In my last post, I shared five things you’ll never see organized people do. I learned this from observing highly organized friends and colleagues–and the help of a productivity specialist, Lori Krolik, president of More Time for You. Lori taught me five secrets to getting and staying organized.
Lori opened up a Pandora’s box of organization for me when she shared the secret of making checklists. It helped get my work/travel life in order along with my personal life.
Here’s what she told me:
“Create checklists for the places you travel to, especially globally, when you might need special medicines or articles of clothing. For example, you might need Malaria medicine in certain humid, remote, climates. Or that easily packable down coat when traveling to cold weather. Pull the checklist out each time when you’re getting ready to go to make sure you aren’t forgetting anything.”
It was a simple trick but it meant not having to think things through from the beginning each time. So, now that I have a pretty good system, I want to share these five secrets for getting and staying organized with you.
1. Create a plan.
First, prioritize what you need to organize. The way to do this is to hone in on what needs to be organized. Don’t be daunted. Think, what areas are the most disorganized? What areas are stressing you out and making it difficult for you to achieve certain tasks like scheduling meetings or fixing supper? Start that checklist and tackle one before moving onto the next.
2. Master the calendar.
My productivity guru, Lori, shared some important advice when it comes to scheduling meetings–be sure to use the notes section in your calendar. Don’t rely on your memory when it comes to recalling who is calling who, or what is on the agenda, or for me, what time zone the call is meant to take place. Auto-conversion doesn’t work sometimes, so she advised me to put all relevant times and time-zones manually in the body of the invitation.
3. Give everything a home.
Label makers can be a powerful weapon when it comes to getting organized. Pick one up, head to the Container Store and get a host of bins, boxes, and folders–then go crazy. Give everything in your life its designated place. If everything has a home, you’ll lessen your chances of losing anything. This goes for email, too. Create folders and send those emails “home.”
4. Get rid of junk regularly.
Spend time on a regular basis, whether it be every week or every month, to go through and de-clutter. Get rid of things you don’t need. A rule I have for clothes and personal items is, if I haven’t used it in a year, I bring it to Good Will or a consignment shop. Also, if I purchase something new, like a new sweater or pair of shoes, that means I must get rid of something. This also helps fight the clutter war.
5. Put things back where they belong.
Now that everything has a “home”, make sure it stays that way. Don’t use that flashlight and then stick it in a nearby cupboard. Take a moment and place it back in the neatly labeled container you got it from. That way when you need it next, you’ll know where to look.
Since I discovered these secrets of getting and staying organized in my life and my work, I’ve been much more productive while being less stressed. It seems contradictory but by investing a little bit of time into organizing every day, I’ve been able to have more time to do the things I want–and do them well.
A version of this post was first published on Inc.