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Help Me Organize My Time

4 Strategies to Help You Organize Your Time

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The more you read on this site, the (hopefully) more you begin to make the connection between time management and organizing. I repeatedly write about doing things daily, weekly or monthly, to keep them organized and efficient (like your closet). As a continuation on Help Me Organize My Home, where I wrote about my personal organizing mantras – most of which I learned on-the-job writing for this site-- are my time management mantras. Once again, some of these may seem super basic, but they really help me organize my time.

1. Don’t Rely on Memory to Organize

I never rely on my memory. This one I learned the hard way! Have you ever prepared your lunch the night before only to leave it in the fridge the next morning? Or forgotten your gym bag when you planned on attending an after work yoga class? I was the Queen of Forgetting important papers, gym clothes, cell phones, etc. Now I've learned to give myself visual cues.

A few examples:
  • If I need to bring anything into work, outside of my regular handbag and gym bag, I leave it in front of the door. Not near the door, but directly in front of it so I literally cannot get out of the door until I've picked that item up off the ground.
  • Food I am bringing to work is stored in the fridge at eye level so I can't open the door without seeing my lunch and snacks.
  • When I am going to use my camera, I charge the battery and leave the camera right under the outlet where the charger is plugged in. This way when grabbing the camera I will remember to bring the charged battery.
  • If I put soup in the fridge to freeze, I label it. I can't tell you how many times I've wasted food because I avoided eating the "mystery" container in the fridge, which was probably a perfectly lovely stew.

And here's the one that's most crazy/embarrassing: I've forgotten my toiletries in hotels so often, that when I take a shower on my last morning or evening in the hotel, I literally toss the products I use (shampoo, conditioner, body wash, face wash) as soon as I am done with them onto the bathmat outside the shower. This way I can't get out of the bathroom without picking them up and packing.

In short, I never, ever rely on my memory. I need all the memory I've got to remember people's names and faces, song lyrics, and "Q" words to use in Words With Friends. I rely very heavily on checklists, and my daily routine so I don't' have to think too much to get stuff done.

2. Instead, Rely on Routines

Over the Door Bath Storage from Pottery Barn
Photo / Pottery Barn

I must sound like a broken record at this point, but I truly, deeply, madly believe in developing personal routines and relying on them to get those mundane, annoying tasks complete so you can focus on the good stuff. For instance, if you follow the Weekly Organizing Routine, as I do, you can clean your entire house in 20-30 minutes a day rather than give up an entire weekend morning or afternoon (or full day) to complete the same task.

And it doesn't just apply to the mundane, not-that-exciting tasks like cleaning. Sticking to a routine and doing things regularly is a huge boon to your productivity.

I've written extensively on routines:

Routines 101

3. Overestimate the Time Things Take

I overestimate how much time things take to get done. This is probably one of my most annoying traits to friends and family because I’ve chosen to surround myself with people who love to show up at airports 5 minutes before a flight, text me at the time we’re supposed to meet to tell me they are going to be 20 minutes late, and never like to plan ahead. “Let’s play it by ear,” is their favorite phrase.

This works for them; most of them are very happy and organized, but it doesn’t work for me, and I am constantly annoying them by asking them to slow down and think about how long something is going to take us to accomplish, to travel to, or finish up.

I would love--if only for one day!--to be that girl with no cares, who throws caution to the wind, but I’m not that girl. I hate that rushing feeling, so now I own it that I’m the one who plans ahead and drives everyone crazy.

So I work backwards from the time I need to be somewhere and plan the steps to get ready. Then, the task is to focuson what I need to get done beforehand.

4. Do Your Prep Work to Organize

I take the time to read the directions and lay out the ingredients. In other words: I think like a TV chef. TV chefs always have their ingredients measured and laid out in front of them. A production assistant will go through and organize all of the tools and ingredients ahead of time so when the chef starts working, they're not looking around for things.

There are several benefits to this way of working:

  1. It saves time because you're not searching for anything you need mid-project;
  2. It lays out tools so they are easy to reach while working; and,
  3. Most importantly, it forces you to think ahead to the end result of any project
I apply this strategy to nearly everything I do. Literally:
  • Before I go grocery shopping, I (try to) clean out the fridge, so there's a place for new items.
  • Before I plan meals for the week, I check to make sure I don't have any events that will mean I don't have to cook on certain evenings.
  • Before I get in the shower, I lay out the towels I will use, the clothes I will change into (including socks and shoes), and any products I will apply post-shower (Moroccan Oil to my hair, my facial moisturizer).
Does this sound really inflexible? It might to some, but to me, it feels very comforting, and I highly recommend giving it a try.

Here are some resources on the order in which I do things:

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