I am one of the most disorganized people I know from a time standpoint. This inability to organize my daily tasks within a defined timeframe has caused me anxiety and stress, a poor self-image and some self-trust issues, not to mention all the significant moments and great events I have missed out on. All these intertwined with lots of sleepless nights and drowsy, inefficient days that I could only cope with by ingering tons of mugs of coffee have led to the perfect recipe of frustration.
Not so long ago, I decided to make small changes in my lifestyle and habits so that I can turn into a more well-organized person and solve some of my all-time biggest issues. Here are the first steps I have taken in this regard, and I think they will help you too to stay more organized:
1. Learning how to prioritize keeps you organized
First off, you want to make sure you set your priorities for the following days. Distinguishing between the must-do things and nice-to-do things can spare you from so much frustration and exhaustion. Instead of losing the night working on, let’s say, a very important project because you have spent the entire day cleaning your room, trying a new cake recipe and reading about the Industrial Revolution (because these should be done someday, anyway), you could weigh your priorities and schedule them in the first part of the day.
On the one hand, this will ensure you that you can take as much time as you need from your day to make a good project, investing all your energy and using your well-rested brain at full potential.
On the other hand, completing this requiring and important task by the end of the day will make the other small tasks seem even easier than they really are, and so you will not be tempted to postpone them; whereas, if you start with the less difficult things, you will have the impression you have already worked hard enough for that day, and something more complicated, like a school project, will seem impossible to be handled in the same day.
2. Make a written list with all your daily tasks
Stupid as it may sound, taking a piece of paper and a pen (or your phone, but I am old-fashioned) and writing down your daily tasks, with the time slot allotted for each, will help you estimate how much time you need for each task and how many of them you can plan for each day.
The visualization of a full working day split in hours will give you a more accurate representation of how much that day actually last. Thus, instead of cramming too many tasks a day and failing to accomplish them, you will be able to set realistic deadlines and time intervals.
I found it more convenient to plan a whole week in advance, but you can absolutely make the schedule for each following day at the end of the ongoing day. You just want to make sure you allot enough time for each task, taking into account difficulty, distance, weather, people involved, resources, as well as the unpredictable factor. Keep in mind that it’s perfectly fine to have 8 tasks for Monday and only 2 for Tuesday, as long as, at the end of the week, you are satisfied with what you have accomplished.
3. Set reminders to keep track of time
I used to “plan” my day by saying in mind “today I have to do this, that and that, and I must finish each of them in less than 2 hours”. While this should be enough for most people, for one who suffers from an acute lack of organization and time perception, this way of planning out the day doesn’t work in their favour. I would start working on the first thing and, many times, I forgot about the time and woke up 4 hours later still not finishing it, which meant that at least one of the two other tasks was to be given up on – a very annoying and consuming feeling.
Irrespective of what I have to do but especially for activities taking longer, I have found it helpful to set alarms to remind me that I am halfway through the process and that I am to start the next task in 10 minutes. As far-fetched as it may sound, this has helped me estimate time way better and understand what my real work pace is, how much it takes me to write an essay, vs. how much time I spend on doing research for it.
This goes back to the previous point, being the first factor you need to consider when planning your day: how much time, on average, you need to complete each task. Learn that, and you will no longer be taken by surprise by how long the process takes, nor will you be disappointed with yourself.
4. Don’t forget to take breaks
When you plan your day, don’t forget you are not a robot! Don’t expect to do in just one day all you have to do throughout the whole week. This is humanly impossible and very unhealthy for your mental and even physical health. Even if you are a workaholic, you still need breaks. So, include them in your daily schedule, and try not to skip them.
Go pet your dog, take a short stroll, eat a fruit, talk to somebody. Do whatever you please, but take a break from work. Even if you feel you can work continuously for 3 hours straight, it would be a wise idea not to do so. Your brain, eyes and back will thank you. Your productivity will increase, and your work will seem less of a burden.
5. Vary your activities
You have to remember your life doesn’t only revolve around your work and your responsibilities. If you want to keep the balance and be satisfied with your life while enjoying the perks of working hard, you need to diversify your activities.
Even if you work a lot and don’t have much spare time, you can always do at least one small thing on a daily basis to brighten up your day. Be it baking a cake, watching a movie, doing a 15-minute workout, gardening, playing an instrument, you need and deserve your little moment of relaxation. If you alternate your daily tasks with these small pleasant activities, not only will you see improvements in your work progress and productivity, but you will also be happy and feel fulfilled with your lifestyle.
From personal experience, I recommend that you should plan these moments of relaxation just like you do with your daily tasks and schedule them along with your work-related activities, not at the end of the day. In this way, you can make sure you won’t skip them, as they are part of your daily programme. If you leave them at the end, you will probably be tempted to postpone or cancel them, as they are not compulsory and there are more urgent things to do. And at the end of each month, you will look back and see you have done nothing but work, and this leaves room for disappointment, frustration and anxiety to grow in your life.
6. Don’t be so harsh on yourself
Last but not least, you should be patient and give yourself time: to learn, to grow, to change, to evolve. Don’t expect these changes to happen overnight, don’t expect to be easy to get used to them or stick to your new lifestyle 100% from the first shot. It is a learning process, and it is absolutely normal to face difficulties and feel overwhelmed sometimes, and so it is to make mistakes. Embrace all of these and make the best out of your life!