You’ve heard it said that dogs get very distracted by squirrels. They’re intensely focused on one thing and then all of a sudden – SQUIRREL!
Do you ever have moments like that? I know I do!!
Do you ever have days this like? Yup, me too!
I’ll have so many days when I’m going through my day, doing great, focused and then all of a sudden a preverbal squirrel runs across my path or I get distracted by a shiny object and the next thing I know, 3 hours have gone by. Am I the only one?
Don’t get me wring, shiny objects are pretty. Squirrels (or butterflies or flowers) are entertaining. But when every little thing distracts you from what you’re hoping to do, it’s not fun! You feel scattered and spread out everywhere and worn out before you even get anything accomplished.
So what’s a girl to do?
First of all, you need to know that making the leap from feeling completely scattered to having a simple, organized plan and being able to work that plan will not happen in 10 minutes! It won’t happen in 1 day or 1 week and it may not happen in 1 year! Stop thinking about “getting organized” as a one-time event that needs to happen as you pause your life and start thinking about it as a life-long pursuit that you can take small steps forward in every day.
But what steps can you take? How do you get from where you are to where you want to be?
Let’s talk through 5 very simple things you can start doing today that will begin to help you organize your life.
Simple things that when you begin to do them consistently will take you from scattered to organized.
Simple tasks that turn into life-long habits that will serve you well for years to come!
Step 1 :: Give your grocery list a home on the refrigerator.
Be honest here, how many times have you gone to the grocery store, gotten a bunch of groceries and come home only to realize that one of the essential items you needed never made it into your cart? Or maybe you grabbed an item thinking that you were almost out only to realize when you got home that you now have 5 dozen eggs?
Grocery shopping is one of those essential items of life. You need to eat. You need to feed your family. But why does grocery shopping need to feel so stressful? Or rather, why does coming up with a grocery list feel so stressful?
What if you could take the stress out of creating your shopping list, plan ahead what you needed, and have your list 80% prepared the next time you sat down to figure out what you needed? Sounds almost too good to be true, right? Well, my Friend, there’s a very simple solution:
Give your grocery list a home on the refrigerator. This could be a cute magnetic notepad or a whiteboard or just a piece of paper taped to the door of the fridge. What you write on doesn’t matter nearly as much as applying this strategy! My personal favorite is to use a magnetic pad of paper. That way, when I tear the top piece of paper off and head to the grocery store, I don’t have to worry about replacing the paper on the fridge – at least until the pad of paper runs out!
The big idea is that when you’re running low on an item, you write it down on the list. When you realize you’re going to need a certain item for a birthday dinner or a meal that is coming up, you grab a pencil and write it on the list. That way, when it comes time to go grocery shopping, you simply grab your list off of the fridge, do a last-minute double check to see if you need any other items and off you go to the store with your very comprehensive list.
You just saved time by doing 80% of your grocery list compiling ahead of time. You just saved yourself frustration from trying to remember everything you need to get on the spot. You just streamlined your process so your thoughts are no longer scattered, but collected and written down in a set place.
Step 2 :: Sort through your mail right when it comes in the house.
How many times have you gotten the mail out of your mailbox, brought it in the house, then set it on the counter to do something and never returned to the pile? It’s so easy to do, isn’t it? Then before you know it, there are many days worth of mail sitting in this ever-increasing pile and it’s starting to taunt you and mock you and intimidate you. And no one likes to be taunted by a pile of mail!!
The simple solution? Sort through your mail right when it comes in the house. Don’t even let it hit the countertop before you start sorting it! All those advertisements you’ll never look at or use, throw them right into the trash or recycle bin. Open up those envelopes to find out what’s inside. If it’s something important (like your electric bill) keep the parts you need and throw out the envelope it came in as well as the extra papers that come with it.
When you take 2-3 minutes to sort through your mail right when you bring it in your house, you’ll reduce the size of your mail pile exponentially! There will even be days when everything that arrives just belongs in the trash!
Extra tip: If you haven’t already, create a spot (a folder, a specific out-of-the way place for a pile, a basket) for those important papers that arrive. That way, when the papers that do need your attention arrive, you can place them in a designated spot and you know where to find them when it comes time to pay the bills!
Step 3 :: The Ten-Minute Tidy
Did you know that when your space is cluttered, it’s a lot harder for you to focus? It’s true! Visual clutter creates mental clutter!
Well, what is clutter? Clutter can be anything from excess items that have landed in your space that can be removed completely (the term ‘decluttering’ applies here) to a pile of toys or books or shoes that have a home, but have been left out. Right now, let’s focus in on those items that have a spot in your home and simply need to be put away.
How do you do it? How do you get all those toys and shoes and books and pencils and scraps of paper and whatever else is hanging out on your floor and table surfaces to get put away?
Oh, how I wish for the power of Mary Poppins’ snap in these situations! But since we do not, let’s try another tactic, shall we? I call it the Ten-Minute Tidy. Essentially, you gather everyone in your family into the area that needs attention, set a timer for 10 minutes and have everyone laser focus for that short amount of time to pick up anything and everything they see out of place and put it where it belongs.
