Conquer the Chaos: How to Organize, Get More Done, and Simplify Your Day!

By Lorie Rosenberg

Is your office a mess? Are there papers stacked all over your desk and you’re not sure where anything is?

Is your house a wreck? Are there dishes piled high and clothes everywhere? Can you never seem to get your life organized?

It doesn’t have to be this way. In this article, you’ll discover strategies for getting organized that will help streamline your day and you’ll be happy with how much you can accomplish!

Our lives these days are filled to the brim with way too many things to do and responsibilities to tend to. If you’re juggling a job, as well as a family and personal life, you know what I’m talking about. And I’m not surprised if you’re totally overwhelmed by the enormity of what you have to accomplish each day and throughout your work week.

When the computer was invented, we thought it would free up time for us and it has done that to an extent. Today we can do things so much quicker and easier than ever before because we have the sum total knowledge of the universe at our fingertips. But that has only upped the demand for what we must accomplish each day. It might have taken days to write an article, but now I will block off four hours on my calendar to complete it. If I need to do research, it’s all available to me on the internet. No more searching through the card catalog for books and magazines for information when I can find it in just seconds.

Organization is a Process

So how do you conquer the chaos, get organized, and simplify your day? Getting organized is a process and it’s one that you need to work on every single day so you can manage it effectively. There’s no way that you can ever totally conquer the chaos, but you can make it more manageable and less overwhelming.

It’s something that you have to dedicate time to each day. You have to continually prioritize your tasks, assign time frames to complete them, and schedule individual tasks on your calendar. And I want to emphasize “schedule” because with the enormity of the items on your to-do list, you can’t keep them floating around in your head and hope you’ll remember to get to them.

On the other hand, you don’t want a “to-do” list that’s a mile long or you’re apt to totally shut down and become a blathering idiot rather than calmly and intently managing the tasks you have at hand. It’s a good idea to have a reasonable “to-do” list that you can accomplish with the time you have available.

Getting Caught Up

There used to be a time when I could get everything done and feel the accomplishment of being “caught up.” Unfortunately in this day and age, getting caught up is a relic from the past. Let’s face it, there’s no way you’re ever going to get totally caught up because there will always be something for you to do. But there is a way to get your arms around this mess and feel some semblance of success that you’re at least managing the chaos.

Eliminate, Automate, Outsource

Most of us are task driven. We put a lot of to-dos on our calendar, and we go through the day, check them off one by one, and feel like we’ve gotten a lot done. We do this because it’s easier than tackling the difficult goals that take longer to complete. When we check off the quick, easy tasks, we feel like we’ve actually accomplished something, even though it may not have been the most important thing.

While many of these tasks need to be done, there are others that you can eliminate, automate, or outsource. This will give you more time to work on tasks that you and only you should be doing, and it will free up your time to be able to better organize your work and your life!

Eliminate

First of all, you may have tasks, procedures, projects, or whole functions that add little value to the job you do, and yet they take up an inordinate amount of effort. If a task is not valuable to the organization or to your household, don’t waste your time or anyone else’s on it. Eliminate.

Automate

If there are tasks you’re doing repetitively that could be handled more efficiently through an automated system, then don’t waste your time or anyone else’s. Automate. You’ll eliminate a lot of work that you’ve been doing so that you can focus on other more important tasks.

Outsource

If you have some non-mission-critical repetitive tasks that can be done more cost-effectively by someone other than you, either inside or outside of the organization, then don’t waste your time on this responsibility. Delegate or Outsource.

Calendars & To Do Lists

The only way I get anything accomplished is if I schedule it. I work with a project management system called Wrike, that allows me to schedule my tasks on a list that I prioritize and dedicate time to each day. I can move tasks forward that I don’t complete. I can backlog tasks that are unnecessary or that I want to save for a future date. I can assign tasks to other people to review or to work on them. I can even send messages to other members of the team to give me feedback on a particular task.

This system is my lifeline. It allows me to quickly and easily see what I need to do each day and as I said, I can prioritize the tasks each day so I know what I need to work on first, second, etc.

There are a variety of project management systems you can use to track your tasks and projects. Some are simpler than others to use. You can also manage this on a Google calendar or other type of task management system. The point is that to help you manage the chaos, you need to organize your tasks each day and manage how you get your work completed. And this same system can be used to handle your personal and family responsibilities as well. By keeping on top of your tasks and responsibilities, you’ll save time and effort because you won’t be have to deal with problems that arise from unpaid bills, missed deadlines, and mistakes made because you weren’t on top of your priorities.

