You can check out the first part of this post last week here.
I’ve talked quite a bit about becoming productive on the blog, but I haven’t really talked about what it takes to stay organized once you have the systems down.
I like to think that getting and staying organized is very similar to getting a massive, round boulder rolling – it’s hard to get it started, but once it gets going, all it takes a little nudge here and there to keep it moving.
So if you just started building your organization systems – hang tight! Once you’ve worked things out, it takes much less effort to keep it organized. And in this post, I’m going to talk about five things that will help you with that.
1. Capture Everything
Capturing everything means you have a net or a master list of everything you have to do in your life. This is important because by trusting yourself to get everything down in one list, you free up your mind to focus on your task at hand.
2. Have a Weekly Planning Ritual
I’ve heard some people talk about a weekly review where you evaluate how you did in the past week. That’s pretty good, but it just has never worked for me.
One reason is that I like to be in control (Yes, I can be a control freak. Might be the reason why I’m still single, but I digress.) so I tend to focus on leading factors rather than lagging factors. It may sound complicated, but leading factors are causes (they lead to a specific outcome), and lagging factors are effects and the evaluation of the impact (they lag behind the outcome).
A weekly planning ritual is a leading factor – it can help determine how productive you are by making you plan each day realistically. Thanks to Cal Newport and his wonderful blog, I started doing a weekly planning ritual on Sunday afternoons or evenings, so that I can jump right into things on Monday morning.
You can learn more about how I do my weekly planning more in-depth here.
3. Have a Shutdown Process
Another Cal Newport signature system, a shutdown process is a 15-20 minute block of time at the end of each day where you wrap up your work for the day.
It’s both a physical and mental shutdown: you make sure to add all your captured tasks to your calendar and to update your weekly plan to make sure you’re on track with stuff.
The most significant benefit of a shutdown process is that it lets your mind actually turn off, so you can enjoy Netflix, a good book or a fun night of board games with your friends (keep it clean, kids!), without worrying that you might be forgetting something important.
4. Batch Small or Similar Things Together
In his book The Productivity Project, Chris Bailey mentions having a maintenance day – basically, one full day to take care of errands and other life stuff. You know, super exciting things, like calling your bank (“The wait time. Is. Ap. Proximately. Forty. Five. Minutes.” Cue horrible, staticky music. UGH.) or submitting insurance forms (a personal source of unending grief for me).
The idea is that you will finish these tasks more efficiently if you do them all together, without taking away from the most important things you should be doing during the week. Personally, I have 60-minute blocks of time for small tasks sprinkled throughout the week for these things.
5. Be Patient
Finally, remember that getting organized and staying organized takes time, especially if you’re undoing a lot of bad habits you’ve accumulated over the years.
The critical thing is to make small, but sustainable changes to your daily routines and your internal operating system. Don’t go out and try to wake up at 4 am every day right away – you’re just not going to be able to keep that up because you haven’t put the necessary systems in place, or you haven’t built up the habit-muscle that will help you do that.
Instead, similar to the concept of Capstone Habits in Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit, focus on the one small thing that can cause a domino effect of good habits if you do it consistently.
And when I say small, I mean tiny, like fixing your bed every morning, going for a 5-minute walk after lunch, setting out your clothes for the next day the night before, or listing out your top 3 to-do’s for the day before you start working.
Just like the only way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time, the only way to get your life together is one, small piece at a time. – Roxine Kee
What? I can’t make up quotes and then quote myself on my own blog? Stop judging me. This is my corner of the internet.
Liked this post? I've got more coming.
Make sure you don't miss my free practical and motivational posts on productivity, careers and success every week.
Don't wait. Join over 1,000 brilliant people like you and start going for your dreams... Even if you're still in school.