How to Organize for Optimal Growth
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As a former high school teacher, I have great insight into human behavior. Many people believe that academic achievement is based on intelligence and aptitude; however, individual behaviors typically dictate success. If students are aggressive, apathetic, or delinquent, then their behaviors will probably impede progress. If students are motivated, insightful, and concerned, they’re more likely to excel. None of these behaviors matter, however, if a student forgets to do homework, loses a notebook, or misses a deadline. Of all the behaviors attributed to success, organization is by far the most important.
It’s true, some unorganized people are geniuses. If you’ve ever seen pictures of Albert Einstein’s desk the day he died, you acknowledge that creativity and clarity can exist in absolute chaos. However, when meeting with struggling students’ parents, the most common solution I could offer was to help their children become more organized. The kids with the most difficulties would have to send a search party into their backpacks to find the crumpled assignment due yesterday. They typically forgot to do homework, and they never knew where their books were. Asking them to take adequate notes was like asking Einstein to clean his desk. Where to begin? In my quest to make students better at doing what I asked of them, I realized that instead of primarily focusing on a school subject, I really needed to teach them to become organized first and that it is a behavior worth valuing.
Why Organization Leads to Personal Attainment
Now, most of you reading this are not in high school, although you may be a student or have a child this applies to. However, getting organized and maintaining these habits will benefit you in so many ways. Whether you need to be more organized in your studies, at work, at home, or all of the above, being more methodical and putting priorities in order will help you attain many personal goals.
Being organized is an indication of personal growth and awareness. That’s not to say that people who are organized are better at anything in particular, but these people recognize their shortcomings and address their needs by utilizing tools. Sure, some people have great memories and a penchant for cleanliness, but most organized people use calendars, planners, notebooks, whiteboards, bins, folders, etc. To reach a milestone, such as paying bills on time or being punctual for appointments, people need to use a support system. Without a mail sorter, auto-pay, or e-mail reminders, you will neglect bills. Without a calendar, alarm, and accurate assessment of how long it will take you to get around and out the door to drive to your appointment, you will be late.
Some people naturally fight organization, citing a lack of time or energy, but becoming organized will give you more time and energy! It will help in other areas of your life, too, as organized people tend to…
· Be less stressed and depressed. According to one study, women who were stressed about clutter at home and incomplete projects suffered more from depression and exhibited higher levels of cortisol—a hormone associated with stress.
· Eat healthier foods. People who have more clutter on their desks are more likely to reach for candy as a snack than people with cleaner desks, who typically went for fruit.
· Exercise regularly. Working out takes determination but also goal-setting. When people are more organized, they are able to set reasonable goals, manage their time, and stick to a plan.
· Have closer human connections. Typically, disorganization can lead to issues with friends if you constantly forget about plans or are always late. It can also cause problems with a partner, especially if the other desires more order. Shame, frustration, and resentment can emerge because of constant clutter issues.
· Be more productive. When you have too much to look at, your visual cortex can become overwhelmed, which inhibits focus. Being more organized leads to time efficiency.
· Get more rest. The less time you spend working late, the more time you have to relax and get to bed early (or not wake up early to do work before work). Also, people who have less to worry about are able to get to sleep faster and stay asleep, because they are not consumed by their racing thoughts.
How to Maintain a Personal Organization Plan
It’s not enough to buy a bunch of folders or bins to throw all your clutter in; you need to set goals and develop into an organized person. These behaviors need to become habits. Here are some quick tricks to become more organized, and with work, will become a part of your routine.
1. Set goals: Highly organized people are goal-oriented. They know their objectives and how to achieve them. Identifying goals, monitoring progress, and assessing performance is a continuous mindset that will lead to personal growth.
2. Keep a calendar and set alarms: I have three calendars, and I’m about to make a fourth. I have a centrally located one for doctors’ appointments and other family business, another set of reminders and alarms in my phone, a personal one for work on my computer, and soon, my husband and I will be starting SCRUM (look it up!) as a way to be more efficient and work better together.
3. Check all mail, daily: Don’t leave 496 unread e-mails in your inbox. Don’t let the pile of junk mail sit by the front door. Deal with what’s important, respond when you can, and pitch what you don’t need. Get a letter organizer, and regarding e-mail, use various colors to signify the urgency of your need to respond (as reminders).
4. Plan ahead: You can do this by the day, week, or month. Monthly, assess what appointments you have coming up and make plans to get a babysitter or take time off work. Do you have an important presentation? Be prepared. Make sure that you are prepared for your day the night before. Make a to-do list (which will help you sleep).
5. Keep your working space clean: Every day, put the items you’re done with away. Put items back in your desk, clean up your kitchen, clean up the kids’ toys (make them help), and put your clothes away. Don’t waste precious time looking for things.
6. Accept less than perfection: One of the main reasons people procrastinate and neglect projects is because they can’t accept flaws. Move on. Sometimes good enough will have to do, but leaving projects unfinished only adds to disorganization and a long list of unfinished business.
7. Maintain your life: This type of maintenance is about preparation. Regularly attend wellness appointments. Take care of that broken fan or light fixture. Get your last will and testament taken care of. Keep fiscal property in order. You never know when an emergency will occur, so you need to be prepared for the unexpected. Staying organized will help you and others effectively handle mishaps and not burdens of neglect.
- Melissa Lavery, M.S.
Fowler, P. (2015, January 29). How Cleaning and Organizing Can Improve Your Physical and Mental Health. Retrieved March 13, 2015, from http://www.shape.com/lifestyle/mind-and-body/how-cleaning-and-organizing-can-improve-your-physical-and-mental-health/slide/7
Philben, D. (n.d.). 20 Daily habits Of Highly Organized People. Retrieved March 13, 2015, from http://www.lifehack.org/articles/productivity/20-daily-habits-highly-organized-people.html?mid=20150311&ref=mail&uid=388701&feq=daily