A Few Thoughts on Being Organized

I’ve been told a few times that I’m a very organized person. I haven’t always been this way. The seeds of an organized person were there in my childhood, through to my early 20s, but it wasn’t until I started working at my second office job that the organization bug bit me.

And boy did it bite me hard.

This skill (and it is a skill) has served me well in my freelance career. Freelancing is a business, one managed and operated by a single person. Me. There are a lot of things to keep track of and I’m pretty sure that if I had been one iota less organized when I started, I never would have made it past year one. In 2020, I’ll be starting my sixth year as a self-employed writer and editor. It’ll be my 10th year of business (because I started freelancing as a side hustle in 2010, but I digress).

I’ve got a few blog posts planned in the upcoming months that’ll outline the things I’ve done and still do to be and stay organized. Before I go into all of that, I wanted to share a few reasons WHY I think being organized is an asset and beneficial to your health.

“Being Organized” isn’t the same for everyone

I’ve researched a lot of different tools, systems, apps and software in the last 10 years. I’ve put some of them into practice, and let some of them fall by the wayside. If there’s one thing that stands out most to me, it’s that the concept of “being organized” is different for everyone.

We’re all different. Every one of us. So it makes sense that the way we organize things will be different, too.

An organizational system that works for one person may not work for another. In my upcoming blog posts, when I share a tip or trick that has worked for me, I’ll do my best to share alternatives as well, so that you can experiment and find the best tactic for you.

The point is to remember that organization isn’t a one-size-fits-all type of deal. Your system will be different from mine, different from everyone’s really, and that’s OK.

Being Organized is good for your health

“It’s easier to keep up than to catch up…”
Gretchen Rubin, Outer Order, Inner Calm

I love the concept of Outer Order, Inner Calm, coined by Gretchen Rubin. (If you haven’t heard of Gretchen Rubin, you should check out her podcast – Happier with Gretchen Rubin, and her book Outer Order, Inner Calm.) The whole idea is: when the space you occupy is in order – that could be anything from tidying/cleaning to Marie Kondo-ing the crap out of your home – the space inside your head can focus better.

This idea has always been true in my life. In University, I would clean the house, organize my notes or wash something that was dirty before I could start working on my big, important essays. I had thought I was procrastinating. And I’m sure I was. But, at the same time, if I’d tried to do the project (and I had tried) without first cleaning, the mess would distract me. It would stress me out.

Now, I still clean when I’ve got a big project due. But I know that it serves a larger purpose. It’s not entirely procrastinating. It’s therapy.

Being organized isn’t just about cleaning/tidying your space. That’s one aspect of it. Outer order also applies to organizing your files, folders, emails, calendar, to-do lists, activities, etc. etc. All those things outside your head that have a tendency to stay IN your head when you don’t have a system in place to keep track of them – being organized keeps these things, well, in order. This in turns lessens anxiety and stress, helps you sleep better. Organized people are (or so I’ve heard) more inclined to make healthier life choices. Erica Florentine wrote a well-researched article on the “Five Health Benefits of Being Organized” that’s worth a read.

Go check that out. The rest of this blog post will still be here when you’re done.

Getting organized isn’t easy, especially at first

“For every minute spent in organizing, an hour is earned.”
Benjamin Franklin

Trust me when I say GETTING organized is a big process. Especially if you have no system in place. Or have multiple systems in place that need to be merged/condensed into one. I’ve been in both situations and let me tell you, it takes a lot of time and effort. But only at first.

When I dug myself out of the chaos and into the organized life, it took me a few hours…. Hah, who am I kidding? It took me days. There were times when I wanted to give up. Just, let things fall into chaos. It seemed easier.

I’m glad I persisted.

Before getting organized, it would take me roughly an hour every morning (ok, afternoon… night owls for the win!) to prepare for my day. I’d have to search through my emails, scattered sticky notes and various other places to find out what needed doing. Now, it takes me roughly 10 to 15 minutes to prepare my work schedule for the day, depending on how many emails came in while I was sleeping. I effectively saved myself 45 minutes a day of “what am I doing” confusion.

The process is a great time to identify any weak spots in your work processes. For example, I realized that I would forget big ideas because I wasn’t writing them down when they came to me (mostly because I didn’t have a place to jot them all down in one easy to find spot). Or that I would try to focus on too many projects at once, instead of prioritizing them. I’ve since created systems – Bullet Journalling and a project management app called MeisterTask – to streamline those problem areas of mine. It helps, a lot.

One big trick is to not let frustration get the better of you. And if you’re getting organized for the first time, I guarantee you’ll get frustrated. Work through it. When you come out the other side, you’ll have a system in place that will save you 45 minutes or more per day.

Staying organized isn’t easy, either

“Cleaning and organizing is a practice, not a project.”
Meagan Francis

I still sometimes want to give up this organized way of life. There are still some days where I just don’t want to BE organized anymore. I don’t want to spend an hour in the evening going over my upcoming projects. I don’t want to spend a couple of hours planning out my upcoming blogs. I don’t want to spend my Saturday evening reviewing my Bullet Journal and designing the next month’s spreads. I’d much rather watch TV or read a book or… do anything else.

I push through that. I stay organized because I know, in the long run, my quality of life is better when I’m organized (and my clients are usually a lot happier when I’m organized).

One trick I’ve found that helps combat this frustration is experimenting with different systems, apps, tactics, tips and all the stuff you can find online. I love trying new things, especially when my system starts feeling stale or projects start falling through the cracks. I experiment to find out if there’s anything more efficient out there, or to help with a different aspect of my life. For example, I recently researched and tested a few Grocery/Shopping List apps, because my husband and I either don’t write things down and forget, or use paper lists…. And forget the paper at home. We’re now using an app called Out of Milk (we’re still in the early stages, so I’ll keep you posted on that!)

Not everyone loves experimenting or researching new organizational ideas. And that’s ok too! If you find yourself in a slump wishing you could just give up on being organized, find a way to combat it. It may be that you give yourself the night off – let the chaos reign for an evening, or a day; or maybe you need to plan a new project, vacation or activity. Engage your brain, indulge… treat yourself.

My final point to remember when you’re starting in on this organizing thing… always be kind to yourself.

Maybe you’re not meeting all your goals, or your room is a mess. That’s ok. It’s a process – a practice – not a project. And the best part is, you don’t HAVE to be perfect to be organized.

You just have to be yourself.

You got this.