It’s that time again. As the old year draws to a close, we look ahead to the new one. We examine our lives and identify opportunities for self-improvement. We make a list of resolutions which, for too many of us, will be forgotten or abandoned by Spring.
Among the most common resolutions (after losing weight, getting in better shape, and improving our health) are getting organized, and reducing stress. Just as we recognize the tremendous positive impact that better eating and regular exercise have on our physical health, we recognize that having order in our life greatly impacts our mental and emotional health which, in turn, affects our physical health as well.
Unfortunately, many people approach resolutions in a way which practically guarantees that they will fail. Simply writing “Lose weight”, “Eat healthier”, “Exercise more” or “Get organized” does nothing to ensure that will happen; without insight, goals, commitment, and at least some form of a plan, those extra pounds, inches – or stress and chaos – will remain a part of your life.
- Consider why you want to get your life in order. If you’re only doing it because your boss, spouse, roommate, guilty conscience, etc. says you need to, you will find it hard to succeed. Motivation for any change has to come from within, so find yours.
- Determine what areas of your life are in order, and which aren’t. Are you paying late fees on overdue bills? Are you constantly scrambling to meet deadlines at work? Is getting dinner on the table every night a challenge? Do you miss events or appointments? Do you dread opening your closet? Identify the things that always seem to be falling through the cracks, or taking longer than you would like.
- Understand what you are doing now that is working for you, and what isn’t. Don’t worry if you write your to-do list in a pocket notebook while everyone around you seems to be using a smartphone app; if the items on your list get done, then your system is working okay for you. Think about how you are approaching things right now, and where the breakdown seems to be happening.
- Prioritize. Don’t try to tackle everything all at once. Identify the biggest problem area, and address that first. Look at everything that you previously identified as not working, and ask yourself “How much does this bother me?” Don’t worry right now about whether it should or not.
Remember that you can do it; there’s no such thing as “naturally organized”. It comes easier to some than others, but everyone can improve from where they start.
Remember that you don’t have to (and can’t) do it all at once; small steps are still progress. Just like losing ten pounds provides measurable benefits – even if you need to lose 100 – getting one area of your life in order provides a calming, positive impact even if five other areas are still in chaos.
Remember that, if what you’ve done in the past didn’t work, it isn’t a failure; it just means that it wasn’t the right approach for you. Success is less about finding the “one right solution” than about working with your strengths, and being motivated.