I’m often asked what my secret is to being organized and how I get my clients to become more organized. I used to rattle things off like: “purge and clear your space, establish routines, containerize, use labels, stop buying things, make lists” and on and on. While all those things are true and certainly do help in the organizing process, the single most important component to becoming organized is commitment. I mean, ask any successful business owner, athlete, student, parent or married couple the key to their success and they’ll say: “a lot of hard work and commitment.” The same goes with getting and staying organized.
A lot of folks who are faced with organizing challenges usually will continue along in life in their disorganized ways…living in a cluttered home, working in a disorganized office space, or mismanaging their time. They may try to become more organized by cleaning up their space or trying a new way of doing something, but in general they will continue on in their ways until they reach some sort of breaking point. A point where their disorganization is having a serious and negative impact on thier life…the threat of losing their home, not being able to sleep in their own bed because it’s cluttered, losing a job because they’re chronically late to meetings or severing a relationship because their loved ones are tired of the mess. It’s when we lose control that we finally decide to take action…I know this from experience.
You see, I reached a breaking point both in my fitness and in my finances. At one point in my life I was about $25,000 in credit card debt and I was also about 40 pounds heavier than I am now. I frivolously spent my money until my electricity and phone bills were shut off. There I was, a successful officer in the Air Force in my mid-to late twenties with both undergrad and graduate degrees, responsible for over 50 personnel and million dollar budgets, yet I couldn’t manage my own finances. And my weight…well, I never took it seriously until I got to the point where I couldn’t stand to look at myself in the mirror and got so depressed that I had lost all motivation to do anything. But then something clicked. I hit my breaking point. I had nowhere to go but up. I knew a quick fix would only make the problems worse so I had to commit myself to my finances and my weight. So, in two years I paid off all that debt and to this day I don’t charge anything unless I know I can pay it off in full the next month. And believe me when I tell you that there is nothing like having excellent credit and a little bit of financial freedom! I also shed that 40 pounds over the course of a year and have kept it off for 10 years now…and have absolutely no intentions of gaining it back!
Commitment is what it takes to achieving your goals. Whether you want to organize your time or your space you’ve got to decide to commit…and actually take steps to achieving your goals. It’s like New Year’s resolutions…they’re simply false promises to yourself until you resolve to commit to them. You’ve got to set aside time to study, learn, or actually take action every day in order to accomplish your goals. With my fitness, I dedicated 5 days a week to working out. With my finances, I took action by cutting spending wherever I could and then increasing my payments to my creditors. Sure it was tough at first but then I got in a groove. And guess what? I got addicted! Saving money and staying fit became a lifestyle. You can do the same with getting organized. Start small by spending 10 minutes in the morning picking up before you leave the house. Establish a nightly routine so you can be prepared in the morning. Create a dinner plan and start a grocery list so you don’t waste time or money shopping. Create a schedule to get your chores around the house done. Create a family calendar to keep track of the entire family’s schedules. Set up an action plan to manage your daily papers. Or organize one small space at a time…a junk drawer, a bathroom closet, your kid’s dresser or the pantry. Soon you’ll get in the habit of doing these things without thinking.
So what’s my point? If you truly want to be great at anything you’ve got to commit to it. You can’t look for the quick fix or the band-aid solution to your probems and challenges. That will only make things worse and discourage you. Commit, commit, commit! And if you have trouble holding yourself accountable, ask a friend or loved one for advice and help. And if that’s not enough…reach out for professional help. That’s what folks like me are here for! Take charge of our life and your goals…only you can make a change.