Learning how to be organised is crucial if we are to live a less-stressed life. Lisa Freedman presents her 50 top tips for how to get organised.
How to be organised at work
1. Manage your emails more effectively
Email has the potential to make our lives far easier. Used in the wrong way, however, email can distract us from what needs to be done and make us stressed. Learn how to manage your emails more effectively.
2. Tackle difficult tasks first
Work first thing each day on the things you would rather avoid, leaving until later things that you enjoy. Easier said than done, but effective nonetheless.
3. Work at the time that’s best for you
Set yourself time zones each day during which you carry out specific tasks and try and tie these in with fluctuations in your energy level. Most people are freshest in the morning and dip after lunch; so, tackle more creative or demanding tasks in the morning, and save the early afternoon for filing and phoning.
4. Use a clock
Have a clock prominently displayed on your desk – it will serve as a visual reminder to stop you wasting time. If you don’t have a physical clock to hand, use the clock that’s built in to your computer.
5. Unclutter your desk
Clear your desk of clutter nightly; file your papers daily. The environment that we work in has a big effect on how we feel. As the saying goes, “clear desk, clear mind”.
6. Make nightly to-do lists
Before you leave work each night make a list of things that you need to do the next day and stick it on your screen or desktop. It will help you to get organised and be up and running first thing the next morning.
7. Make your workspace your own
Make sure that where you work is comfortable. You should have enough light and space, a back-supporting chair and few noisy distractions. The average person spends 14% or 11 years of their life at work. Make that time as comfortable as possible.
8. Use a smartphone
Use a smartphone as your diary, address book and calculator. Sync it daily with your computer so that you always have a backup. Dispensing with paper-based notepads and diaries in favour of a smartphone is one of my top tips for how to be more organised.
9. Use a filing system
Develop a good, clear filing system. There are few things more stressful than not being able to find essential items when you need them.
10. Make your office mobile
Use a laptop (perhaps connected to a stand-alone monitor); it means that your office moves with you. You can take this a step further and save all documents in the cloud. Popular services to use include Google Docs and Apple’s iCloud.
How to be more organised with your money
11. Shop online
Shop online for weekly groceries, among other items. You’ll save money as well as time.
12. Set up direct debits
Pay bills – utilities, credit card, etc – by direct debit. You won’t pay interest charges if you don’t miss payment dates, plus many utility companies offer a discount for this method of payment. You also won’t have to worry about when you have to pay bills each month – everything will be organised for you.
13. Bulk buy
Bulk buy… everything that it’s practical to do so. You’ll take advantage of major discounts, save a lot of time and be discouraged from buying things you don’t need.
14. Book in advance
Booking in advance or at the very last minute will save you a lot of money. Either tends to be cheaper but the former is less stressful – getting organised to go away can be highly stressful and sorting this out in advance will make the whole ordeal more bearable.
15. Start a pension
Start a pension as soon as you can. The longer you save the less you pay.
16. Set up online banking
Stop wasting time in long queues at your local branch and start using online banking. You can even download apps on your phone that will let you bank on the move.
17. Use loyalty cards
Take out store credit cards whenever you can. They have great offers and give extra time to pay, but remember to pay them off each month or you’ll be paying exorbitant interest.
18. Set up an ISA
Take out an ISA. If the Chancellor is going to give you a tax-free saving, use it.
19. Buy in the sales
Shop in the sales or at designer outlets. Never pay full price.
20. Cut your commute
Buy a house as near to work as possible. Few things reduce stress more than an easy journey to work.
How to get organised at home
21. Keep a file of useful household information
Keep a file on your computer with all the workmen, tradespeople and repair services which you need to run your house. Use the same file to record the serial and model number of any item that you might need when reporting a fault.
22. Start a “supplies” notebook
Keep a notebook on the fridge or the kitchen noticeboard on which to write anything you have run out of. Encourage other members of the household to use it. Learning how to become organised with such a system can take time, but will drastically cut food bills by reducing “overbuying”.
23. Tackle one cupboard a week
Clean one cupboard a week. That way nothing ever gets monumentally out of hand.
24. Wash up before going to bed
Do the dishes before you go to bed – no matter how late. However tired and hung over you feel it’s easier to face the day with a clean kitchen.
25. Keep your keys safe
Always keep your keys in the same place – but not so near the front door they can be stolen.
26. Use a birthday calendar
Have a birthday chart. Keep it by the calendar in the kitchen and look at it weekly. This way you’ll never forget another birthday.
