Becoming Organized

Pick a Starting Point

Once you've established your priorities, pick a very specific area of focus. Don't try to organize your whole office or the whole house, or the whole attic, for that matter. Don't try to get every aspect of your calendar straightened out. Scope it down. Remember that your thinking can be confused, so what you think is a small goal might be quite big. Setting big, unrealistic goals will not help you get more done. In fact, it can backfire because you will feel discouraged and may be tempted to give up. Choose one specific area of your life that has been bugging you – whether it's a physical or temporal area.

The challenge in this is not to let your frustration take the lead, since it will say that you simply can't live this way anymore and you have to change everything at once. That kind of thinking will encourage you to try to do too many things in a half-baked manner. Then you won't see much progress and you'll be more frustrated. The truth is, you can't do everything at once. You will have to be patient. Taking time with your plan will yield great results.

As you choose where to start, look for leverage, which means working on the spot where you will get the biggest bang for your organizing buck. Identify the few things that you might change that will have the biggest impact in your life. What items do you spend the most time looking for? What important meetings are you always late for? What vital records can you never find? What bills haven't you paid? What services get shut off? What is the ugliest, most offensive place in your home or office that you can't stand but you have to look at every day? These are good starting points, so you can experience the beneficial impact of your organizing immediately. Some possibilities are:

  • The top of your desk – with archaeological layers of papers, mail, lists, and half-drunk cups of coffee.
  • One part of your office floor – with years of piles of papers, old magazines, and outdated materials. Identify an area small enough that you can clear it off in one week.
  • The front hall closet – with several generations of boots, mittens, coats, and sporting equipment.
  • Your car – perhaps it is a traveling storage container.
  • One of the kitchen counters – for many people, this is the mail-sorting station, only the mail never gets sorted.
  • The bathroom – with assortments of bottles, toys, outdated medicine, and Band-Aids that don't stick anymore.
  • Your punctuality for a specific activity – start by identifying just one or two appointments that are important for you to arrive at on time. If you are regularly late for a particular meeting, focus on the key actions that will get you there on time. If you tend to be late for work, start with that.
  • Overbooking – focus on one particular type of overbooking. Do you want to completely eliminate double-booking? Or do you want to stop canceling things at the last minute?
  • Procrastination – again, choose one area that you want to change. If you chronically postpone calling clients, focus on what you would need in order to do that in a timely way.


From It's Hard to Make a Difference When You Can't Find Your Keys by Marilyn Paul, Ph.D. Copyright 2003. Used by arrangement with Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

If you'd like to buy this book, click here or on the book cover. Get a 15% discount with the coupon code FENPARENT.

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