For most people, organizing can seem like such a daunting and momentous job. Before you’ve even started, your mind has convinced you of how difficult it will be and how long it will take you to complete. If organization doesn’t come naturally to you, it can feel like a painstakingly tedious task to approach. Soon, your mind runs wild turning this little molehill into a giant mountain of impossibility and you feel even less inclined to start. Procrastination sets in. Time goes by. And still, you avoid tackling your (now urgent) organizing tasks.
Recommended Reading: Why it is so Hard to Get Organized
I’m here to tell you that this doesn’t need to be your reality. Because I want to share a secret that every Professional Organizer knows. A confession if you will.
Break projects up into smaller, more manageable organizing tasks that you can do in under an hour for organizational success.
You’re avoiding organizing because you think you have to do everything all at once. That’s a sure way to psych yourself out. But when you break it up into smaller tasks, it becomes easier to actually begin. Plus, most people greatly overestimate how long it takes to do small tasks. Don’t believe me? Time yourself next time you do a task and see for yourself.
Tackling easy mini organizing tasks will help you get started now and because you’ll overestimate how long it takes, you’ll have time to spare for another mini task. Do a few of these at a time and soon you’ll have scaled that organization mountain that had you feeling stuck.
Recommended Reading: How to Get Organized and Stay That Way
Organizing Tasks That Will Save You an Hour
I know first-hand that there are tons of organizing tasks that take less than an hour to complete. That’s a relatively short amount of time, which is much less daunting than trying to do all your organizing tasks in one go.
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This post will guide you through a number of organizing tasks that can be completed in 5, 10, 15, 30, or 45 minutes. These are general organizing tasks that most of us need to do either daily or regularly but you can definitely adapt it to suit your goals. My suggestion is to return to this article whenever you have some free time. Anything under an hour will work. Scan the organizing tasks listed here and compare it with the most urgent tasks on your to-do list. Select the task that works with the time you have available and get started. These easy mini organizing tasks are sure to take you no time at all.
Recommended Reading: The Amazing Power of the To-Do List
What You Can Do in 5 Minutes
If you’re really feeling stuck with getting organized, then the 5-minute tasks are where you’ll want to begin. Although you can always access this article, these tasks are likely to vary greatly based on your personal lifestyle. So, you may want to customize it to suit the quick tasks that you need to do.
For that, I highly recommend creating an “Under 5 Minutes” folder. Figure out what tasks you need to do daily, weekly, or monthly that take 5 minutes or less. Then, make a list of those tasks’ “to do” items that aren’t a big priority and will take less than 5 minutes to complete. This will help you be productive during those liminal or in-between moments when you have a limited amount of time free. Having lunch in a few minutes? Waiting for a meeting to start? Select an organizing task from your “Under 5 Minutes” folder and quickly complete it. You’ll get to tick something off your list and feel like you’ve accomplished something.
Here are some other organizing tasks you can complete in 5 minutes or less:
- Read your emails and send quick replies (some emails may need more attention and it will take longer to reply to these).
- Review your calendar for the week or write your to-do list for the next day.
- Create a guest list for an upcoming conference call or meeting.
What You Can Do in 10 Minutes
We all have at least 10 minutes free at some time during the day. So, use it wisely. You’d be surprised at how much you can get done in 10 minutes or less. This is the time when you should tackle those inconvenient little tasks that you know you need to do but have been putting off. Trust me, you’ll feel better once you’ve done them and 10 minutes really isn’t that long.
Here are some of those “must-do but don’t want to” tasks that you can complete in 10 minutes or less:
- Sort through the digital files and photographs on your computer or phone and organize these into folders based on category or date. Delete unwanted documents, photographs, or videos.
- Write an important email, read a newsletter, or skim through a report and mark the parts that need more attention.
- Go through your refrigerator or pantry and toss anything that is spoiled or past its “to use by” date.
What You Can Do in 15 Minutes
15 minutes is a decent chunk of time which means you can do more in-depth organizing tasks. It’s still short enough not to feel intimidated by taking on the task but you can get quite a bit done. Everyone has 15 minutes to spare every now and then so instead of scrolling social media, tackle an organizing task that will leave your home looking great.
Here are a few simple tasks that you can easily complete in 15 minutes or less:
- Clear the flat surface clutter in a specific room and store the items in their correct place to make the room look more organized.
- Clean out a junk drawer or your medicine cabinet by throwing out anything that is finished or has expired and reorganizing the rest of the items.
- Get rid of old makeup and other toiletries that don’t serve a purpose any longer.