27. Keep a file for electricals paperwork
Keep a separate file for all your electrical items, manuals and guarantees. It’s useful for ordering spare parts and checking up when you’ve forgotten how to programme the video when you go on holiday.
28. Don’t hoard
Edit your files and cut the spare fat. You don’t need every birthday card you’ve received since you were seven or every bank statement since you opened your first post-office savings account. For tax purposes keep all financial documentation for six years; for emotional purposes only mementos with meaning.
29. Keep vital documents safe
Keep precious documents such as passports, birth certificates, insurance policies, etc, inside a flame-retardant box. Irreplaceable documents should be kept in the bank or with your solicitor, but keep a copy at home for reference.
30. Store essentials in the freezer
Always keep a loaf of bread, a carton of milk and a pack of butter in the deep freeze. You never know when they might come in useful.
How to organise your wardrobe
31. Update your clothes collection
Get rid of anything that is permanently stained, irrevocably torn, or too small. Then add anything you haven’t worn for two years to the pile.
32. Ask a friend for advice
Invite a friend or family member whose opinion you trust to act as a critic of your entire wardrobe. Discard accordingly.
33. Split your wardrobe into winter and summer
Divide your wardrobe into winter and summer clothes. Make sure at the end of each season that clothes are clean, pressed, mended and packed away until they are needed again. This will free you up to see what you really need now and help you get organised.
34. Use shoeboxes
Fashion editors are great examples for how to be organised. They keep the boxes that their shoes came in, stick a photo of the pair on the box and stack boxes like a shoe shop. Easy to see, neat to store.
35. Bulk buy essentials
Buy essentials in multiples – have enough underwear, tights and socks for two weeks.
36. Get ready the night before
Hang up your clothes every night, put your shoes away, and put your dirty laundry in the laundry basket. Then lay out your clothes for the next day, making sure they’re clean and pressed. Morning is not the time to become a maid service.
37. Use two laundry baskets
One for whites, one for coloureds. It’s time-consuming to sort the weekly wash, and even more time-consuming to deal with clothes that have run due to not being correctly divided.
38. Make a wardrobe plan
Do a wardrobe plan – almost like a weekly menu. For example: Mondays: grey shirt, blue trousers, black shoes; Tuesdays: green suit, white shirt, black boots, etc. Have enough combinations for a two-week rotation to allow for cleaning. Then stick your plan on your wardrobe door.
Keep a sewing basket by the television. There are few programmes so absorbing that you can’t be doing something else at the same time.
Organising your mind
40. Sleep seven hours a night
Get at least seven hours sleep a night – you will think and work better. How much sleep we get is one of the biggest influencers of how we feel. Studies show that as little as five consecutive nights of sleeping badly can significantly lower our mood.
41. Talk to a professional
In a rut? Talk to a professional. For a list of counsellors in your area, try The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy: see www.bacp.co.uk or call 01788 550899.
Both have been shown to relieve stress and aid concentration. They’ll also help you tone up and feel more energised.
43. Manage your moods
Destructive emotions and obsessive patterns of behaviour are seriously inefficient. If you feel yourself getting angry or sad, stop for a moment and think why. Learning mindfulness is one of the best ways of managing your moods.
44. Leave work on time
Decide on a realistic exit time from work and stick to it. Studies show that, after a certain number of hours at work, our level of productivity drops dramatically. Learn to work smarter, not harder.
45. Become more adventurous
Become more adventurous. Doing anything new or even slightly dangerous can give you new insight into life and help you work and live more effectively. Try the popular 30-day challenge if you want an easy way to become more adventurous.
46. Eat breakfast
Low blood sugar in the morning sabotages memory, concentration and the ability to think straight. Eat a healthy breakfast of slow-release carbs like porridge oats. This will not only make you feel more energetic but will also keep you feeling fuller for longer.
47. Give your brain a workout
Exercise your memory. Train your brain by doing crosswords and playing Sudoku. Learning a new skill like a foreign language has been scientifically proven to make us think more creatively.
48. Set clear goals
Set yourself a goal, then make a list of the steps you’ll need to get there. Almost anything is achievable if your break it down into small steps. Or, as the Chinese say, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step”.
49. Be decisive
Most (not all) decisions are reversible; not making a decision, however, is time-consuming for you and for others. Psychologists use the term “analysis paralysis” to refer to the condition of being unable to make a choice. Of all the advice on how to overcome an inability to choose, the most effective is just to follow your “gut feeling”.
Delegate as much as possible. Think carefully about each task and decide whether you really need to do it or whether there is someone else who could do it more quickly, more effectively or more cheaply.