Prompted by a friend’s request to meet up with me next week to discuss ways of being more organized, I decided to utilize her inquiry to fashion this post. My friend explained that while she spends her days feeling super busy, she doesn’t get anything done. Her judgement was that I am someone who takes care of a lot of different things, accomplishes a lot, and is very organized, all of which, I would agree, are true. She also knows that I actively practice being a non-busy type of person – so, basically she’s looking for some how-to advice.
At first, I wasn’t sure what I would be able to pass along to her by way of useful information, as I’ve never thoroughly dissected what it means to be organized and efficient. For me, being organized is something that comes very naturally and is in my blood – both my maternal grandfather and my mom were/are especially adept at it. It’s only been in the past few years that I’ve come to realize that being organized is a skill-set that often causes me to stand out, in the sense that it’s a talent many others wish they had.
But it quickly occurred to me that my friend’s request posed a great opportunity for me to attempt to put some of this into words in the form of practical applications to implement. So, as a Dharma teacher-in-training interested in stripping things down to nuts & bolts, here’s what I have to offer on the subject of honing the art of organizing:
- Identify your priorities. It’s very difficult to feel as though we’re moving forward if we don’t know where we’re going and what’s most important to us. Take time to connect with what you most want to invest your energy into – short-term (daily/weekly/monthly) and long-term (years down the line).
- Be okay with saying no. Once you know what your priorities are, it’s important to get comfortable with saying ‘no’ to things and people that may interfere or sidetrack you from them. For example: When I schedule a writing day in my week and a friend asks to get together for lunch that same day, I politely decline their invitation, so as not to derail myself from my dedication to writing that day.
- Schedule set times for things as much as possible. Even as someone who only works a “job-job” two days a week, I find it incredibly helpful to structure the rest of my time by scheduling everything from when I’ll work on a specific article to when I’ll do the laundry; from planning out the best time to group errands together on one side of town to food shopping during the least busy time of day; and from doing website management and social media posts to setting a time for when I’ll take my daily nap. NOTE: There is such a thing, however, as being TOO regimented in your schedule (I’ve been there!). It’s important to find a balance that works for you, so that you can also have a reasonable amount of flexibility in being able to respond to alterations in your plans when necessary.
- Keep & use a day-planner. Whether it’s a paper version (like I use) or an electronic calendar on your smart phone, having a place to keep your appointments, daily to-do’s, important dates (like birthdays and anniversaries), and other assorted reminders is more than a valuable asset in terms of organizing, it’s a vital cornerstone to time management and developing high levels of efficiency. People often commend me for being so good at remembering birthdays or being able to field so many different projects but I don’t really feel as though I can take much credit, because none of that would be possible without my day-planner. The thing is, though, you have to actually utilize it for it to be effective. I actively write down even the smallest of tasks in my planner and make sure to look at it at least once a day, so as to best remember all of what I want to get done. When I go to purchase my new Thich Nhat Hanh day-planner at our local Rockin’ Rudy’s store here in town each fall, it is truly one of my most favorite days of the year – that’s how much I appreciate and value its importance and benefit in my life.
- Put your phone down. DJ Dave has a great song called “Put Your Phone Down” – which I would highly suggest looking up the video for on youtube, but I digress. It occurred to me that perhaps one of the secrets to my organizational success may be a little tricky for others to adopt, as it involves the absence of a cell phone. I do not carry or use a cell phone on a daily basis. (I do however own one: a basic Tracfone I use for when I work as a nanny two days a week, since the household does not have a land line. I also bring it along if ever I travel solo outside of town, which amounts to about twice a year.) Have you ever heard of ‘ghost power’ or ‘vampire power’? It’s far less fun name is ‘standby power’, which refers to the amount of electricity that gets used even when certain devices are turned off, but still plugged in. I believe our cell phone usage can act in the same way – slowly draining our time and energy in ways we don’t realize. So often I observe people on their phones when they could or should be doing something else more immediately useful and important, such as stepping on the gas pedal when the light turns green, for instance. My sense is that even if we simply left our phones at home when going out to run errands for a couple of hours, we’d be able to get more accomplished in the same amount of time then if our phone was riding like a dog on our laps around town. Of course we’ll find we want our phones to do a ride-along at times, but I’m pretty sure the world won’t fall apart if we periodically left it at home to snuggle up in the dog bed and have some down time.
As it turns out, I’ve thought of so much to say that I’ve decided, just now, to turn this into a 2-part post, so as not to set your eyes to swimming with too many words :) Please stay tuned for the next installment of the Art of Organizing!