Every group of friends has that one overly-organized person.
The one who never misses a beat, always prepared, and one step ahead of the rest.
They’re early to events (more often than not planning and hosting the entire thing anyway) and they are never flustered when they meet an unexpected hurdle along the way.
It’s impossible not to compare ourselves and even hold a little envy of their unfrazzled super selves.
But with a few lifestyle changes and lots of forethought you can become one of those people.
In this article, we have boiled down their success into 25 manageable habits, split into work and home sections, so that you can get organized too!
What is being organized?
When we think of being organized we often envision the end result. Having a tidy house or office space.
But, being organized is not actually about your external environment. The first step to understanding organization as a life skill is to radically shift your perspective.
Your inner environment is responsible for how organized you are as a person. ‘Organization’ is more about your workflow, in and out of the workplace.
The way you process thoughts and methodize what you need to do. This involves prioritizing and thinking logically ahead.
To become highly organized when you are not is a case of relearning your cognitive behaviors- an educational process that anyone can learn.
All you need to do is have the willingness to put in the time and effort and then stick with it.
Thinking differently about the way in which you work within your inner environment is the fundamental key to good organization.
Obviously, you will find that your outer environment will become streamlined and less chaotic but the tidy workspace or organized study is a byproduct of the inner shift of thought.
How do highly organized people do it?
So the pessimistic and the lazy among us may be wondering can I really become organized?
Highly organized people appear to have a natural inclination because we don’t see the inner workings.
It can be easy to rule out the chance of becoming more organized simply because it doesn’t come easy to you.
But anyone can be organized!
Being organized is a mindset as opposed to a way of living, it really is as easy as incorporating a couple of new routines and keeping them a part of your regime until they become habitual and second nature.
Home-based habits to have
A lot of organizational hacks online are physical, cool storage solutions and ways to help declutter a space but become organized you need methodology.
An obvious organization tip for your home is to take action as soon as possible with each task so that the to-do list doesn’t have long enough to double on you overnight.
Morning routines are also very important to help tackle tasks early on.
Take note and adopt a few of these to help organize your home life like a boss.
1) Avoid any paperwork pileups
The majority of home clutter comes in the form of paperwork yet to be dealt with. The solution is to program yourself to sort it as it enters your home.
Tip to form the habit: Dedicate 5 minutes of your day to complete four simple tasks will help you form the habit:
- Immediately recycle any unwanted/junk mail
- Place invitations and event details somewhere visible like a fridge or noticeboard, or mark your calendar with dates and details and discard them entirely
- Store important paperwork in allocated folders
- Batch and complete all paper-related tasks on a set day of each week.
This should keep your surfaces free of papers permanently!
2) Be the first to rise
When you wake each day to a lengthy to-do list it can be daunting. Taking a few moments to appreciate the day and collect your thoughts before the hustle and bustle of homelife erupts can give you the peace and quiet you need to think clearly.
Jodie Watson, the founder of Supreme Organization, suggests in her article that rising 10 to 15 minutes before the rest of your household can make a real difference.
So set the alarm a little earlier for a head start each day.
Tip to form the habit: Use the time to identify the things you never seem to get around to doing and problem solve on how to get them done. Maybe it is a task you could try shifting to the night before? This is an opportune moment to think about the habits you want to put in place.
Once you have a solid reason for starting a habit, it becomes easier to begin and stick to.
3) Declutter regularly
Many of us are guilty of letting the clutter pile up, only noticing once it has started to really invade our environment.
We tend to wait around for spare time to tackle it. Resulting in large-scale clearouts like spring cleans, or garage sales. Big clearouts are overwhelming and this leads to reluctance or putting the job off.
Organized people understand the consequences and to avoid the pile-up they frequently declutter, dedicating small amounts of time to the task to avoid their homes and minds.
Tip to form the habit: To master this habit you need to be consistent, pay attention to your belongings, and get rid of anything that is:
- Items that are broken or very worn out
- Clothes that don’t fit
- Things which you haven’t used recently enough
- Anything you no longer love
- Belongings that have been outgrown or no longer suit your lifestyle
Make this habit once a month, you could set an alarm on your phone as a reminder to declutter and make spring cleans a thing of the past!
4) The importance of routines and systems
Having a routine is critical to being well organized. Give your day-to-day activities structure. This makes things easier and ensures you are using your time intentionally.
If you are planning your day you can see ahead.
You can see what is making you happy and unhappy. It gives you an overhead of everything so you can see where adjustments to your life can be made and make sure you add things that are in line with your goals.
Routines don’t form overnight and for many of us are an ongoing thing. You have to regularly assess because “Organization is a journey, not a destination.” Having a system in place lets you see exactly what works and what doesn’t.
