There are thousands of books, courses and consultants who promise to help you organize your stuff and be more productive. However, organizing things is not enough. You need to get rid of the clutter in your mind as well.
Here are some tips to help you clear the gunk out of your mind, be more focused and get more done.
Write it down. The more things you try to remember, the harder it becomes to remember any of them. And you may always have the nagging feeling that you are forgetting something—even if you are not. Set up a system where you write down anything that needs to be done: appointments, errands, phone calls, projects, etc. It could be a paper notebook, a file on your computer, or text messages to yourself. Use whatever works best for you, but write it all down.
Have a routine. Routines allow you to get things done without spending a lot of time thinking about what to do or in what order. If you know that every morning you get up, work out, shower, have breakfast, then check your email, you will just do it without having to agonize over it. The same thing goes for your workday. Have a routine for the things you must do every day, then follow the routine.
Set priorities. Know what is most important in your life right now, and deal with that. The rest of it can wait.
Do not attempt to multitask. You may think you can, but you can’t. Your brain can do one thing at a time, and trying to shift from one thing to another ends up taking more time than if you just did one thing at a time. Focus on what is in front of you now, do it, then move on to the next thing.
Learn to say no. You can not do everything everyone wants you to do. There are only 24 hours in the day, and you need at least a few of them for things such as eating and sleeping. This does not mean that you should never help anyone, or that you should always say no, but that you should not take on more than you can do. Too often we say yes because we do not want to be seen as selfish or uncaring. It is not selfish to say no to requests when you are already overloaded. Just say no.
Do not worry about things you can not control. Take any action you can to avoid an undesirable outcome, or to minimize the effects, then put it out of your mind. It may rain on the day of your child’s birthday party. Make a Plan B in case that happens, then forget about it. You may not get that new client. Do your best proposal, follow up appropriately, then let things take their course. Losing sleep and making yourself crazy will not make anything come out better.
Put things in logical places. Keep your briefcase, keys and other items you often carry with you in one place, together. When there is something else you need to take (e.g., a package to drop off at the post office) put it with your keys. You won’t have to hunt for what you need and you won’t forget anything.
Take time to recharge. Just like your cell phone, you lose power when you do not recharge now and then. Make time during the day to meditate, listen to music, read, have a cup of tea or whatever relaxes you. A few minutes spent recharging can make you more effective all day.