How to Be an Organized Person
Wondering how to organize your life? Getting your sh*t together and keeping it together can feel like an unattainable goal, especially when it’s not your natural inclination. One of the things I’ve learned over the years as an online life coach and career coach is that being an organized person is more than learning about “organizational tips” or “time management skills.” It’s more than a new plan for where to put stuff or reorganizing your drawers. Being organized (genuinely, sustainably organized) is actually a mindset — a way of being that cultivates inner order and calm. And unless you figure out how to organize your life from within, all the “how to be organized” tips you implement will be short term and ineffective.
Now, before we go further, I must be honest with you. I’m going to step out from behind the therapist/life coach “Dr. Lisa” role for a moment to share a secret: I am not a naturally “organized person.” In my personal life, particularly when I was younger, I have struggled to manage time effectively, keep control of the clutter and chaos, and maintain an organized life. I didn’t come from an organized family and arrived into adulthood without organizational skills in place.
I squeaked by for a while, but when my life got harder, I really needed to up my game. I could not get through graduate school or run a business without doing a better job of managing my time, energy, and tasks. When I became a mom, that balance became even harder, and in order to do the things that were most important to me, I really needed to work on my organizational skills. So, I did!
I actually spent a lot of time figuring out how to get organized in order to do the things I wanted to do, to be the person I wanted to be, and to achieve my most important personal and professional goals. On my lifelong quest for personal organization, I have tried all the systems, all the hacks, and read all the “how to get organized” self-help books there have ever been.
I am pleased to report that over the years I have grown into a reasonably organized person. I am able to get the most important things done. I still lose my keys sometimes (but not my shoes!). Most importantly, I have systems in place that keep me from going so far off the organizational rails that I feel too overwhelmed to get my sh*t together again.
Organized Vs. Unorganized
Many people who are not good at being organized from within do have to work harder to create organizational systems and stick to them. Unorganized folks dread these systems and will fight tooth and nail to avoid the types of routine and structure that being organized requires. But — I’m here to tell you, from the other side of this chasm — it’s much less stressful and easier to cope with basically everything when your life is generally in order. There’s less anxiety and drama. Your relationships feel easier, too.
While it can feel hard to get organized and stay that way, once you do, you’ll be amazed at the contrast. Feeling really stressed or burnt out? Learning how to organize your life and keep it that way is actually easier than being chronically disorganized and chaotic. (More on this subject in the marvelous interview I did with Dr. Marilyn Paul, on “How to Stay Stress Free.”)
I have learned from my own process that creating an organized life is not about the systems and the containers and the calendars (though all those tools can help). Being organized begins with a shift in mindset. Organized people actually think differently than the unorganized. By learning how organized people think and cultivating an organized mindset, you too can achieve the Nirvana of feeling genuinely in control of your time, your energy, your stuff, and your life. Yes, you can design your life around what matters most.
The Habits of an Organized Person
Here’s the secret to organizing your life: Creating habits that make it easier for you to stay organized. You can use the power of habit (especially key-stone habits, which lay the foundation for a productive, repeatable routine) to make organization automatic.
The specific “habits of an organized person” that you need to create aren’t the same as anyone else’s. But here are a few big-bucket habits that most organize people tend to share:
Success is never an accident. It’s something that has to be planned for and cultivated. So, what are your life goals, and what is your plan for achieving them? Once you have an answer to that question, organizing your time around your true priorities will feel much easier.
If your ten-year plan involves moving across the country, buying a home, or changing careers, that tells you something about how you want to be spending your time every year, month, week, and day. Organized people set aside time for planning their time, which helps them maintain a clear sense of their progress and where their focus is needed. When you don’t have that big-picture vision for your future, you can’t organize the micro-tasks of your day in a way that supports your long-term goals.
2. Creating External Systems
Organized people know their limits, and so they don’t try to store all the information they need in their brains. And neither should you! Even if you have a great memory, getting into the habit of using external systems as a “backup” can help you feel calmer and more in control.
Set up reminders for important tasks, get into the habit of putting all of your activities on a calendar (and checking the calendar each morning, perhaps as you’re doing some daily planning), and find a good way of organizing important information so you don’t have to waste time looking for it.
3. Choosing simplicity
Organized people are not maximalists. They don’t say “yes” to everything, only to the things that are connected to their values and priorities. They get rid of items they don’t need so they don’t have to spend any time trying to keep them organized. They find a few tools and systems that work for them and they stick to them, rather than reading 600 blog posts with “organization hacks” and turning the pursuit of organization into a disorganized tangent of its own.
If you want to know how to organize your life, start with the big picture, like how you’re spending your time. You can add in additional tools if you want to, but do so gradually and give yourself a chance to adjust to one tool before adding another.
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The Organized Mindset
I considered inviting an “organizational expert” to join me on today’s podcast and share their strategies for how to organize your life and cultivate an organized mindset, but then I had a better idea: my pal, Denver therapist and Denver psychologist Dr. Danielle Kahlo.
Dr. Danielle is not a professional organizer — she’s way better. Danielle is a blazingly talented therapist who is also a next-level organized person. She has incredible insights into the life experience of being organized and how to achieve that.
Let’s Get Our Lives Organized!
Listen to this episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast for Dr. Danielle’s down-to-earth advice on:
- The biggest differences between an organized mindset and a disorganized one,
- Why being organized has to come from within, especially when you’re working from home or managing a household (it IS possible to work from home, meet deadlines, and be productive!),
- How organizing your life has a direct (positive) impact on anxiety,
- What causes procrastination and new ideas to nip it in the bud,
- How to achieve meaningful work/life balance and still get all the important things done,
- Ways to cultivate present-moment awareness in order to be more organized–and happier too. This is an excellent way to prevent burnout.
I hope this heartfelt advice on being organized is helpful to you as you juggle all the demands of your beautiful (organized) life!
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Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self. She is a licensed psychologist, a licensed marriage and family therapist, and a board-certified coach, as well as the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.
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