What being organized looks like varies from person to person.

Although a clean work area is often seen as necessary for productivity, some people do their best thinking and creativity when surrounded by chaos. There is actually research to support this theory–a messy desk can lead to new and innovative ideas.

Your organization might have a great fantasy, but it can be difficult to make that dream into reality when you’re carrying other responsibilities and trying to get through the post-holiday funk.

One of the best ways to accomplish a daunting task like getting organized is to break it down into smaller, more manageable steps. Are you looking to improve your morning routine, get started on that long to-do list, or just organize your desk? Well then, let’s get started.

1. The Commitment

Making time for big projects is tough, but if you want to see them through, you’re going to give it you’re all. You need to set aside time for this project just like you would block off time for a doctor’s appointment, hair appointment, or dinner plans. Also, writing out a detailed plan of what you want to achieve during your allocated time can help keep you focused.

To avoid distractions and stay committed to your goal, find an open slot in your calendar and don’t make any other plans. Also, it might be helpful to involve a friend or roommate in your journey by sharing your goals–this way, you’ll have someone to keep you accountable.

2. The Purge

Start by decluttering your bedroom. Empty out all of your drawers, dump out your ‘miscellaneous’ bin and grab that stack of papers from underneath the chair. This will give you a better idea of what kind of storage system you need. To efficiently organize all the tasks you need to do, make a list of each and every single one of them – however small or insignificant. It doesn’t matter what it is, if it needs to be done put it on the list. This master list can be stored in a notebook, whiteboard, or even just a dedicated Google doc.

3. The Trimming of the Fat

This step is commonly referred to as “ruthlessly prioritizing.” Do you need that magazine from 1994? Most likely not. Haven’t you worn that shirt in three years? Time to say goodbye. If an item on your to-do list is no longer a priority for you, it’s time to let it go. While this may be the most challenging part of getting organized for some people, others find it empowering because it allows them to focus on their priorities.

4. The System

When you make something a daily habit, you’re more likely to stick with it, even when it’s inconvenient or makes you feel uncomfortable. Establishing an organization system will help you automate, and eventually, it will feel unusual to stray from your routine. Being organized will become your new reality.

If you need help staying organized and keeping on top of your deadlines, try using a task management app like Things or Wunderlist. You can schedule tasks in advance and set reminders to keep yourself on track. Muji and The Container Store are excellent destinations for storage solutions that will help you organize your desk and living spaces.

5. The Maintenance

After you declutter and organize your space, it can be discouraging when everything falls back into place. You may have had a particularly busy month that threw everything off balance again. This can be prevented by setting up reminders to help you remember when you are first creating your system. Making time for the organization could be utilizing Google calendar alerts, setting aside 15 minutes every day to tidy your desk, or a half hour each week specifically for managing your schedule and tasks.

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