Email

I think that most people would say that email is the bane of their existence! It was supposed to provide quicker, easier communication, which fortunately it does. The problem is that people tend to email you instead of trying to find out the answer to a particular question on their own. As a result, there are many emails that could be eliminated altogether. Email is here to stay so here are some ways to keep e-mail under control:

  • Be selective about when you review your e-mail. If you check e-mail first thing in the morning, you may start dealing with it, and lose your productive time that could be better spent on more important projects. Select a couple of times during the day to check and respond to e-mail. A good time to do this is just before lunch around 11:30 am and right before leaving work for the day.
  • E-mail should be treated just like regular mail; you don’t leave envelopes in your mailbox, and you shouldn’t leave e-mail messages in your Inbox. Scan every e-mail and decide whether you should delete it, reply to it now (if it takes 2 minutes or less), put it in a folder for reference or to handle later, or forward it to someone else who needs to handle it.
  • It’s a good idea to have several e-mail addresses that you can use for different purposes, but that all funnel into your main account or into different folders if you choose to do so. You can use one address when e-mailing friends or clients, one when you book tickets or purchase products, and one that people respond to from your web site. And be sure to be selective when giving out your e-mail address.
  • Set up filters and rules so that e-mail from certain sources goes directly into folders and you can review them together. You can have e-mail messages that get color-coded or highlighted, depending on who they’re coming from. You can have your spam filter direct spam e-mail to an appropriate folder so they don’t clog up your inbox. This helps to make reviewing your e-mail much easier and highlights the most important e-mail you need to handle first.
  • Train your staff on how to communicate with you, especially with e-mail. Let them know what information should be e-mailed, when to Skype, instant message, or text, and when it’s best to just pick up the phone. E-mail is great for anything that needs to be documented or scheduled; use Skype or instant message if you need a quick answer; and call when you need to discuss something or if there is an immediate problem that needs a resolution.
  • Turn off your e-mail notification if you want to get real work done. You can set up your e-mail so you can manually decide when you want to receive messages by pressing the Send/Receive button. This is best so you don’t get distracted when you hear the beep that you’ve automatically received an e-mail. And don’t be tempted to take a look. You’ll end up spending more time than you imagined, and it will take you longer to get back to what you were originally doing.

Calls

For some people, unnecessary calls eat up a lot of their time. In our office, we don’t take incoming calls unless they’re scheduled calls. This may not be practical for every business, but it has been for ours. We feel that when you have a scheduled call, both parties are ready and available to chat about the issue to be discussed. When you take incoming calls, most of the time you’re not prepared for what they person wants to talk to you about and you will most likely have to wing it or schedule another call when you’re prepared.

All of our calls go to either our virtual assistant or to voice mail. Periodically throughout the day our assistant listens to these calls and determines how to proceed. She’ll either pass on the information to us if appropriate, she’ll return the call and handle it herself, or she’ll set up a phone appointment during one of our scheduled call blocks. That way, we can return all calls in a single two-to-three-hour period.

With this process, we’re more prepared for the call and can usually handle them quicker. What’s more, this eliminates distractions during those hours when we’re working on projects and handling more important and intricate tasks.

Simplifying or Saying “No”

Sometimes getting organized means saying no to some obligations that are consuming your time and not allowing you to get to what’s really important. Many people take more and more on their plate and end up not getting the tasks accomplished that are truly important and that positively impact their lives. It’s better to eliminate responsibilities or simplify what you’re doing on them.

Managing the Chaos More Effectively

I don’t believe that life is ever going to slow down. When you eliminate something from your schedule, it’s usually replaced by something else. Your responsibilities and goals tend to fill up your allotted time. Fortunately, you can manage them more effectively by organizing your day.

Schedule – It’s a great idea to review your calendar at the end of the day and move forward any tasks you didn’t get done to another day and time on your calendar. This will allow you to get to the important work right away and you’ll feel better with what you’ve accomplished.

Prioritize – Work on the most important tasks first and then prioritize your other responsibilities so you get more accomplished that positively impacts your work and life.

Eliminate, Automate, Outsource – Eliminate tasks that are unessential, automate those that are repetitive, and outsource or delegate those that someone else can do just as well as you.

Continually Monitor – Don’t let your tasks get out of control. Continually monitor and manage them so they don’t become too large and overwhelming. It will help reduce the stress that a cluttered and disorganized environment tends to create.

Simplify, Simplify, Simplify – Remember, sometimes done is better than perfect. So instead of trying to make sure that everything is exactly right, be satisfied with the best effort you are able to put forth. Plus, rather than adding to your schedule, simplify! Reduce the impact your busy schedule has on your health and well-being.

When you focus your effort on organizing your environment, your work routine, and your life, you’ll find that you can accomplish more, in much less time, and you’ll be happier with your results.

It’s Time to Go Create You!

No matter where you are, you have the potential for success. You have everything you need within you to reach your full potential…to live a life of significance and to fulfill your goals and dreams. There’s nothing that can hold you back if you know what it is you want to achieve, have a plan with specific steps to move you in the right direction, and the drive and motivation to see it through to completion. Isn’t it time to Go Create You!

Lorie Rosenberg. speaker, author and coach, works with individuals on the "spiritual side" of business and life...to gain the discipline and motivation to achieve personal growth and business success. Get free marketing tips, tools, and tactics at www.BusinessOwnerSurvivalKit.com. For more information on Lorie's speaking and coaching programs, contact us at 800-260-0662, or e-mail us at info@qualitytalk.com