Organizing Your Time

You might find that as you bring order to the different rooms in your home, you become aware of the less-tangible elements of your life — such as time management — that continue to be somewhat chaotic. It might be helpful to think of time as Julie Morgenstern does — in a very concrete way. Just as it is possible to tackle the chaos in your closets, it is equally possible to bring order to the hours of your day.

For Julie Morganstern, time was the last thing she learned to organize. For her, the first steps were bringing order to her home, her purse, her office. Only after she found a way to manage the concrete details of these areas did she find the impetus to learn to organize her time. It was nothing short of a revelation for her to discover that organizing her time was just like organizing her closet. Her overstuffed closets were, in reality, finite spaces that could only contain a finite amount of clothing.

The first step was recognizing that time — although it might feel somewhat abstract in comparison to one's closet — is actually limited. Julie had packed her life so full that it was difficult to see what was important and to prioritize. It is hard to be efficient when you cannot see clearly the items or opportunities before you. Like her closets, Julie needed to peer at her life with open eyes and begin to reconsider the way she spent her time.

Learn to Say No

Just as managing and purging clutter is an essential first step as you seek to bring order to your home, learning to say “no” is an equally essential skill as you seek to organize your time. It is the fastest, most efficient way to declutter your day and reclaim your life. For some people, saying no can be difficult, but as you do it more and more, you experience the rewards — the gift of a streamlined, focused, and productive life — and saying no becomes as much of a healthy habit as the other ones mentioned in this book.

If you want to say no to something but fear you lack the courage, consider the possibility that the chaos in your home might be a direct result of an inability to say no. Sometimes people become so engaged with solving other people's problems that they neglect their own. This kind of neglect often shows up in chaotic homes.

Just as Julie Morgenstern does not recommend that you charge into your cluttered basement or attic without a plan, it might also be helpful to think of time in similar terms. As you struggle to divide your time between jobs, opportunities, and relationships, you might consider creating a criterion for weighing each option.

Sometimes, it can be helpful to consider whether a potential opportunity causes you more exhaustion or exhilaration than it's worth. Although a certain amount of exhaustion is inevitable, if you can say no to more of the opportunities that exhaust you and yes to more of the ones that exhilarate you, you will be happier and more productive.

Long-Term Goals

Another time-management essential is balancing your time between immediate concerns and long-term goals. In many situations, it can be tempting to constantly live as if you're putting out fires — just managing one urgent problem after another. But if you can begin to schedule time into your week to manage situations that are not yet pressing but will become increasingly urgent if ignored, you will simplify your life and gain greater peace of mind.

Every Morning, Create a Detailed To-Do List

You may find it helpful to sit down each morning with a notepad and pen and create a to-do list. This way you'll go into the day with a sense of purpose and priorities. Your list might include your personal and work-related objectives for the day. Or your list may include errands, meetings, appointments, phone calls to make, and e-mails to write. It should also include tasks that bring you closer to achieving your personal, professional, and financial long-term goals. After you create your to-do list, prioritize each task and input the appropriate information into your personal planner, PDA, or other scheduling tool. Ideally, you will plan out as much of your day as possible, leaving a realistic amount of time to deal with unexpected events.

Your to-do list can also keep your household organized and clean. For example, when you're about to embark on a massive clean-up or reorganization project, writing out a to-do list helps you clearly define your objectives, create a time frame, and take a well-thought-out approach to your efforts.

Create a Task List

For the day-to-day tasks that are necessary to run your home and keep it clean, follow these basic steps:

  • Create a list of what tasks you need to do (clean the bathroom, do the laundry, change bed linens, vacuum, wash the kitchen floor, go to the dry cleaner, mow the lawn, and so on).

  • Determine how often each of these tasks needs to be done.

  • Using a calendar, PDA, scheduler, or personal planner, create a schedule for accomplishing these tasks one at a time. For example, cleaning the bathroom may take thirty minutes after work on Mondays. Trips to the dry cleaner can be done on Tuesdays and Thursdays on the way to work or when dropping your kids off at soccer practice.

After you create a to-do list for keeping your home clean and organized, try to work through it one item at a time. Do not become discouraged if you get sidetracked — just pick up where you left off when you have the opportunity.

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