January is often the time that we set New Year’s Resolutions for ourselves. Since many people chose a resolution or goal to get more organized, the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals (NAPO) has deemed January “Get Organized” month! According to a TripSavvy’s article in December 2017, organizing is typically listed in people’s top ten resolutions and a recent Reader’s Digest article lists getting organized as number six on their top 15 most popular New Year’s Resolutions list. Need even more proof that this is a popular New Year’s resolution? Last year, on January 1st, data pulled from Google by iQuanti found that over 33 million people searched “get organized” making it the number two most popular resolution behind “get healthy.”
Is getting organized one of your resolutions for 2018? Maybe you want to organize your linen closet, garage, kitchen or basement? Perhaps your goal is to create a better paper filing system to keep track of medical expenses or tax related information? Or, even better, are you trying to move from a paper filing system to a digital filing system? Lastly, maybe your goal is to focus on time management so you can be more productive and therefore build in more time for the activities and hobbies you enjoy that were neglected in 2017. Whatever your resolution, I’ve got some helpful strategies to get you motivated and prevent procrastination.
Organizing can be very challenging for many individuals. In terms of reducing items, some individuals can be indecisive or slow in making decisions especially if they feel an emotional attachment to the items being purged. Others may be challenged with space, proper supplies, or are unsure where to begin. Finally, others may have tried to get organized in the past, but feel defeated after their progress was reversed.
Let’s discuss first how to get motivated for an organizing project and then later I’ll provide some tips to prevent procrastination. One way to get motivated is to list your goals for your project. Take some time to write down your goals and try to make them specific, measurable, action oriented, realistic, and timely. You will need to take into consideration who else will be involved in your project to get them on board with your plans. It’s also helpful to remind yourself that space is a living entity and regardless of whether you are organizing objects, paper, or time, the items that take up that space should reflect your values and please and respect you. Another tip for getting motivated is to understand that sometimes life gets in the way and distractions happen. Reminding yourself of your initial goals and staying positive will help you get back on track. Finally, sometimes it’s hard to get motivated because you don’t know where to start. Working with a professional organizer will surely help with creating a strategy and developing an action plan; however, even without a professional organizer by your side, you can still get motivated in this situation by one, figuring out the space that is causing you the most distress and two, clearing the space to make room for sorting/purging. If necessary, think of an onion as an analogy. Peel off the first layer by going through the whole space with two garbage bags. One will be for trash and the other will be for donation. Just clearing out some items and making space for bigger projects will get you on the right path for the “next layer.”
Now let’s discuss some tips for overcoming procrastination. First, try to figure out what is holding you back. Are you feeling depressed, anxious, overwhelmed, or simply bored? Are you a perfectionist and feel as though you can’t get started because the space will never be perfect? It’s helpful to work through these feelings first with a trusted family member, friend, or mental health professional. Once you understand your feelings about organizing the space and have established your goals, try setting a timer to get you going. Maybe just 10 or 20 minutes will be enough to get you engaged in the task to keep going a little longer. You can also try to brighten the task with music or getting family or friends involved. Another tip is to break the organizing job into smaller tasks and set deadlines for each task and the project as a whole. Doing this will help safeguard you from feeling defeated if you don’t accomplish the project in one day. After each smaller task is accomplished, make a list of what has been done and recognize your progress. It’s also helpful to use positive imagery. Imagine the project being accomplished. How does this look to you? How does it feel? How will it change your life? Will you be able to find things easier? Be more productive? And, finally, you can overcome procrastination by applying what’s known as the “premack principle.” Use your organizing activity as a reinforcer for a more desirable activity. For example, if you enjoy drinking coffee in the morning, tell yourself that you must organize a stack of papers before you can enjoy your coffee. On a larger scale, you can use a shopping trip, massage, or vacation as a reinforcer for a room or whole house organizing project.
Remember, getting and staying organized is a journey, not a destination! As you can see, many factors can come into play when an individual starts an organizing project. Hopefully, this blog post gave you some good tips to create a proactive plan to kick off your New Year’s resolutions to a more organized 2018. Guilt and perfectionism are paralyzing. Let them go and just get stated! Just ask yourself, what is the first step I can take TODAY to move me towards feeling more organized?