GUEST POST By: Isabel Sandercock-Brown
My dad often reminds me how outrageously messy my room was when I was younger. And I’m not exaggerating when I say “outrageously” messy ‒ I had more clothes on the floor than in my wardrobe. I had to jump over piles of crap to get to my bed ‒ a great workout, albeit an unnecessary one. But what blows my dad’s mind is that I’m now the complete opposite. He regularly says: “Isn’t it funny that you were so messy until you were 15, then suddenly a switch went off and you became really tidy?”
It’s true. When I was about 15, I suddenly realised that I hated having a messy room. I was treating my clothes and shoes (which I loved dearly) like crap that should be left on the floor (see what I did there?). But, most importantly, I realised I was the only person who could change it.
You see, I’m not a naturally organised or tidy person. I’m an ENTP, for any Myer Briggs fans out there, and a classic Leo. Basically that means I’m a big picture person who thrives off new ideas, but is terrible with details. I’m very easily distracted, great at starting but not so great at finishing, I always run late, and have a brain that’s constantly on the go. All of this equates to a friendly, but generally disorganised person. Yet a few years ago, just like with my room, I realised I was the only person who had the power to fix it – so I did.
Hilariously, if you ask anyone I work with these days, they’ll tell you how organised I am. And why do they say this? Because I found a way to be organised that works for me. A system that doesn’t bank on natural abilities, but instead works for someone with no organisational skills, whatsoever.
Steps to getting organised when you’re not naturally organised:
1. Have ONE calendar system
In this day and age, we have calendars coming out of our ears and things often get lost in the crossfire. Decide what calendar will work best for you and just have one ‒ whether it be a Diary, work calendar or a Google calendar. If you have to have a separate work and personal calendar, invite your personal email to your work calendar invites, that way they’re as synced as can be.
I use my AOL A0 wall calendar because I’m all about the analog. I put everything on there ‒ work, personal, travel, project due dates, etc.
Just make sure you have everything in ONE calendar so that you know if you check it, you’ll see everything ‒ meaning you’ll be realistic with your time and won’t accidentally double book yourself.
2. Create a to do list
My to do list is part of my bullet journal system, so if a task pops in my head during the day, I write it down on that day’s page.
You can opt for a digital to do list, but there is something powerful about physically writing something down ‒ it syncs into your brain. (I have no hard evidence to prove that but I truly believe it.)
If you haven’t had a to do list before, start by writing down everything you need to do at work, in your personal life, at home and hobby-wise on a fresh page. (This is where symbols comes in handy more on this HERE.) If you can’t actually remember to write a to do list, schedule time in your calendar. If that doesn’t work, set an alarm or reminder.
Once you have everything you need to do written down, you’ll relax a little as it’s out of your head and on paper, all in one place. From there, start to prioritise what needs to be done first, when you might do it and then you can do the next important step…
3. Write a daily ‘Must Do’ list
So, you have your to do list (or you’re about to start one after reading my last point), but it’s likely your to do list is longer than your arm and giving you a panic attack…
Enter the ‘Must Do’ list.
(I stole this idea from Sarah Knight’s book, Get Your Sh*t Together, which I highly recommend to all Unorganised Ursula's.)
Similarly to AOL’s MIT’s, a ‘Must Do’ list is the priority items but it’s the things that you absolutely MUST do that day. Often what we must do is a much shorter list than what we think we should do. By singling out what we must do in your notebook, we’re clear on what we need to focus on, but it also helps you to be more organised as you’re forced to think ahead and consider what’s due or coming up ‒ something Unorganised Ursula’s usually aren’t great at.
Tip: Try to keep your 'Must Do' list short and sweet.
‘Must Do’ List
Write and upload blog post (due tomorrow)
Finish brief (due tomorrow)
Pay phone bill (due today!)
Plus, if you complete the tasks on your ‘Must Do’ list, you can spend time doing other things ‒ things you like to do or your side hustle.
4. Get in the habit of writing EVERYTHING down
If you’re not a naturally organised person, I’ll bet you often forget things. You don’t mean to, but one minute you’re thinking “yes, I need to get milk”, and the next a butterfly flies past and you’re wondering how a cocoon actually creates a butterfly. Suddenly you’re Googling “how does a cocoon work” and there’s no chance you’re going to remember the milk.
No? Just me then. But you get it ‒ write EVERYTHING down.
If it’s a task, an event or a ‘to do’ item, I write in my daily diary, or monogrammed notebook, bullet journal styles. If I physically can’t, I email it to myself to write into my diary/notebook the moment I can.
However, these aren’t the only things you should write down. I recommend writing everything you think of ‒ from great present ideas, to the new TV show you want to watch, to buying milk or the name of that lipstick shade. (Can you tell I forget milk a lot?) When it comes to these things, I use the iPhone lists function in ‘Reminders’.
I have a permanent ‘Grocery’ list, ‘Books to read’ list, ‘Beauty’ list, ‘Wardrobe’ list, ‘Restaurants’ list and ‘Places to go’ list. I have fun emoji’s next to each topic too.
Get into the habit of writing everything down, so that next time you’re flicking through Netflix looking for something to watch, you’ll be able to remember the show Carol from work recommended.
5. Learn how long things take you
Generally, organised people know how long a task is roughly going to take and they factor that in. My boyfriend has it down to a fine art ‒ he knows exactly how long it takes him to get from couch to pub, including a shower, down to the second. Unorganised Ursula’s often overestimate how much time they have (e.g. we start washing our hair even though we need to leave in 5), meaning we run late, leave things to the last minute, and are generally disheveled. So learn how long things take you!
Does it take you half an hour to get ready?
Do you need 10 minutes to pack up before you leave?
Do you need an hour to compose a brief?
Does it take you 2 hours to clear your inbox?
Once you’ve learnt how long a task takes you, you can write out your ‘Must Do’ list and see if you actually have enough hours planned to do what you need to.
‘Must Do’ List
Write and upload blog post ‒ 3 hours
Finish brief (due tomorrow) ‒ 1 hour
Pay phone bill (due today!) ‒ 15 mins
Because I know how long things take me, I can see that my entire time allocated is actually full and I can’t do anything else, meaning I’ll be more realistic and wiser with my time, which leads me to my final step…
6. Value your time ‒ but more importantly value the time of others
You’ve probably heard the saying: “poor planning on your part does not necessitate an emergency on mine.” Your time is valuable ‒ there is a limit to it. But so is other peoples.
By running late, leaving things to the last minute, forgetting a task or missing a deadline, you’re saying that you don’t value yours or other people’s time. When you’re more organised, you’re a better planner and often ahead, if not on, schedule. But it’s up to you to start being on time, thinking ahead and planning. We only have a certain amount of hours in a day ‒ spend them wisely.
Find a way to be organised that works for YOU. An Organised Life exists not just for the naturally organised, but for the Unorganised Ursula’s too. We can all have an organised life, no matter our natural tendencies. Believe me ‒ my bedroom hasn’t been messy since 2005 and my dad still isn’t over it.
Isabel Sandercock-Brown is a freelance writer who has her own beauty and book blog, 5-TO-TRY. She hopes to empower women to accept their natural abilities and flaws, and learn to work with them ‒ not against. She is a huge fan of An Organised Life, and is constantly trying to be more organised. (Operative term being ‘trying’.)