Jun
19

Motivating Yourself to Stay Organized

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Here’s my third article in the series on getting organized.  The first was on organizing your stuff, and the second was on organizing your paperwork.  This article focuses on twelve ideas for motivating yourself to stay organized.

1. Set realistic goals and deadlines, and avoid perfectionism!

Your goals can be challenging, but they should also be achievable.  Recognize that you can’t do everything perfectly, and that doing your best or getting started on something is better than not doing anything at all because you’re overwhelmed.  Also, consider that you don’t have to do your best at everything, some things are good enough when they’re just good enough.  And not everything has to be done immediately!  Prioritize as best you can, divide your goals into small steps, and work your way through them one at a time.  Use deadlines for each small step to help motivate yourself.  This usually works better than having one big deadline at the end of the year.  If it helps, call them lifelines instead of deadlines.  If you miss a deadline, then make another one, this time with a higher priority, or problem solve about what went wrong, and adjust your plan as necessary.

2. Make your goals clear.

Instead of saying that you want to get your house organized, say that you want to (for example) get in the habit of hanging up clothes and putting away clean laundry.  The more specific you are, the more likely you are to do it.  Also, be specific about the circumstances in which you want to do specific tasks.  Think of it in terms of “if… then.”  For example, “If it’s Wednesday, and if I haven’t exercised yet that week, and if I don’t have to work late… then I will exercise before dinner.”  Setting up such formulas for yourself can help prevent you from talking yourself out of doing what you need to do.

3. Tackle one small thing at a time.

Decide what it is that most makes you feel disorganized, out of sorts, or unfocused.  Consider what would make the biggest difference, for example: the permanent pile of newspapers by the sofa or the crammed kitchen table?  Think about what you could organize in time chunks that are manageable for you.  If you only have the motivation for 15 minutes, then what can you get done in 15 minutes?  Letting the small successes encourage you can lead to larger successes.

4. Know when you work best.

Working on things during your peak times can make hard tasks easier.  If you are at your best in the morning, tackle the more challenging jobs then.  If you’re more productive and focused in the afternoon or evening, then schedule accordingly.

5. Make your tasks as interesting as possible.

Doing some tasks with other people can make them more fun.  You can also use music to set a fun or energizing atmosphere while working on something, or you can make a game of it, like when challenging yourself by racing against time, or adding humor to the experience.  Use bright colors to catch your attention, especially when organizing paperwork, or for kids’ storage.  Also, remember that organizing is part of decorating.  The storage furniture that you choose can add an interesting and unique style to your home or office.

6. Do what you’re good at as well as things that are challenging.

Share tasks at home and at work by trying to match each person up with the tasks that they’re best at, and dividing up unpleasant or challenging tasks evenly.  For example, have each house-member write down chores and responsibilities that they: 1) like to do, 2) don’t mind doing, 3) would rather not do, or 3) really don’t like.  Then negotiate a fair division, considering each person’s abilities, likes and dislikes, other contributions (like whether they work outside the home), and any other relevant factors.  Also, alternate doing something that you enjoy with tasks that you have to do.  That way, the things you enjoy are a break and a reward.  Also, find ways around your weaknesses so that you have more time to focus on your strengths.  For example, if you don’t like to cook, then get cupcakes from the grocery store for the potluck, rather than convincing yourself that you have to make them from scratch.

7. Reward yourself.

When you meet a goal or deadline, give yourself an appropriate reward for the effort.  You may want to make a list of your favorite activities, foods, TV shows, trinkets, and places to go, and then treat yourself to a reward after accomplishing something.

8. Take time to relax.

Schedule breaks into each day and week to rest, play, move around, and re-energize.  Pace yourself so you don’t get exhausted.

9. Be flexible.

Acknowledge and anticipate that some of your projects, deadlines, and obligations will not turn out how you planned.  Don’t beat yourself up over this, but adjust accordingly and learn from your mistakes.  When you realize you didn’t live up to your expectations, think about similar future situations and how you can approach them more effectively.  Life demands flexibility.

10. Humor and willingness.

Have a sense of humor about your disorganization or forgetfulness.  If you can be a little relaxed about it and laugh about your tendency to be messy, others will forgive you more easily and you will feel less defensive, making communication easier.  Also, the guilt that many people feel, in an attempt to motivate themselves, often backfires and paralyzes them.  So don’t take it too seriously, but allow some lightheartedness to make the task lighter.

11. Accept the ongoing process.

Because being organized is a process, there will never be a time when all the work is completely done.  Life changes, people change, and the way you organize will continue to evolve.  Notice and celebrate when you find a better way to organize something, instead of focusing only on what remains undone.  Learn to accept organizing as an ongoing and creative part of life, and perhaps even to enjoy it.

12. Remember that organization is a skill that can be learned.

The good news is that there are many tips and techniques that you can try out, to see which work best for you.  The bad news is that, as with any skill, it takes time and effort to learn to be organized.  But the more you do it, the easier it gets and the more it becomes automatic.  So don’t give up, even if you’ve slipped up for a while.  Just pick an area, and try again.  Each time will be a little easier and you’ll get better at it with practice.

Anda Jines MS LCPC offers mental health counseling services in the southwest suburbs of Chicago, in Tinley Park, IL (60477); near Orland Park, Oak Forest, Orland Hills, Palos Heights, Mokena, and Frankfort. Click here for more about Anda Jines MS LCPC.

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