Cutting through the chaos

From time to time, we all feel like we’ve got a bit too much on our plate. It’s a symptom of modern life that everyone seems to be juggling their careers, quality time with the family, and a social life while trying to fit in a bit of ‘me time’ somewhere along the line. Some people manage to make it work despite the odds, but for others making the most of the hours in each day is a bit more of a struggle.

When your phone is ringing off the hook, you’re late for a coffee date that’s not actually until next week, and you’ve just dropped the kids off at the dry cleaner, you might ask yourself – how does everyone else stay sane and organised?!

The thing is, like many life skills, it’s about finding a strategy that works for you. Not everyone can get organised with a diary and willpower alone. But there are some general principles you can explore to find organisational habits that fit your lifestyle.

Condense and consolidate

Do you have more than one calendar for all your commitments and appointments? Perhaps you’ve got family stuff and birthdays on the home computer, personal stuff on your phone, and meetings on your work computer? It’s time to bring them all together. For electronic calendars, syncing your many devices could be an option. If you’re a bit more old-school, and prefer to write things down on paper, try having a master planner – week-to-a-page diaries work well – and use a double entry system.

You can apply the same logic to the way you take notes, write to-do lists, and organise other tasks for work or home. Use one system, and you’ll never have to wonder where you put that meeting agenda or wrote down that drink recipe. If you love having an app for everything, you could try a smart universal note-taking app like Evernote, Wunderlist, or Google Keep.

Cut the clutter

Ever feel like you set out to do something with your day, and ended up completely off track? (It’s never ‘just a quick trip to the shops’…) It’s the same phenomenon that leaves you wandering in to a room, and then forgetting what you were about to do. Basically, our brains can only handle so much stimuli at once. When there’s too much right in front of us, it’s hard to prioritise or focus.

The key here is to cut the clutter. This means physical, digital – even mental clutter. Get rid of the thousands of papers on your desk that you haven’t touched in weeks. Close (or save and hide) all those tabs on your browser with articles you’ll read ‘one day’. Delegate just one stressful task to someone else, so it’s not cycling around in your mind any more.

One thing at a time…

When you’ve got your schedule sorted and your space is clutter-free, it’s time to start tackling everything you’ve got to do. Just don’t fall in to the trap of trying to do (literally) more than one thing at a time. Multitasking often means less efficiency, as your brain switches back and forth from one task to another.

TIP:
If you often find yourself procrastinating because you feel overwhelmed, try organising your to-do list in priority order. Be strict with yourself and put the bottom half of the list out of your mind until the top half is done.
Changing your organisational habits might seem like a lot of effort, but it’s well worth it. You’ll feel more in control, less anxious, and you may even find some spare time in your schedule.

The big question is, what will you do when you have more time to do what you’d like to do, not just what you have to do…

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