All my life, keeping things organized has been an issue for me. It started in elementary school and got worse throughout my academic career. Let’s not talk about my pitiful excuse of a science fair experiment that I tried to throw together over night in middle school. Or the semester-long research paper that I scrambled to research and write the weekend before it was due my Junior year of high school. And that poetry project I pulled an all-nighter to create during my Freshman year of college? Although the final product was pretty good, I’m convinced it could’ve been better. It certainly wasn’t my best effort. I’d run out of time. Because I wasn’t organized.
“Get organized.” That’s something I was told quite a bit during high school and college. I was even told that by my immediate supervisor in my first experience in full-time ministry – the one that only lasted for 9 months. Part of the reason I didn’t last that long was because of my poor organizational skills. People just kept telling me to “get organized,” though. And I was never really given any tools to discover how to get organized.
I knew I needed to get organized. I just didn’t know where to start. So I’d write “Get Organized” as an item on my to-do list. Like that was going to help. Are you surprised that I never checked the box on that line of my lists? I didn’t really know any better. I have the feeling that a lot of people feel that way. They know they need to improve the way they have things organized, but they just can’t figure out how. They don’t even know where to begin.
I’m not the most organized person in the world. Just ask Christy. But I’m better than I used to be. I’ve read books. I’ve checked out articles on the Internet. I’ve watched news segments about organization. None of that really helped. The best thing I did was about ten years ago. I got help. I was able to talk to someone and she helped me figure out how to take tasks that were overwhelming and break them down into manageable things. She helped me realize that I need to create patterns in my own life so I can maintain some level of control when things get all crazy and seemingly unmanageable.
At the time, I was also learning about management at a pizza place. The best thing I’ve taken away from that experience was this little nugget: Don’t wait until later. If you think of something that needs to be done, go ahead and do it. Don’t wait until later because you’re assuming you’ll have time later in the day. You don’t know what is going to happen later in the day. So don’t put off until later what you can do right now. This is true in most things, not just the pizza making business. If something needs to be done, get it done. Don’t procrastinate.
Both of these mentors in my life helped me realize this key thing when it comes to getting organized:
Getting organized is a process, not an event.
You can’t just wake up one day and say “I’m organized.” It’s not an item you can just check off your list and everything is magically organized for the rest of your life. It’s an ongoing process. At least, it’s an ongoing process for people like me. I have a feeling it’s an ongoing process for you, too.
Here are some things that have helped me get a handle on the organization process. Now I don’t have to just write “Get organized” on my to-do list and hope things magically get better:
- I use alarms like crazy. If I want to remember to do something, I have to set an alarm. That makes my phone buzz a lot (I usually use silent alarms), but it’s totally worth it.
- I hinted at it a week or so ago, but I’m a big fan of Evernote. I used to use it all the time when preparing for sermons. Now I use it to help keep me on task. I know I’m only scratching the surface of its functionality the way I use it. Michael Hyatt has taught me quite a bit about great ways to use Evernote. I’m still learning.
- I’ve used Trello for projects. It’s a nice visual taskmaster.
- Even with all of the bells and whistles on my phone, I still use a physical calendar to chart out my “editorial calendar” for my blog. Have I followed it to a ‘T’ this year? Nope. I think I was a bit too ambitious. But it’s definitely helped to keep me on track.
- I try not to procrastinate because I know it gets me into trouble. Still working on that one. A lot. And I’m trying to encourage my kids to avoid getting into that habit because it’s a hard habit to break.
I’m no organization expert. Like I said, just ask Christy. But I’ve gotten better. Seminary kind of helped force me to get a handle on things. But I’m still not great. But that’s OK. It’s a process, not just an event. This leads me to ask:
What do you do to stay organized? What lessons have you learned? What tips can you share?
I want to keep learning. I need to keep learning and keep getting better. And the only way I can do that is by learning from other people. So…what tips do you have?
**I’m participating in the April A to Z Challenge. This post is part of that endeavor. You can see my other entries to this year’s challenge here. A lot of people are doing the same thing. You should check out some of their posts!**