This makes identifying the steps to address easier and allows you to improve your routine. Once it’s finely tuned you will be better able to organize the smaller details.
Big changes have much bigger impacts on your routines.
Physical environment changes such as moving home, downsizing or renovating, and relationship changes like marriage, divorce, having children, or children moving out are going to be inevitably harder to tackle than an unexpected change of plans to an average day.
But if your routine is well cemented to begin with and you are already accustomed to the mental process of assessing the organization of your time then the more dramatic milestones of life are less overwhelming.
Tip to form the habit: This is a complex habit to start, so take baby steps.
Change something small about your routine, start simply by adhering to a specific regular task at a set time and build from there.
Try adding one or two new tasks every month and watch the structure of your routine form in front of you!
If you want some assistance in implementing new routines and systems in your life that are based on a deeper sense of life purpose, I recommend watching Justin Brown’s new masterclass, “the hidden trap of trying to improve yourself”.
He explains how to identify your purpose in life and build a new set of routines around it.
5) Logic, order, and workflow
Difficult jobs are harder to tackle but take more pressure off as they have the biggest impact on our mental chore list.
Self-help guru Brian Tracy was inspired by a Mark Twain quote. The American writer once famously said, “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning, and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.”
Although it is a’ bite the bullet and get the worst over and done with’ analogy, it also makes for a great time management metaphor.
As Brian Tracy pointed out at Monday, organized people tend to tackle the hardest tasks first, and then do the lighter ones.
Tip to form the habit: The order in which you do most daily things is logical, you must put on your socks before your shoes! You don’t consciously even think about it, it is a habit.
Getting the harder things out of the way is also logical, start with picking more challenging items.
The more you practice completing a tough task, the less it will seem like a challenge. Like anything you add to your routine, it will eventually feel more natural and become a habit.
6) Set aside time to tidy-up
As we already glossed over, waking up to too much to do is not the best start to the day. This can be circumvented by allocating 10-15 minutes aside for a pre-evening clean-up.
It works especially well in homes with children, encouraging teamwork and responsibility, and everybody benefits. You will have a more inviting, relaxing environment to spend the evening in and less to confront you in the morning as well.
Spend ten minutes returning things to where they belong. Doing this daily prevents clutter from becoming out of control.
Tip to form the habit: Set yourself a daily reminder on your mobile or use the commercial breaks between your favorite TV shows as an opportune moment. If you have a family home you could add an element of competition.
Set a timer and try to pick to tidy as fast as possible or put the most number of items away.
A short burst in each room each day is all it takes to wake up to a fresh, clean slate.
7) Prep, prep, and more prep
Successful time management skills give organized people the tools they need to be prepared for almost anything.
You must be aware of how much time you have left to complete something and be able to estimate how long you will personally take to do it. If you know this you can keep on top of things.
Getting things completed in an organized fashion often relies on a tonne of prep, organized people typically do this in the morning saving time and preventing headaches.
Depending on the life you lead and your schedule you might want to move some morning preparation tasks to the night before.
Tip to form the habit: A great task to help cement the habit of being more prepared is to plan your outfit for the following day. It is simple enough and doesn’t take too long out of the night before.
Plan every detail, all accessories and if you have youngsters or partners you can get their clothes ready too!
8) Make big jobs bitesize
Big projects need breaking down or you are more likely to succumb to procrastination or avoid them altogether. How to tackle the job requires a little thought and planning.
Being able to focus on just one step will stop you from getting overwhelmed by how big the end goal is.
To be efficient takes effort but the planning and division of attention keep a big project on track.
Tip to form the habit: Break cleaning your entire house down into rooms. Break the rooms down into areas, such as surfaces or floors. You can even divide the rooms into quarters or smaller.
Just pick a square foot at a time. Pick one place to start and take a small deserved break between each area if you need to.
Tackling a big task in this manner makes it appear more manageable and you will be surprised at how quickly you knock it out.
9) Don’t forget down-time
Good organization has a positive impact on your everyday life. Stress levels and anxiety are reduced and you end up with more free time as a result.
But, you must know when to take a break so you don’t become a prisoner of your routine
Ensure you schedule in some ‘me time’. Go for a walk, watch a movie, or learn a new hobby or skill.
Tip to form the habit: Find a ten-minute window for each day to give yourself some downtime. You can start simple with a nice cup of coffee in a park or a tutorial workout.
Meditate on what you want and figure out a way to incorporate it into your day-to-day life.
10) Know your limits
Organized people might seem like they can take on the world but the secret is they know their strengths and weaknesses better than most.
Sometimes being organized means asking for help to avoid chaos and stress.
You have to understand your limitations by practicing self-awareness and be able to see your friends’ strengths too.