Now, don’t fret if this sounds like a little too much for you. I’ve heard multiple variations on this idea: One family will set a timer for 30 minutes and clean their house with extreme focus for that time – not only picking up, but the vacuuming, dusting, bathroom cleaning, the works!
In our house, sometimes we use the 10-minute Tidy to pick up multiple rooms simultaneously and sometimes we’ll do a 3 or 4 minute tidy of one specific room. Depending on the size of the mess, sometimes we can even beat a 2-minute timer!
The goal of this is simple: Everyone has contributed to the mess. Everyone needs to help pick up the mess. Utilizing a timer keeps everyone super focused as well as creating a fun game of trying to be done before the timer goes off. And in the end, everyone wins because there’s clear space to think, clear space to play and create, and all the work didn’t fall on one person.
Step 4 :: Streamline your process of returning items to different rooms.
As you go throughout your day, you’ll find items that migrate out from your children’’s rooms to your main living area. Honestly, I find things migrating out to the main living area from my room!
As you’re picking up in your 3- or 10- minute tidy or even just as you step on a toy and want to make sure it doesn’t happen again, how do you get the items from here to there? How do you get things back to where they should be without making 15 trips to other rooms every 3 minutes to deliver one thing at a time?
The simple answer: Create a holding zone. This can be one big basket or bin or box that holds all the items that need to be returned to one area of your home. Or you can have one bin per room or even one bin per child.
The exact for this takes is completely up to you and the space you have to work with. Here are some suggestions to get your creative juices flowing: I know a family who uses a set of drawers, giving one drawer to each child. I know a family who uses a big basket for items that need to be taken back upstairs to the bedrooms. I know a family that has pretty bins sitting on the bottom shelf of a side table with one bin for each room. I know a family who uses this same idea, but the bins live under a bench that was already a part of their decor.
Whatever specific form this idea takes, the concept is the same: When an item is picked up in the common living areas that doesn’t belong there, instead of losing track of your time and getting distracted by walking out of the room completely, simply place the item in the bin. This way, the item will get back to the room where it belongs and you don’t risk losing your focus, getting distracted, and feeling scattered. Another benefit is that it gets the item out of the way while still having your child take responsibility for putting it completely away!
Step 5 :: Write down your to-do list!
This is probably the most simple-sounding step of them all, but the reality is that writing down your to-do list works! When you write down all the things you need to do, all the things you need to accomplish, you brain is no longer distracted trying to remember all those tasks. This allows you to focus more fully on the task you’re currently doing.
Plus, when you write down all the things that are in your head to do, you can quite literally see what you want to do and it’s much easier to prioritize your tasks. This allows you to be more proactive about what you’re doing. It takes you from simply responding to any and every urgent task or situation that comes up to working towards those things, those tasks that carry the most importance. Don’t get me wrong, the urgent situations will still arise – particularly with little ones around – but it’ll be much easier to get back on track when the urgency has passed.
So, how do you do it? Is there a specific form or method that works better than another?
Writing down your to-do list can take many different forms. You can use a simple template that has check boxes next to lines to write. You can use a more strategic form that splits your tasks up into tiers of importance. You could use post-it notes. You could use a plain sheet of paper – the choice is fully up to you!
The best way to get started? Just write it all down! Grab a piece of paper and a pen and write down anything and everything that comes to you mind that you need to do or accomplish. Many times people call this a “brain dump” and the name is very fitting! The big idea is to take all those thoughts floating around in your head without anything to anchor them and “dump” them on a piece of paper where you can quite literally see and sort through your thoughts.
Once you have them on paper, don’t get intimidated!! Look through your list and find that single, most important thing that must be done today. Star it, highlight it, mark it somehow so you know it’s the most important thing to accomplish. Then, look over your list and pick your top 3 things. Just 3! I know, it’s very hard to pick just 3, but keep it simple. These 3 tasks then become your list for today.
Now comes the even harder part: Start working on those 3 things! And if you get all of them done, look through your list again and grab the next 3 things! The goal is not to overwhelm yourself, but to break down all those things you need to accomplish into small, doable segments so you can feel productive, focused, and truly accomplish what you’re aiming to do!
And there you have it, my Friend! 5 simple things you can start doing today to stop feeling so scattered. You want to know one of the best things about these steps? When you start doing them over and over, day in and day out, they become great habits that help you stay organized and on task not just for a day or a week or even a season, but over the course of your life. And the more you do them, the more natural the habit becomes and the less you have to even think about them.
- Finding Your Perfect To-Do List
- 5 Simple Solutions to be Less Forgetful and More Organized
- 20 Secrets to Be More Organized
- What Is Being Organized and Why Is It Important?
Elizabeth Tatham, founder of Inspiration in the Everyday, is a homeschooling momma of 5 who loves helping other homeschooling mommas create a unique homeschooling adventure your kids will love…without the overwhelm! Join in on the journey with 7 simple steps to make your homeschooling day go faster, easier, and with less tears here.