Did you know that it takes 21 days to form a new habit? By my calculations, that means you can form 17 new habits each year. Can you think of any organizing habits you would like to incorporate into your life? It doesn't need to be 17 but isn't it amazing to think you can make that many changes in just one year? Think ahead to this time next year. Wouldn't it be amazing to reflect back on all of the positive changes you have made in 2006? All it takes is living consciously and tuning into what you are doing each day. And small changes will bring big results.
As usual, I have to use my organizing/weight loss analogy to describe what I mean. For those of you who have never tried to lose weight, please bear with me. In both situations small changes yield large results. If you make small changes in your organizing habits, by the end of the year, you will have achieved great results! I know from personal experience that just giving up the worst of my bad eating habits (like grabbing cookies at the gas station on my way to client's each day and eating high calories lunches on most days) it resulted in a 15 lb. weight loss since September. Also, making sure that I exercised on most days and making that top priority when I scheduled my day. These new habits have made me happier and healthier and now they are just common practice and have become part of my every day life. And you can achieve the same by incorporating new organizing habits into your life.
I'm not sure if I can come up with 17 new habits but let's give it a try. Here are some small changes you can make in 2006 that will move you toward saving time and becoming more organized. And this will help you achieve the most important goal: simplifying and balancing your life.
o Each evening, take a few minutes to look ahead to the next day. Plan out your schedule and include your To Do List for that day. Preplanning is the best thing you can do in any situation to keep you on track and more organized.
o Keep a list of errands that you need to run. I do this on my computer because it is easy to make changes to the list. Every time you leave the house, take the list with you. This way if you find yourself with some extra time on your hands while you are out of the house, you can run some errands.
o If you are going to devote time to specifically run errands, look at the list and put it in the order that you will run the errands. It will save you time if you map out your route. Also, looking at the list will remind you if you need to bring anything with you: dry cleaning receipt, videos to return, library books to bring back. . .
o Leave a few extra minutes in the morning to do a quick "pick up" in your home. Clear dishes from the sink, put things where they belong, make the bed, even do a quick wipe of the bathroom mirror and sink. You may also want to incorporate this idea at the end of the day and get children involved by having them put away their toys.
o Buy a bunch of greeting cards so you always have them on hand. Buy them online at a company such as Current.com to save time and money. Also don't forget things like sympathy cards, thank you cards, cards to send to your loved ones just to let them know you are thinking of them. You will never have to waste time running out to buy a last minute card.
o Allow yourself extra time. I find it is always better to arrive somewhere early than right on time or late. And if by some chance you are too early, you can use that time to take a few moments to relax and breathe and do nothing! Or keep reading material in your car. Plan for traffic and unexpected interruptions no matter what you are doing.
o Designate a place for your keys, wallet, cell phones and items you use daily so you will not have to look for them when you are ready to leave the house.
o Have an area near your door to keep things that need to leave the house.
o Get the children off to school more quickly by preparing as much as possible the night before: choosing outfits, deciding what they want to eat for breakfast or lunch, determining what they need for school.
o Keep driving directions in your computer. Not only directions to your home to give to friends but also of places you have been so you will not need to ask for directions again.
o Plan telephone calls (whether to doctors, plumbers, clients, etc.) whenever possible. Have all necessary materials in front of you. Write key questions down in advance.
o Regularly go through reading material and get rid of outdated newspapers and magazines.
o Put things away immediately after you're finished with them.
o Plan ahead for occasions this year. Make a note on your calendar 3 - 4 weeks before anyone you need to buy a gift for. This will give you time to think about a gift idea and shop for it.
o Like making lists? Keep them in your computer to reduce papers and to keep you on track. Some suggestions for list making: Birthdays, Web sites you would like to explore, Books you would like to read, Gift ideas for family and friends, Future projects you would like to get done, Items you are waiting for (mail order products, return phone calls, items in the mail), What to bring on a trip, What to bring to different activities (such as skiing, the gym, canoeing, a picnic), Websites where you have registered along with the user name and password you used to register at each site, Movies you wish to rent (keep the list in your wallet so you are ready for your next trip to the video store.)
o Deal with mail every day. Toss the junk mail, file whatever needs to be kept and place items that need action into your In Box.
o Not sure where all of your time is going? Try keeping a time log for a week. This log will help you find where you are wasting time. Use the results to create a new schedule for yourself and make time for all of the things you want to and need to do.
There, I did it! Seventeen small changes you can make this year. Now you can make a commitment to making a life change. Getting organized, just like any other change we want to make, can only be achieved if we really want it. Just like losing weight or quitting smoking, we have to make the conscious decision that this is no longer the way we want to live. Once that decision is made, you can take the steps to get organized. You have to want it to make it happen and you can make it happen. And if you need advice, guidance or hands on help, I will be happy to be there for you in any way that I can.
Wishing you all a happy, healthy and prosperous 2006!