Last week I was going through a major writer’s block. It had been almost four days that I was struggling to get my writing routine on track. Since it was unfair to push further, I decided to give myself the liberty to engage in some mundane activities.
So, I put on some good music and started cleaning my work desk. Managing work from home is not easy and this was a task pending on my ‘to-do-list’ for months. The drawers were filled with scribbled notes, most of which had already been converted to blog posts and stories. There were a couple of used notepads and stationery items (
and yes, some chocolate wrappers too).
After a two-hour-long exercise I finally managed to make the space look decent. The waste went to the trash bin, and all other items were neatly placed on the desk. Oh yes, I found some space for my favourite family picture too! Surprisingly, the same room where I had been endlessly working every single day, suddenly looked much more welcoming. The organized look and fresh vibes gave an instant boost.
Voila! I could write two articles and one short poem on the same day. It was like a miracle. The challenge, seemingly unconquerable, suddenly vanished into thin air. This reminded me of the famous quote by Benjamin Franklin
“For every minute spent in organizing, an hour is earned”.
Staying organized might sound very small with rather no connection to one’s productivity. However, research shows that organized people procrastinate less and are better at making decisions.
One realizes the benefits of being organized only after practicing it. It could start with something as simple as organizing your wardrobe or work station, just as I did.
And yes, it works. I can say that from my practical experience.
Benefits of Being Organized
A survey conducted by Brother International Corporation indicated that disorganization led to much more than monetary loss and adversely impacted productivity. The data collected from nearly 800 million US employees indicated that each employee spent around a week annually on finding misplaced items at the workplace. The costs associated with full-time employees looking for misplaced items in office was as high as 89 billion USD annually.
Staying organized can significantly remove the distractions caused due to clutter (material stuff or even thoughts). In his book ‘Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School’, author and Molecular Biologist John Medina mentions:
“Studies show that a person who is interrupted takes 50 percent longer to accomplish a task. Not only that, he or she makes up to 50 percent more errors.”
Organizing your physical surrounding helps a great deal in putting your thoughts in order. Here are the top 5 benefits of staying organized.
1. Saves time
There is nothing better than keeping things in order so that you know where to find what. You save time and peace of mind.
2. Reduces stress
Do you know that clutter is linked to depression? Well, while most of us would not go that far, but clutter is still a major source of anxiety. According to a study conducted by National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals (NAPO), 55% of respondents who stayed organized felt more relaxed.
A relaxed mind also helps improve your overall health and protects against high blood pressure, diabetes and kidney diseases.
3. Improves productivity
There is nothing more productive than a peaceful mind. Keeping things organized saves you from fretting over small issues and thus conserve your energy. An organized person can achieve much more in a day!
There is also a popular belief that clutter brings creativity. Interestingly, research shows that planning behaviour and time management enhances creativity.
4. Boosts confidence
Better productivity will help you meet deadlines and achieve goals faster. Your confidence will soar and significantly increase your trustworthiness.
5. Improves your savings
According to NAPO, 15 to 20% of an American household buys items that are lost or misplaced as a result of disorganization. A simple habit of organizing things can make your wallet happy.
Why Is It So Hard to Be Organized?
Actually, it is not. Decluttering and staying organized is a habit and inculcating a new habit is always time consuming.
“It is no more effort for a man to be a saint than to be a sinner; it becomes a mere matter of habit.”Jerome K. Jerome
When it comes to getting rid of clutter, people make several excuses. Here are some common ones.
- Too much orderliness makes me sick. It hampers my functioning ability. (Like really?)
- I have too much stuff. I can’t even think of sorting it out.
- Organized people are rigid with their schedule. I like to keep it flexible.
- Too busy to get this going. My plate is already full, you see!
Our mind would come up with a thousand reasons for not doing something. However, it is important to push ourselves and develop a habit that can serve us in the long term.
In the book IKIGAI-The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life, authors Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles talk about an interesting term ‘microflow’ – giving the example of Bill Gates and his daily habit of doing dishes every night. The authors encourage people to convert boring tasks into enjoyable activities, in order to help relax and clear the mind.
Yes, building a new habit is not easy, but it definitely pushes you out of your comfort zone to make your life better. In the book Hector and Garcia write:
“Activities that are too easy lead to apathy. Add a little something extra, something that takes you out of your comfort zone.”
Cultures and Traditions Promote Organized Living Too
It is interesting to note that cultures across the world have also laid emphasis on organized living and imbibing discipline in life.
