A new year is like a fresh, clean slate. Or is it?
Some of us are still carrying over the clutter and chaos of the previous year (or decade). While it’s true that some people do work best in the mess, it’s not just untidiness we’re talking about here. Even if you work primarily in a creative role, you still need to have some structure and organization to keep all the loose ends together and make sure nothing falls through the cracks. After all, if you want that creativity to pay off, you need more than just great ideas.
So if you’re ready to finally get organized and keep it that way—or if you’re just looking for some new tips and tricks to keep it interesting—try some of these ideas to help you start the year off clear-eyed and focused.
- Make it fun: If you’re not typically the most organized person, you’re probably not too excited about hunkering down and getting everything sorted and put into its proper place. One way to get motivated is to reframe it. Make it social. Hold a contest with your friends, throw a decluttering party, plan a reward for yourself at the finish line. Get creative and you might find yourself actually looking forward to it.
- Picture it: It’s hard to get organized when you don’t really know what’s there. You might be a spreadsheet fiend who loves to categorize and take inventory of everything. But if you’re more of a visual thinker, taking photos of your space and the things you need to organize might work better for you.
- Ruthlessly prioritize: Beth Penn of BNeato Bar notes that it’s not always easy to tell whether something is clutter or not. If your stuff is starting to take over, ask yourself these questions to help you prioritize what to keep out, what to file away, and what to trash or donate: (A) What value am I getting out of this? (B) How often am I using it? (C) How does it make me feel? (D) What would it be like if this wasn’t taking up (literal or mental) space?
- Let technology pick up the slack: There are hundreds of apps and tools that can handle some of the heavy lifting for you. From tech-enabled to-do lists that build accountability to scanning apps that minimize all the scraps of paper lying around to all the many different ways technology can keep you on track, there’s an app for that, so you might as well take advantage of it.
- Harness the checklist: This decidedly low-tech tool can help you detangle some of the complexity in your life, stay on track and organized, and avoid simple mistakes.
- Color your world: This is another great tip for visual thinkers. Color-code your files by category, client, theme, priority or even thinking style. You’ll know what you’ve got and where everything goes with just a glance.
- Organize your head: Sometimes the biggest distractions are inside our own heads. Take a “brain dump” break once a day or at least one a week. Depending on your preference, it can be in the evening after a full day or in the morning to get organized, or both. Just writing the stuff down that is floating in your head can allow you to let it go and help move it onto long-term memory. Even better: Keep a running priority list that you can review and update.
- Set yourself up for success every day. Small accomplishments can be the stepping stones to bigger ones by building new habits. One easy task you can do to prime yourself to live a more organized and productive life is to make your bed every morning.
- Embrace the power of no. The more things you agree to, the more things pile up—and grow out of control. Unsubscribe from those email lists you never read, protect the thinking time on your calendar and get back into the habit of single-tasking.
- Put it away rather than putting it off: Filing things away as soon as you finish with them is a lot easier than dealing with a year’s worth of stuff. Make it a habit to do it now, not later. Your later self will thank you. If you’re having trouble staying committed to the practice, visualize the end result, when you’re enjoying doing the things you love to do instead of having to dig out and reorganize yet again.
Don’t let another year go by without cleaning up your act! Use some of these tips to make getting—and staying—organized a breeze.