If someone in your circle that you can count on can do a more efficient job then it is counterproductive not to ask.
Tip to form the habit: Pinpoint the stress and don’t let it build until it is overwhelming. If you are trying to plan something you aren’t capable of; discuss it. Manage the feelings by talking to a friend or seeking a therapist if needed.
11) Make notes
A mental to-do list only works if you can remember it. The best way to ensure that you won’t is to write it down rather than relying on memory alone.
This can be with a traditional planner, diary, or calendar, or using your phone.
With a mobile in hand, there is no excuse in our modern lives not to make note of something you need to accomplish.
Tip to form the habit: Make a list the night before for the following day. Start with 3-5 important things that must be remembered and taken care of.
12) Give everything a home
Organized people give every item a designated place to live and put objects back where they belong.
They don’t have to spend time tearing the house apart to find something because they know that it is where it should be.
Returning items to their allocated homes can save time and energy as well as prevent stress.
Tip to form the habit: Next time you tidy, give any unhoused items a designated place. Then employ habit number 6 above and spend ten minutes each day returning items to where they ought to be.
Workplace Habits to adopt
Being organized is a form of self-care it allows you to be more in control of your life and feel calmer. Organization is good for your mental and physical wellbeing.
At home, you have more control than at work but you can organize your work life with habits and processes that complement the home habits laid out above.
13) Be realistic
The last thing you want to do is waste time for an organized person, time is the most precious resource you have. When you work for a shift you need to keep the work hours productive.
Make daily and weekly schedules for the day and week with deadlines to meet and break the tasks into set goals to achieve. Don’t be unrealistic with time-frames and turnarounds.
Tip to form the habit: Learn to prioritize tasks. Make a physical list and tick them off one by one starting with the most important first.
14) To multitask… or not?
‘Multi-tasking’ is a brilliant tool for someone who wants to be more organized however it can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it allows you to get through a multitude of menial tasks which is effective time management but it leaves room for distraction, error, and overwhelming yourself.
To work efficiently, you can’t juggle too much at once. Certain tasks require more attention to detail.
So know when and how to multitask as there is a big difference between good and bad multitasking. You will overtax yourself mentally if you are handling too many tasks.
Research from a Stanford University study found that when you’re inundated you pay less attention and that recalling and retaining information becomes much more difficult.
They concluded that doing a single task at a time was far more productive.
You can’t drive your car while talking on the phone safely because your attention is not focused where it needs to be. Apply this to every task you have to do.
Tip to form the habit: Focus on seeing one task through from start to finish before beginning anything else. Easier said than done, but crucial!
15) Sensibly delegate
Being organized in your work doesn’t mean undertaking everything yourself. Just like when you organize your home and personal life you need to ask for help. Taking sole responsibility for everything adds unnecessary pressure and causes extra stress.
Any leader will tell you that organizing a team and delegating makes for a smoother workflow. By delegating the right amount of work to different people relative to their skill level you make the workload even and the stress is organized out. Meetings and deadlines are less overwhelming.
Tip to form the habit: Try going through your personal to-do list at work and find one task that somebody else would capably handle and feel your stress levels lower.
16) Stay proactive to avoid procrastination
Organized people take care of tasks as they arise.
You have to have a get it done attitude adjusting the way you approach each task, with the will to get it done ASAP will drive you through. It is a tricky mindset to have but rewarding in the long term.
It may take a lot of effort but it relieves the pressure of trying to get it done later down the line, closer to an impending deadline.
Tip to form the habit: Choose something that drastically needs organizing in your life. Then work out what you need to change it try and take one proactive step towards getting it done.
17) Publicly display your goals in the common room
Writing down goals for the week, month and year is a good way to clearly visualize what you want to achieve and the route to it.
Highly organized people have clear ideas of what needs to be done and employ writing it down as an effective reminder that keeps them focused on the approach.
Tip to form the habit: You can put your to-do list on a notice board or whiteboard in a common room. Every time you look at it you will be reminded of your progress and direction.
Having a clear idea of the bigger picture will help motivate you and those around you and hopefully make sure you are less distracted.
18) Operate in an energy-efficient manner
To manage your time most effectively you should keep in mind your energy levels. We all have a ‘most-suitable’ time of day for getting things done.
The majority of highly organized people work best in the mornings when they are well-rested from a night’s sleep.
If this is true to you then you should try waking slightly earlier to plan ahead or fit in a few extra tasks and ready yourself for the workplace.
But, not all of us are morning people so you might find half an hour after work suits you better or last thing before bed. Whenever it is, set it aside and utilize it.
Tip to form the habit: Take note of how long certain chores take and how much effort you feel they take. Make a record of how tired you are before and after and what time it was that you did it.
You can then play around with where you place the jobs in your schedule until it falls into a better place.
