For most of my life, I have been the least amount of organized that one could imagine a person being. I used to struggle to get any work done, and when I did, it was almost always at the last minute, or even late. Maybe you can relate? However, sometime between the beginning of MasterSelf and now, I have learned the value of organization and decided to get it together. (For those of you who know me, I know, I can’t believe it either.) Now, I get household chores done, write a few articles a week, and still have time to have fun and binge-watch Altered Carbon on Netflix. (You should definitely watch it, that show is awesome.)
How did I do it? All it takes is these five steps.
The first thing you must do to get organized: admit that you have a problem.
When I first started working on the site, I figured it would be enough for me to just write when I felt like it and work on the page when I had time. I quickly learned that that was not the case. Sometimes, you don’t want to do the things you’re supposed to do. If you don’t schedule worktimes, it’s far too easy to run out of time or forget to work. First accept that you are not organized and that you, at your current level of organization, will not be able to get everything done that you want to. Once you do that, you can start to analyze the root of your issues and outsmart yourself and your procrastinatory habits.
Next, you must figure out your ideal work environment.
I get easily distracted, and it happens more often than not that when my roommates come home from work, I’ll lose my train of thought completely. It’s easy to get peer-pressured out of working, willingly or not. There is a trick to this, however. When I first moved to Reno, I was living in a tent in the desert, and the only wi-fi I could get access to was at Starbucks (or Barnes and Noble.) This turned out to be a good thing- because the only thing you can do at a coffee shop is get coffee and use wi-fi, it became the ideal place to write.
Even now that I am living in a house with wi-fi, I still take the time on my days off to go to Starbucks for a few hours and write. Where I once had writers block, now my brain knows that when I sit down with an iced americano, I’m already in work mode. The key here is to designate a location, Starbucks or otherwise, where you will only do work and nothing else. When I was in school, I found that the best place to do homework was the silent room in the library- primarily because there is nothing else you can do in there besides read. Find your ideal work location and isolate yourself there.
The third step towards organization is to schedule everything.
I have large amounts of time at work to think about interesting things to write about or other ideas for MasterSelf, but too often I end up forgetting them by the time I sit down to write. The antidote to this is to use a scheduling system. The MasterSelf team uses Asana, a great group tasking and scheduling program. On the other hand, one of our team members uses an old-school paper planner. Find what works for you. The benefit of the scheduling system is most obvious when I can’t think of something to do. With Asana, I have a list of article ideas, website tasks, and other random thoughts organized like post-it notes in columns, so I can always have something to work on.
For the fourth step, we have the most intimidating of all things- deadlines.
Throughout my life, I have been a notorious procrastinator. I always hated deadlines, and if I had an assignment, more often than not you would find me doing it the night before.
However, in the real world, no one cares if you get your shit done or not.
After a certain point, your parents, teachers, or boss won’t hover over your shoulder reminding you to get things done. With that freedom comes a burden, however, and with the added pressure, procrastination can be deadly. If you don’t get your chores done on time, maybe you get grounded- but forget to pay your bills or complete a work assignment, and you’re going to have a bad time.
Especially for those of you like me who don’t have anyone in charge of them- if you don’t give yourself deadlines, you won’t have the pressure to get things done. If you want people to work with you, you need to be responsible and reliable enough to get these things done on time. Your teammates should be able to count on your help in a timely and orderly fashion. On top of that, if you’re trying to start a business, you have to be your own boss and self-regulate, because no one is going to remind you. Programs like Asana have neat features for deadlines, with automated reminders to keep you in check.
The fifth and final step to getting organized is to raise the stakes.
In my case, I have a team of people who are counting on me to be reliable and consistent. I’ll admit, this is something of a first for me, and it’s hard to get used to. However, I’m a big believer in leading by example, and if I can’t get articles done in a reasonable amount of time, how can I expect my team to? What kind of leader would I be if I couldn’t do myself what I asked of others? Hypocrisy is among the worst of all attributes, and it’s so important to hold yourself to a standard of consistency, both for those who are counting on you, and for yourself.
Many of you may not have a team, however- so you will have to find other ways to hold yourself accountable. One option is to set up an anti-charity, as detailed in this Gawker article by Mihir Patkar. The idea is to create some sort of penalty for your failure to do something. Some people use a social feedback system, like creating a challenge on social media to hold yourself accountable. While it’s true that shame is a powerful motivator, we’re often less likely to do something if we talk about it. The best, (albeit somewhat hard) solution is to build up your internal resolve by taking responsibility and holding yourself accountable for your life.
At the end of the day, whether or not others are counting on you, if you are going to achieve mastery over your Self, you’re going to need to be organized to do it.
Let us know what ways you’ve found to get organized in your life!
(Cover image courtesy of http://maxpixel.freegreatpicture.com/ )