For the second time, someone commented they perceived me as organized and an ‘on-time’ person because of my methodical approach to situations. I thought that it was time to put the record straight.
I am actually inherently a befuddled person.
I was born into a family who live by disorganized chaos. I have inherited many annoying traits and habits. Forever losing keys, poor time management, careless mistakes in crucial work, forgetting appointments, forgetting to pay bills, messy desk, going back twice to check whether the iron is off. You get the picture. Unorganized chaos. That was how I grew up. That is what I fight against being every day of my life.
I determined early on as a young adult that if I was to achieve anything worthwhile I would have to organize my chaos. This is how I have done that:
1) Take responsibility
I alone am responsible for who I am, not my genetics or upbringing. As being organized does not come naturally to me, I have to make it happen.
2) Write out lists.
I do not make lists because I am organized. I am organized because I make lists.
3) A careful methodical approach of categorizing and prioritizing.
The secret of me achieving things is not being a superwoman and doing a million things all at once but rather categorizing, prioritizing, shelving less important tasks into the background (or rubbish bin) and doing just a few important tasks each day.
4) Clearing my in-tray every day
Remaining ‘less important tasks’ are stored neatly in to-do lists / trays, drawers, appointment books, or wherever; out of the way of my central field of vision. Yet I am safe in the knowledge they can be recalled when required. A bonus is I even have a tidy desk!
5) Allowing myself enough time to complete tasks.
This is crucial. I estimate the time I think I need to accomplish something, then double it. Then I double it again to allow for extra things that inevitably always crop up, time for me to organize my disorganization, procrastination, and time for ‘faffing’ about.
6) Don’t panic when I still run out of time.
I know that no matter how organized I am, Hostadter’s law always applies: “It always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter’s Law.” This is usually when I drop less important things such as being tidy, punctual or perfect and I stop less essential functions such as eating or sleeping until I finish whatever needs to be finished.
7) Gradually working through the steps of getting things done.
I feel a sense of accomplishment when I cross tasks off my lists, even small insignificant tasks and small seemingly insignificant steps. It gives me a feeling of moving forward. This is important for complex projects with many steps and bits to them.
8) A place for everything
If I have a place for everything (and remember to always put things there) then I am less likely to lose keys, scissors, stapler etc. Remembering to put them there is the hard part.
9) Out of sight out of mind
When all the above fail, I shelve things into boxes and cupboards ‘to sort out later’.
10) Spring clean
Every so often I go through my ‘sort out later’ boxes and my ‘less important tasks’ shelved to a later date that never comes. At this point I realize all the things I thought I might get round to doing I never will and throw most in the literal or metaphorical rubbish bin.
11) Buy clothes that do not need ironing.
Then I do not need to remember to turn the iron off.
That is how I live by organized chaos which, I assure you, is a huge improvement on disorganized chaos. And within that space of organized chaos I have managed to achieve some remarkable things such as raising four beautiful children, running a business, and active involvement in the community.