This post was originally written by Leo Babauta for Zen Habits. Republished here with permission.
A trusted organization system that you actually use regularly can turn your day from one of chaos to one of focus, effectiveness and calm. Here are 4 key habits of organization.
4 Key Habits of Organization
This is something I’ve learned through repeated failures, actually: when I become loose with my organized habits, my day becomes worse. It gets stressful and crazy, and I can’t focus on anything. Everything is in my head all the time, and I’m always worried that I’m missing something, that I should be doing something else.
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But when I get my system down, and the habits are on track, things are smooth, I feel good about what I’m doing, and I’m much better able to let everything else go and focus on what’s in front of me, confident that everything else is in its place.
Why Form the Habits of Organization
Several important reasons:
- Stress: An excess of stress very negatively affects your health. If you have good habits in place to deal with all the stuff in your life, you stress out about everything less. You feel less worry that things are slipping through the cracks. You feel trust that you are OK working on what’s in front of you.
- Effectiveness: If you are able to externalize all the things you’re worried about into a trusted system, you can better focus on the task in front of you. You can single-task, and be more effective at each task, because it’s getting your full focus.
- Relationships: I’ve found relationships to be about the most important thing in my life, personal but also business. And the best way to build relationships is to be trustworthy. And the best way to be trustworthy is to keep your commitments. If you’re organized, you are more likely to keep your commitments. Organizaton is largely about managing your commitments.
Building Organized Habits
We often forget to use our new organization ideas because we have old habits that don’t die easily.
Luckily, we can replace the old habits with better ones, with practice. It takes about a week of very conscious effort to do this, and after that it gets more and more automatic.
Here are the habits:
- Create a place for everything. Find whatever tools work for you. I use Trello for organizing my to-do lists. The habit, though, is noticing when something is sitting in your inbox or in an open browser tab or somewhere else, not in its place. And then finding a place for it — sometimes that means consciously designating a new bucket just for that type of thing.
- Don’t procrastinate — put it away immediately: The old habit is to put it off (procrastinate) to be put away later. No. That procrastination is what leads to the system falling apart. For one week, make a very conscious effort to not put this off, but instead to take a few seconds to put information, tasks, appointments and other such things right where they belong, right now. It doesn’t take long, but you have to be very conscious about it at first.
- Don’t live in your inbox: We have a tendency to keep our email inbox open, or to open it often. That means you’re constantly responding, instead of focusing. Instead, open the inbox, and one by one, put incoming items where they belong, and archive them in your inbox. You might not get to the bottom of the list, but you save yourself from having to constantly look through the same things in your inbox over and over.
- Review your tasks every morning: Make it a habit to review your task list and calendar every morning for 20 minutes (set a timer), so you know things are in their place. Know where everything is. Then get out and start doing.
With these four habits, and a trusted system, you can now relax, and focus.
For more organizing ideas, check out our ebook Organize Your Home. 🙂