The famous Indian Patanjali Yoga Sutra talks about ‘Anushasana’ i.e. the self-imposed rule. If you want to experience pure bliss, discipline is crucial. The first chapter of Yogasutra is Samadhi Pada, in which the very first sutra says “Atha Yoga Anushasanam”, meaning Now is the Discipline of Yoga. Being disciplined and staying organized is the very first step to attain enlightenment.
Feng shui is a Chinese tradition that gives great importance how things are arranged. Feng shui strives to create balance and harmony between elements to enhance positive energy in people’s lives.
Ever heard of the famous death cleaning, also called döstädning, in Swedish? Dö is “death” and städning is “cleaning.” Traditionally, it’s a way that people get rid of the clutter in their house and life so that their friends and family don’t waste time sorting out stuff after their death. While the tradition has a philosophical angel of embracing death, it also highlights the importance of organized living for a happy present and future.
Quick Tips to Get Organized
An organized life is often confused with rigidity. Before dismissing the benefits of bringing a fair routine to your life, it is important to understand that being organized does not mean being obsessed. It should be seen as an essential lifestyle element that would enrich your health and enhance your productivity.
Here are some easy and quick tips to help you get started.
1. Set priorities
Staying organized should not be seen as a one-time activity, but a way of living. Given the endless things that we handle in our day-to-day lives, it is overwhelming to think of decluttering everything at once. The good news is – you don’t have to do everything, just set priorities. Write down the 5 most important things in your life and start planning and organizing those. Gradually, as you practice, everything else too, falls into order. That’s the power of habit.
2. Learn the art of minimalism
In simple words, minimalism means less is more. Basically, it’s an art that helps overcome our materialist desires. It’s a common tendency to collect a lot of things in our lives, even though it serves us little. The basic principle of minimalism is to identify and retain only those things which we truly need. This is a great way of getting rid of clutter and keeping our lives and thoughts in order. In the Indian philosophy and yoga too, aparigraha is a similar concept that encourages a person to embrace non-attachment. It is one of the yamas or the ethical rules in Patanjali Yoga Sutras.
To practice minimalism, observe and make a list of things that are no longer useful in your life and then eliminate them (including the unwanted apps on your devices). As you declutter, you will start experiencing less of chaos in your routine.
3. Plan in Advance
Nothing can serve you better than planning things in advance. Miantaining a list is a great idea and can increase your productivity by 25%. I would recommend making a list for a week, instead of doing it daily. A weekly list provides better flexibility to your schedule.
Some people prefer doing it for a fortnight. Personally, I find it difficult to keep a track of my hits and misses over a period of 15 days. A week seems just right
5. Use productivity software
Technology, if used right, is our best friend. You don’t want to forget that crucial meeting with your client or your daughter’s birthday, right?
Productivity tools and software can make our lives easier. There are several free and paid apps such as Evernote, Trello, Pocket that will help you organize your schedule better. Just make sure you select only those tools that actually serve your purpose (refer to point #2)
Even after setting priorities, there are umpteen things people have to take care of on a day-to-day basis. One of the qualities of organized people is their ability to delegate quickly and effectively. When the goals are thoughtfully broken into smaller tasks and delegated well, the job is done faster with minimal errors.
On an average, our mind has up to 80,000 thoughts in a day. That makes over 3,000 thoughts in just an hour! Isn’t that overwhelming?
Managing thoughts is an art and meditation is a great way to help us gain control over our thoughts. With a regular practice, meditation gives the ability to let go of unimportant thoughts. An organized life begins with organized thoughts.
7. Seek Professional Help
Heard of professional organizers? No, it’s not an imaginary term. In fact, the demand for professional organizers is growing fast in today’s world. There is a fair possibility that despite understanding the real benefits of staying organized, you feel clueless and overwhelmed to begin with. That’s when you need some expert assistance.
Organizing challenges are pretty common. Professional organizers help you beat that challenge, not only by helping you organize the stuff but also by providing coaching and guidance alongside. Remember though, professional organizers can only provide you with the initial handholding support, tips and training. Eventually, you have to bear the onus of staying organized and make it a regular part of your life.
Calvin Coolidge, the well-known American politician and lawyer once said – “The only difference between a mob and trained army is organization.”
Staying organized might sound futile, but can miraculously improve the quality of your life and your productivity. Organized behaviour is a habit and it starts with little things. The National Sleep Foundation found that people who make their beds are 19% more likely to get a good night sleep.
Every journey starts with a single step. So are you ready to organize your life?
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