Sunday, April 22, 2007

A Half-Dozen Exercises to Help You Become Organized

The real secret to becoming more organized lies in shaping your behavior. Here is a list of exercises that will shape up behaviors that will provide a great framework for developing organizational skills. They are simple and no sweating is involved!

1) Use the “RC Calendar” method to help stay on top of your schedule.

* Record all your commitments on the master calendar as soon as you learn of them. Remember to record special dates such as birthdays and anniversaries. If you loathe writing in the recurring commitments then use stickers or abbreviations to designate the activity. Let the calendar do the remembering so your brain is free for thinking.
* Check your calendar several times a day. It’s amazing what we can forget between breakfast and lunch! Take a peak at the upcoming week with an eye towards preparation. Are there birthday gifts to buy? Are there meetings to prepare for? Make sure you take care of those action items ahead of time to avoid last-minute panic.

2) Always be prepared. It works for the scouts and it can work for you. In addition to checking your action items, start with a few other focus areas.

* Prepare for the morning before you go to bed. Check your calendar. Lay out your clothes. Put your packed book bag or briefcase by the door. Make lunch. Set up for breakfast.
* Plan your menu for the week or at least a few days a head of time. You’ll avoid the late afternoon panic of what to fix for dinner.
* Keep a ready supply of essential items, and check your inventory before heading off to weekly grocery shopping. Paper products, canned food, pet food, and coffee might be on your list of things you hate to run out of. Keep a list of essential items by your storage area to facilitate taking inventory.

3) Zone your home, and coordinate storage with the zones. With paper and pen in hand, walk through your home and take note of the types of activities that occur in each room. Some activities may be confined to specific areas of a room. Make sure that the items needed for the activity are stored in the same area of the activity.

We have a family room where we watch TV and play video games. The TV remotes are stored in a drawer next to the sofa. Our DVD collection is stored in the room’s closet on built-in shelves. The game system hardware and the games are stored on shelves along the side of the room. Because my husband loves to surf the net while watching TV, his laptop is also kept on the table. Since the room’s activities have been defined, we know what belongs – and what does not belong – in the room.

5) Everything needs a home with an address. Once you have established what kinds of items belong in a zone, determine exactly where an item belongs. Put items that are frequently used in very convenient spots near where they are needed. Items that are used less frequently can be stored in less convenient locations, such as the top shelf of the bookcase. It may make sense to label the item’s home so everyone knows exactly what belongs at that “address.” It’s much easier to put things away when everything is clearly labeled.

6) Practice the “Quick Tidy” at least once a day. Logically if you take something out, you should put it back. But sometimes things don’t always make it back to their homes. Spend 5 to 10 minutes every evening putting things back in their place. The “Quick Tidy” can be a family activity. Even the very young can participate, especially if it is treated as a game rather than a chore. Use a timer and see who can return the most items to their homes.