Since writing my book, Idealist Dreams: How I Learned to Plan as an INFP, I have changed in some ways as to how I keep things organized, which is normal. As life changes, so do how we plan.
Still, some concepts have stuck with me and continue to have a huge impact on how I organize my environment and my time.
Here are the simplest tips that have helped me the most:
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1. Keep it visible
For me "out of sight, out of mind" is real. If I can't see it, I have a hard time remembering where it is. So I do my best to keep things visible and visual. I keep notebooks and items I use daily on shelves and racks. I use carts to organize my art and craft supplies.
When I was planning on paper, leaving my planner open on a table and turned to the page I needed ensured that I used it every day.
If you struggle with organizing your environment, I recommend reading The Clutter Connection: How Your Personality Type Determines Why You Organize the Way You Do by Cassandra Aarssen. The personality quizzes in her book are very helpful when it comes to getting an idea of how your environment needs to be set up to feel organized.
If getting the book isn't an option right now, you can take the organization personality quiz on her website, and then check out the related Pinterest boards.
2. Reduce excess
As someone who relies on visual organization, removing excess things has made being organized so much easier. When you have a lot of stuff, it's easy for things to hide. I've come appreciate that if I have hidden things that I don't use and totally forget about, they're not a part of my life. I don't need them.
At the start of the COV-19 epidemic, I began reading Joy at Work, a new book from Marie Kondo and Scott Sonenshein. Even if you currently enjoy your job, don't have a job, or consider taking care of the house your job, I still recommend reading this book.
Going through the Konmarie method in my house was amazing, but using this book to tidy up my studio, my computer files, and tasks was even more amazing. Not only did I let go of art supplies that are not essential to the type of work I tend to do, but I also let go of to-do items that were neither urgent or important.
Another book I highly recommend reading is Goodbye Things by Fumio Sasaki. Honestly, for a while I avoided this book because it seemed like extreme minimalism. But when I finally read it, I enjoyed it so much that I read it twice. I was deeply inspired to remove the excess in my life.
Fortunately, I was working through Joy at Work while reading Goodbye Things, and I ended up simplifying my environment more than I ever have. I let go of who knows how many bags of trash. I let go of projects that I started years ago that no longer reflect who I am now. I donated box after box of items. I'm still working on donating and selling my excess things.
Although the concept of reducing excess is simple, it can take some work. However the rewards are so huge that it's totally worth it. When you reduce excess, you will shorten your to-do list and gain more time. It's easier to organize, clean, and take care of fewer things.
3. Value the essential
After removing the extra tasks and items from my life, I could focus on what I truly need. What do I really need to write, create my art, have coffee in the morning?
Part of being organized is being aware of priorities. What's important and essential? What isn't? When you don't know what your priorities are, it's easy to organize your environment and time in ways that don't serve you.
When it comes to tasks, I've benefited from asking, "Do I really NEED to do this? What do I hope to get out of doing this? Will doing this help others?"
When it comes to objects, I've found it helpful to ask myself, "What do I need for today? If I was going on a week-long vacation by airplane, what would I absolutely need? "
Do whatever you can to figure out what is essential for you. Then let go of the rest.
4. Make lists
Not long ago, I was reading Keep Going by Austin Kleon. I found myself daydreaming about how fantastic his notebook collection is, especially since his notebooks are full of lists. In fact in his book, he has quite a few nice examples of the types of lists he makes. Lists that make comparisons. Lists of thoughts. Lists of things not to do. It's really inspiring.
Lists are powerful.
When I don't have time to craft a journal entry, sometimes I simply start a list entitled, "My thoughts and feelings right now." Then bullet point by bullet point I note my feelings and thoughts. And lists don't just have to be words. They can contain or even be pictures and art.
When it comes to organizing your time, remember that planners are nothing more than fancy lists. They are lists of what you need to do to finish your projects. They are lists of what you need to do for the month, what you need to do for the week, and what you need to do today.
They are lists of what's important, urgent, not urgent or not important (but you probably should remove unimportant things from your list...)
If you're struggling with keeping track of tasks and your time, start with making lists in a notebook, and review those lists often. Cross out what you've finished or what's not important. See where that takes you.
5. Use a calendar for time-sensitive things
Tasks with due dates or that need to be done on a specific day must go to a calendar. Ideally it's a calendar that you check every day. Don't be ashamed to use a huge paper calendar if you need to.
All that matters is that it's visible and kept up to date.
6. Focus on today
As an INFP, I live with a future focus. I'm always looking at what could be.
As great as having this mindset is for creativity, at times it leads to overwhelm. Sometimes it feels like I need to do everything now, although, in reality, I can only do one thing at a time.
One thing I've found helpful is the layout of The Two Minute Mornings Journal by Neil Pasricha. By deciding on three things to focus on daily, I find that I am more in-tune with what needs to be done for the day. Future worries sidetrack me less often.
It's also helpful to take the time to ask, "What needs to be done for today?" without obsessing about tomorrow. After I take care of what needs to be done for today, I will think about tomorrow.
Besides, the tasks for tomorrow are never ending. However, tasks for today are limited to the now.
7. Simple & Flexible is Better
My husband and I have an ongoing joke. Whenever we are given a complicated way of dealing with something that should have a simpler solution, we're like, "Ain't nobody got time for that!"
In letting go of excess and focusing on essentials, I've found myself swapping out the complicated with the simple. Here are some of the swaps I've recently made:
- In cup coffee filter over a coffee maker.
- Plain text notes over special file formats (looking at you, Evernote & Onenote)
- Icedrive over Google Drive or Dropbox
- Calmly Writer & Left over Microsoft Word
- Draft2Digital over Smashwords
- Itch.io over Etsy or Gumroad
- Buy Me a Coffee over Patreon
And right now I'm in the process of switching my blog to a static site system. I could write another thousand words explaining the details of what that is, but basically I'm eventually moving this blog to a system that will make it simpler for me to format my posts, alter the design of my blog, and keep what I write backed up.
What in your life right now feels too complicated? What steps can you take to simplify that? Can you reduce that complicated thing to its essentials?
So these are my tips. I feel that the best ways to stay organized are to keep your life simple by letting go of excess things, tasks, social media accounts--whatever you don't need to live a satisfying life. Also by keeping things visual, using lists, and keeping your calendar up to date, you can manage your time and other stuff.
Do you have anything to add to these tips?