Have you ever wondered why some people are more successful than others? As we all search for the “holy grail” in our respective lives, there is one thing that seems to be a common trait with successful people; personal organization. As I reflect on my own personal journey, I’ve found that in the most successful periods of my life I was organized. Now this can mean anything from setting goals, to keeping a “to do” list, to keeping a balanced check book and paying your bills on time, to keeping up with emails; the list goes on and on… Whatever the case may be, it is important to keep the end goal in mind, “getting your life together” and “being true to yourself” during your journey. If every aspect of your life is out of control or unorganized, you will not find the happiness you are searching for and truly deserve.
When I was starting out as a young adult, one of the first things I learned about personal organization was creating a “to do list”. Without a “to do list”, how do you even know how to start each day? Some people never figure out this simple, basic concept and as a result, they flounder through each day and cannot figure out why, at the end of the day…week…month… they have nothing accomplished. Continuing this behavior can lead to feelings of being overwhelmed, feeling defeated, and in some cases feeling paralyzed.
My goal in this article is to share some of my own ideas on how to become productive and organized, using basic, logical approaches that you can begin to apply right away and hopefully start to see a difference in how you start to gain back some control in your life.
The Importance of a To Do List
As I mentioned before, the first step to taking control of your life is by using a “to do list”. In today’s world there are so many competing priorities, distractions, and obstacles that interfere with our every day activities, it’s a wonder any of us get anything accomplished. It is up to us to take back that control by staying focused on what OUR priorities are for any given day. I begin each day by grabbing my notepad and while I am enjoying my first cup of coffee, I write down my “to do’s” for the day. I’m sure there are many applications that can be used on your electronic device, but I like doing it the old fashion way.
Tackling Your To Do List
Depending on what your “to do’s” are for a given day, I approach them by category. For instance, if my first “to do” goal is to clean the house, I list out each room and specifically what needs attention in that room. I try to think through my approach by prioritizing what needs cleaned first. Understanding that there may be interruptions, this allows me to focus on the tasks that need attention, which enables me to get the things I absolutely need to take care of done, before something unexpected happens and I get distracted.
I have also found that I will “tackle” my least favorite tasks first. This enables me to get a feeling of accomplishment, right away, and starts my momentum. There is something very satisfying about getting those not so fun things crossed off my list so I can focus on the things I actually enjoy doing.
Take Baby Steps
One of the things I’ve experienced (and witnessed) is that sometimes we try to take on more than we should. For example, it’s early in the morning, you’re having your first cup of coffee (or beverage of your choice) and you begin to plan your day. You begin making your to do list and all of a sudden it is loaded with so many activities that you feel like you will never get everything done because it requires more hours than are in a day. Unfortunately, this can create feelings of being overwhelmed and the result can be you become paralyzed and spin your wheels to the point that you don’t accomplish anything. When this happens, it’s important that you don’t beat yourself up over it, rather, you review your list and determine what you can realistically accomplish on that day. You can always move the items you did not accomplish that day, to the next day’s to do list; take those baby steps…
As you begin to accomplish things on your to do list, take breaks periodically and reward yourself somehow. I like to grab a fresh cup of coffee, have a seat in my favorite chair and ponder my next move. Sometimes I will grab my phone and take a quick look at social media, to clear my head. Be careful with this reward, and limit your time, as it can lead to becoming completely distracted and can be counter-productive. I have also been known to grab my favorite snack, as a reward for tasks that are more physical, to replenish my energy. Regardless of how you may reward yourself, it’s just important to remember to do so, as it will feel more manageable by breaking up the time, as you are getting things accomplished.
Wrapping Things Up
Creating a to do list each day can serve as your road map to keep you on track for that day’s journey. Remember to prioritize, accomplish the hard stuff first, don’t be too hard on yourself if you don’t get everything completed (especially if your list was pretty aggressive) and reward yourself along the way.
Personally, my reward is to see all the check marks on my “to do list” at the end of the day! 🙂