19) Having a tidy desk
A clutter-free desk keeps your workspace distraction-free. With everything in a well-organized place, you won’t waste time looking for a piece of stationery and equates to a more productive shift.
Tip to form the habit: Use the space wisely, have storage solutions, and only keep the essentials.
Give your desk a five-minute sort-out at the end of each working day, binning refuse and organizing paperwork effectively.
20) Keep an eye on your finances
Organized people track their expenditure. They run a tight ship and know where all of their money is going.
This is largely thanks to the habit of writing things down and planning ahead. It makes it easier to spot where money is being wasted, where it could be spared or cut from your budget and saved.
Being more aware makes you more prepared if you are hit with an emergency expense you weren’t expecting.
Tip to form the habit: There are some great apps that can help you with calculating the percentage of your income that is being used for different purposes like bills, leisure, food, etc.
21) Prioritise email replies
To stay afloat in the modern workplace, it’s more important than ever to create a system for managing our messages.
The modern workplace comes with an inbox full of mail, you need to have a system in place to deal with it.
Some allow email notifications to interrupt the task at hand as they arrive. Others leave them until late in the day and get lost scrolling through a sea of mail that they have no time to respond to.
Instead, it is more organized to set aside time once or twice during the workday to browse your inbox and prioritize it efficiently.
You should reply to critical emails immediately so as to make sure it doesn’t weigh on your mind throughout other tasks or slip your mind completely.
You can star or tag any emails that you need to get back to later and if an email is informational, file it into an appropriately named folder.
Tip to form the habit: Try starting the workday with an email check. Limit the time to 10 or 15 minutes depending on the type of work you do and simply respond to important ones.
Then check again after lunch again responding to important ones and addressing one or two of the messages you starred for later.
Before you leave for the day check again these things very quickly become ritualistic and habitual.
22) Time is a valuable resource protect it with boundaries
The workload you have is governed by time and even the most efficiently organized of us can have our well-scheduled day unexpectedly disrupted.
Time management is paramount, you can’t allow things to overrun. You have to be a ruthless businessman with your time because it is incredibly valuable. So don’t allow others to take advantage of your time.
Elizabeth Grace Saunders said in her write-up for the Harvard Business Review, that “you can’t always dictate how people communicate with you” but that “you can set expectations.” Which she went on to explain meant you don’t have to respond to work messages outside of working hours.
If it can wait until the morning or from Friday evening until Monday, then wait.
Tip to form the habit: Establish boundaries with your time with colleagues especially when collaborating on a project.
If you don’t lay out boundaries early on then organization goes out of the window, valuable time is lost, and stress creeps in.
23) Juggling work and home life
Balancing your work and home life is important to peace of mind and happiness.
The worst thing you can do at the end of a difficult workday is to take the stress of the job home with you.
It seeps into other aspects of family life.
Being organized does help reduce this. With work schedules and tasks planned and completed during work hours, your home time will be free-time aside from household chores.
Of course, it isn’t always ideal, you may have to structure your day to include working a little overtime to stop build-ups or decide to make work calls and answer emails outside of the workplace.
Tip to form the habit: Use your weekends or evenings to enjoy yourself. Try setting work task goals and rewarding yourself in your free time for getting it done.
Set yourself work task reminders, delegate to responsible team-mates, and get it finished during work hours wherever possible.
24) Don’t be afraid of hard work
Most of these habits appear relatively simple on the surface. The hard part is being consistent with it. Staying organized takes hard work and self-discipline to maintain.
It requires a lot of effort, sometimes more than you might feel like you have. But, with schedules well-planned and responsibilities you can organize absolutely anything far more easily.
Tip to form the habit: If you feel like giving up, dig deep and work a little harder so you can see how much your effort pays off.
One final habit outside of home and work…
Buying things that we don’t need leads to clutter. So here is one last word of organizational advice:
25) Don’t fall for bargain hype
Organized people are savvy when it comes to the bargain bin, they are less likely to fall prey to false advertising too. Items on sale are very tempting but generally unnecessary. If you want to stay organized then you have to try to shop consciously.
Tip to form the habit: Go window shopping. Don’t take cash or cards with you and make a note of the things you would buy if you had your wallet or purse.
You can revisit the list a month later and see if you still want it. You might even find it has been discounted later on!
The bottom line
The major difference between an organized and unorganized person is the ability to understand how disorganization impacts life.
How assessing and planning ahead can avoid chaos and stress altogether.
Organized people follow a few habits in their routines that they stick to no matter what and as a result get more accomplished.
By implementing a few specific habits that add up to effective time management you can begin the journey to becoming highly-organized too.
Start with 2 or 3 today and let your progress cheer you on to successfully implement more positive changes.
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