I work in a business that takes a stubborn pride in its slovenliness.
From where I sit, I can see disheveled bookshelves, teetering piles of paper and bulletin boards littered with fliers for events that happened months ago.
Then there’s my desk. It’s not exactly spare, but it’s pretty tidy. The notes and documents for stories I’m working on are squirreled away in folders in an upright file.
My books are corralled in a crate. When I need a pen or a phone number or a pair of scissors, I know where to find it.
Yeah, I know what you’re thinking. I’m obsessive and regimented.
But I’m going to let you in on a little secret.
I’m organized because I’m lazy.
Believe me, I wasn’t born with a penchant for labeled storage boxes. And if something isn’t important to me, I have a tendency to put it out of my mind. Seriously. My college roommate once drew me a map to our dorm’s dumpster because I kept neglecting to empty the trash.
But I learned long ago that laziness was an awful lot of work.
Forgetting an appointment meant phone calls and apologies and rejuggling of schedules.
Letting papers pile up meant wasted time searching frantically for notes on deadline or having to track down information a second time.
Leaving my stuff around the house meant marathon cleaning sessions when I’d rather be having fun.
Who has the energy?
So, little by little, I’ve forced myself to get organized. It’s way easier than being disorganized.
It takes only a few extra seconds to put something back where I got it, when it used to take me a half-hour to tidy up the house before I could even start cleaning.
When I’m opening the mail, it’s no bother to jot a bill’s due date on the envelope and stick it into the desktop organizer.
It takes a few moments to transfer the particulars about an event or an errand to my calendar, but then I don’t have to keep lots of papers or waste time tracking down details.
My smartphone makes organizing even easier. I keep my calendar there, which I can sync with computerized calendars at work and at home and even share with my husband.
I can send myself reminders or set my alarm clock so I don’t have to worry about missing birthdays or dentist’s appointments.
I keep an errand list, a grocery list and a list of all those hard-to-remember details, like the type of ink cartridge my printer uses or the dimensions of that space on the wall where I need just the right size mirror. So when I’m out shopping, I have that information with me.
This didn’t happen overnight. I got there one baby step at a time.
I can’t make you organized in one column, but I can give you a piece of advice: Start by tackling the one thing that bothers you most.
There are plenty of books, magazine articles and websites out there to help you and give you ideas. I think you’ll find that once you achieve one small success, you’ll want to keep going.
But you may be surprised by how much of your time you’ll get back.