization experiment.
You may have seen or read of many of them, if you have, just think of them as friendly reminders of some wonderful organization best practices. If you’ve never seen them I urge you to pick one and give it a shot.
Think of it like Ryan Holiday writes in Ego is the Enemy:
In Aristotle’s famous Ethics, he uses the analogy of a warped piece of wood to describe human nature. In order to eliminate warping or curvature, a skilled woodworker slowly applies pressure in the opposite direction—essentially, bending it straight.
Here are ten ways to begin to eliminate our disorganization warping and get straight once and for all.
1 – A Place for Everything
This is something you can start doing today. If you’re like me you may have a hard time finding stuff that you use every day, like keys.
How often have you searched your house and turned every room upside down looking for your keys?
The easiest solution is putting them in the same place every time you are done using them. This is also the hardest solution because it means changing an ingrained habit.
The best way to start changing this habit is to get a container or basket for your keys.
Make the routine of putting your keys away so simple that no matter the rush you are in you can put them in the same place every time.
For the first couple of weeks make it a point to put your keys away once you walk into your house.
Don’t go to the restroom, get something to eat or plop down on the couch. Your only goal for those first few weeks is to get those keys put away.
If you do nothing else that day – nothing else – but put those keys away consider the day a success.
2 – 6 Month Drawer
Another tactic that I’ve had success with especially when cleaning out closets or drawers is to set up a six-month or even a three-month drawer.
We all have that feeling when we go through our stuff that we will use everything eventually, so we need to keep it around.
The trick is to put all that “someday” stuff in a special drawer or box and only take it out when we need it. Set up a reminder for six or three months later (I use a delayed email) to see what’s still in the box.
Anything in there after that time has passed is something you have not used and you can safely give away or put in long-term storage.
3 – Use Tags Wherever You Can
If it is an option you should always use tags to organize your information.
I used to find it very difficult at times to keep information organized that could potentially fall under different topics.
For instance, even writing this blog post during my month-long experiment on organization has raised some issues.
The information I gathered could be filed under both organization and productivity. If I would have just put this in a folder marked productivity I could potentially miss it when I go back and look at my organization folder.
By using tags I designate the same piece of information both under productivity and organization and put it in a folder titled “Monthly Experiments.” That way when I do a search on either topic it would show up in both search results.
In theory I could have just one big folder and through the effective use of tags all I would do is search by topic and all the relevant information would come up.
Did I just blow your mind?
Just remember with much power comes much responsibility…use it wisely.
4 – Daily Organization Resets
This is a trick I started using with my two boys. Before breakfast, lunch and dinner I have them clean up their play area so that we can enjoy our meal in a clean area. It also guarantees that we can find everything when they go back to playing.
I started doing this with my own workspace. At different points throughout the day as it gets cluttered I take five minutes to organize it and put everything away.
There is something about a clean, clutter-free space that seems to aid in productivity, creativity and overall good vibes.
5 – Filter Everything
Like most people these days, I find myself trying to stay on top of more and more information.
Considering how much information is created every day that could be a never-ending task. What I started to do is set up filters on all these information sources. This has freed up my time greatly and allowed me to only spend my time on the important stuff.
For instance in my email I only have four or five people whose email comes directly to my inbox.
Everything and everyone else gets filtered directly into folders that I can check at my leisure. This keeps my inbox free of spam and only the most important emails make it through, which keeps me focused on the most important tasks.
Another example is all the websites and blogs that I used to be addicted to. Instead of saving every website and blog as a favorite in my browser, all of them now go to my RSS reader of choice, Feedly.
Once a day – if I have time – I will open up Feedly, browse through the headlines looking for anything worth exploring further and mark it as “Save for later.”
I’ll be doing a post soon on how I optimize Feedly for content curation and creation.
By using filters I am able to control how and when information crosses my desk, which keeps me in control of both my time and attention.
