April 8, 2010

How to live an organized life-part 1

I spoke at my MOPs group about organization, and due to the response, I thought I’d put it all on here. I’m surprised I haven’t posted anything about organization, since it’s one of my top five favorite things. I wish I could say that everything I tell you I came up with on my own, but the truth is, I’ve spent years researching organization; I learned most of what I know from my mother, at the end of this I’ll list people I’ve found that support what she taught me. My mother ingrained in me what I consider to be the rules of organization.

Rule #1-Organization is a lifestyle, not a product. Most of the ways to become organized are daily habits, not shelves, hooks and storage. I like to explain it this way-there are two types of organization; material and task. Material organization is of course, where and how our possessions are placed. Task organization is erroneously called time management, a term I despise with a passion. Time management is impossible-how many of us can make a minute longer? An hour shorter? Time management is like gravity management (think Superman)-not humanly possible. Off my soapbox and back to the point. Task management is what we do all day long; eating, filing, gardening, driving. Task management is more important than material, though most people don’t realize this. Material organization is what we can see, so we focus on that, believing that if we have the right filing system, coat rack, and shelving, we will be able to achieve the elusive “organization” we hear about on TV, radio, and read about everywhere. This is just not true. Your habits decide whether that filing system, coat rack or shelves will do what you bought them for. If you set up the latest and greatest filing system, but your habit is to leave all your papers in a pile on top of the kitchen counter, that filing system is worthless. If your children’s habit is to come in and leave their coats hanging on the back of the dining room chairs, their backpacks in their room and their shoes in the living room, that coatrack/shoe cubby/hook system isn’t going to make your foyer look like the catalog picture.

So what will make your house look like your dream home? A routine, not a schedule, is what you need to flow through your hectic days. Why not a schedule? A schedule will only set you up for disappointment and feelings of failure. If you decide that your schedule will be to get up at 6:00 and be showered and dressed by 6:45, but the power goes out because of a storm or something else beyond your control, when you wake up after 6:00, you are starting your day behind schedule. In your mind, you feel bad, because to your mind, you have failed-you didn’t hold up your end of the deal-you said you would be up and showered and dressed, yet you are not. The better way is to decide that you will get up, shower, dress, eat breakfast, feed the pets, and then walk out the door for work. I’m not saying that deciding to leave your house at a specific time is bad, but you should know what you can do in a set amount of time. Thus, when you wake up after your alarm should have gone off, you can cut out things in your routine if needed to still get where you need to be on time. The flexibility of a routine allows for the interruptions of life without feeling rushed, behind or as though we’ve failed at something.

As an example I’d like to offer up a woman most everyone has heard of-Martha Stewart. As many things as she does, she must have a routine you can set your watch by. Each month in the front of Martha Stewart Living is Martha’s monthly calendar. If you were to look in her day planner, you will find a basic routine to each of her days. The people working with her don’t need to check their watches to see what time it is, as she flows from one task to another. She’s had this routine long enough that she probably innately knows how long each task will take and can plan for the other things she would like to do. The people we meet that get so much done, without neglecting any major area of life-family, sleep, business, fun, are examples of people that have a routine. Find someone that seems to get it all done, and ask them about their life; you’ll hear things like, ‘In the evening…’ and ‘Each morning…’, all phrases that indicate a set routine.

How do you do this in your life? I guarantee you have a routine, whether it’s intentional or not. Set a timer for 10:30 each day, I’m sure you will be beginning, in the middle of, or finishing the same thing each day when the timer goes off. To set a routine, you have to know what your priorities are, as well as what do you want to accomplish in a day, a week, a month. I’ll explain setting up a routine on Monday. For now, begin to think about what your priorities are-do you know? Do you know what you’d like to get done in day? Do you know what you do in day now? If you’re not sure, find out-check the clock every so often and write down what you’re doing, so that you get a good idea of what you do, and how long it takes you to do it.

***Forgot to tell you who else believes this-flylady.net is a great site, and she is another advocate of a routine is the be all end all of organization.***

Happy Thoughts!

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