Being organized is a cornerstone of being productive. However, there is a lot more to being organized than just having a clean desk. True organization is a mental state and a way of thinking. An organized desk is often a side effect, but too many people focus on trying to look organized instead of actually being organized.
If you want to BE organized and not just LOOK organized, it requires you to spend some time really thinking about how you approach work and dealing with things. You can’t short cut this just by picking things up and putting them out of sight.
Here are some tips for becoming truly organized.
- Recognize that being organized isn’t about trying to get more things to organize the things you already have. That doesn’t mean you can’t strategically purchase something that will help you organize, but organization needs to start in your mind.
- You’ve probably heard the saying “everything should have a place.” While that is good advice, it is even more important for everything to have a purpose. Keeping things has a cost, and you need to make sure that the amount you invest in your things justifies keeping them around. Do you really need 5 staplers? Is it worth keeping around clothes that you haven’t worn in the last five years?
- To really be organized, you have to be able to articulate your priorities in life. If you don’t know your priorities, you can’t determine what is important. If you don’t know what is important, you end up keeping everything you can possibly acquire. It is impossible to organize an infinite amount of stuff.
- Being organized requires figuring out who you really are. This is not an easy question to ask. It is easier to just try to sort the things on your desk or rearrange a closet. Asking “who am I” is scary because many people are afraid to admit who they really are and don’t want to look. But if you aren’t willing to have that conversation with yourself, how can you get to a point where your things support you? If you don’t know who you are, you’ll end up being owned by your things instead of your owning it.
- It is much easier to organize when all you have are things that are important to you. Putting effort into getting rid of things is just as important–if not more important–than organizing what you have.
Sorting things and moving them around in your office or house is easy compared to actually becoming an organized person. Becoming an organized person means doing deep reflection and then making the things you have align with who you are. Usually that means getting rid of stuff.
Getting rid of things is hard. We tend to put a great deal of our identity into what we own. That is why it is so important to really figure out who you are–separate your identity from the things you own. It sounds silly to say that, but if you watch how people act, you’ll realize that human nature makes us extremely attached to our stuff. The whole point here is to keep the things that are important and to learn to let go of the things that aren’t.
But all of that is going to be impossible unless you are able to really be honest with yourself about who you are and what really matters in your life. Without doing that, you aren’t going to be able to really be organized on anything other than a superficial level.