6 – One Calendar to Rule Them All
One of the best purchases I’ve made in 2017 was a wall calendar from BestSelf.co. This wall calendar allows my family and I to see all the important events throughout the year and keeps us all on the same page in terms of appointments, birthdays, anniversaries, holidays and all the other important dates throughout the year.
We also started using the calendar as our own Seinfeld Chain which I will discuss in a future post.
7 – Use a Note Taking System
A great app that I have Jeff Goins to thank for is Drafts. It costs around $4.00 and has been priceless in terms of helping me stay on top of all the notes, ideas, and random information I process every day.
Simply open up the app and a blank page is automatically loaded so you can write down anything you need to.
The app integrates well with my iPhone so that if I come across an article I can send it directly to any Drafts document that I have created (or create a new one just for that piece).
At the beginning of each day I start a new draft with the date and the day of the week (e.g. “2/7/17 – Tuesday”). Anything I do that day that I want to remember or save for later I add to that document.
Since I started to use the app (you could use any app) I’ve yet to lose an idea, forget a task or misplace any bit of information I wanted to save.
Some people might use Evernote for this, but the Drafts app is so quick and easy that it has become my go-to idea capture app.
8 – Use a To-Do List
For the longest time I didn’t see the need for a to to-do list app. I figured I could either remember things I needed to – famous last words – or I could just jot anything down on a piece of paper or in a notebook. The fact that I never carried a piece of paper or a notebook around with me never made it into the equation. Alas.
What I found is having a to-do list app helps me stay on track with all the minor stuff I need to do everyday.
It is also a great way to keep a grocery list. It took awhile to build the habit, but using the app to list everything I need next time I go to the grocery store has keep our kitchen stocked with everything we need.
9 – GE Rank
GE is the first company I heard of that once used a forced ranking system to rank their employees. Employees were ranked as A players, B players or C players.
Like Glengarry Glen Ross, if you came in third you didn’t get the vacation or the steak knives. You got axed.
I started using forced rankings in a more innocent manner with all the articles, posts, videos, etc., that I want to consume later.
As I mentioned earlier I use Feedly to track my websites and blogs that I follow. However, I do come across articles in newsletters or after doing a search on Google that I want to read later.
I’ll save all those in Pocket to have them in one place separate from Feedly.
The system I’ve started using is to sit down on Sundays and look at all the articles I’ve saved for the week and do a quick sorting from must read to meh.
This means if I have 12 articles I’ll rank them from the ones I’m most interested in to the ones I’m least interested in.
I’ll start with the first article and just start reading. Depending on how much time I have, I’ll read as much as I can and just keep all the unread articles in Pocket.
Trust me, I have a lot of unread articles. That is OK though, because I’m always reading the cream of the crop whereas before I might spend way too much time on B and C players and just waste my time with mediocre content. Who has time for that?
10 – Get a Second Opinion
If you’ve ever bought a book from Amazon you’ve probably read the reviews to get a sense of what people thought of the book. When it comes to books I’ve taken that two steps further. This tip is for all the book nerds out there.
First I download a sample of the book to get a sense if this is something I really want to spend the time and money on. If I can’t decide after reading the sample, I’ll visit different sites to look for summaries of the book.
Most of the sites offer a free version of their offering and some offer weekly free summaries if you sign up for their newsletter.
I’ll be doing a post soon on some of my favorites. In the meantime you can check out my list on Listly of some of the best book summary sites that I use.
I can’t always find a free summary of the book I’m researching, but when I do I get a better understanding of what the book offers and whether I should invest in it.
Time is such a valuable commodity these days that spending that extra time has helped me cull my reading list and only spend time with the best of the best when it comes to nonfiction books.
I hope all or at least some of these organization tips are helpful to you.
Like everything else I write, take what applies to you, make it your own and good luck.
I wrote in yesterday’s post on my organization experiment: don’t do what I do, think how I thought.
I think if you do that with these organization tips you’ll be one step further on your own organization journey.