Recommended Reading: How to Organize Your Home the Easy Way
What You Can Do in 30 Minutes
Reserve larger and more complex tasks for when you have 30 minutes spare. Although these tasks may feel harder to get started with, they are significant enough to make you feel like you’ve really achieved something. I bet by the time you’re done, you’ll be smiling as you’ve got something big out of the way. If you need extra motivation to get going, use a kitchen timer or the timer on your phone. Set it for 30 minutes and when the bell goes off, STOP.
Here are some bigger organizing tasks to fit in next time you have 30 minutes free:
- Clear out and organize an area of your closet. Sort through your sweaters or shoes. Place gently used items that you no longer want in a box or shopping bag to give away. If it’s beyond repair, toss, or turn into a rag. (White items make ideal rags and dusters for handbags.)
- Sort through your everyday handbag by tossing out any trash, filing receipts in your wallet, and placing your everyday essentials into a bag organizer with dedicated sections for specific items.
- Organize your kitchen by matching the lids and containers of your food storage containers, and reorganizing your spice rack or utensils.
Recommended Reading: The Best Ideas for Organizing Your Closet
What You Can Do in 45 Minutes
These are the tasks you take on when you have at least an hour free. This gives you some extra time to complete a difficult task if it ends up taking more than 45 minutes. Make sure you start these when you have the energy and motivation to follow through and complete them.
Here are some complex tasks to take on when you are available for 45 minutes to an hour:
- Set up a filing system. For most people, a system that combines color coding with alphabetized file names (Anderson to Zipp) or subject groups (all finance files together, all client files, etc.) works the best. These methods are easy to use and it’s easy to identify the contents.
- Organize your papers. Start in one corner and begin working your way through the piles, evaluating each piece of paper, and what to do with it. Make one of the following three choices:
- Toss unwanted mail, memos, and papers that should have been responded to but are now too old and place them directly into the recycling bin. File papers that need to be kept. They should go directly into the proper file. Respond with a simple note on the bottom of a letter, memo, or craft an email.
Time Management Tasks
Getting organized is all about good time management. Luckily, most essential time management tasks can also be done in under an hour.
Here are 28 time management tasks that will help you stay organized:
- Take care of your top priorities while you are still fresh.
- Preserve time for priority work by blocking visitors and phone calls for short periods of time.
- Schedule times when you can go through your mail and e-mail.
- Separate your mail into “priority” and “routine.” Then, to do, to call, to pay, to file.
- Use a highlighter when reading letters, so you can mark those parts requiring action.
- Throw out as much as possible.
- Don’t text when an email will suffice. You may think texting is faster but they can turn into multiple texts before you know it. Often, there is still miss-communication and you have to start over.
- With phone calls—get to the point quickly. Make a list of questions and keep them handy. Encourage others to do so, too, by saying “How can I help you?”
- Make minor decisions quickly.
- Crisis? Figure out a long-term solution.
- Eliminate unprofitable activities.
- Purchase and learn to use time-saving equipment such as the various features of your cell phone, your laptop, your handheld, apps, and different computer programs such as Trello or Asana.
- Always confirm appointments; don’t assume the other person will remember.
- Don’t store magazines. Tear out or photocopy relevant articles, file, and discard the magazine. Better yet, go digital and read your favorite magazines online.
- Don’t read passively. Search for ideas. Use a highlighter. Make marginal notes.
- Use colored flags to mark important items as you read.
- Put into binders, newsletters, or bulletins, you might want to look at again.
- Always carry a small pad for recording notes. Or use your phone to record voice notes.
- When you take a business card from someone, note on the back what it was you were supposed to do or what you need to remember about the person.
- Download audio magazines and books or podcasts onto your phone and listen to them on the treadmill or on the train.
- Does someone want your help with something? Your involvement should be based on your goals, not your availability.
- Don’t use your desk as a giant inbox.
- De-junk. Eliminate desk clutter. Shift what you don’t need at your fingertips to an off-desk location, and even some of the tools—stapler, letter opener, etc.—may fit neatly in a drawer.
- Eliminate excess paper whenever you can.
- Start a file for any new project.
- Don’t save what you aren’t willing to spend time filing.
- Use your calendar (electronic or otherwise) to overcome the “if I put it away, I’ll forget about it” worries. Choose a date when you want to be reminded of something. Write the reminder on the calendar and put the paper away. Or create a tickler file to store paper, such as reports for a doctor’s visit, that you’ll need at a future date.
- Use sticky notes as reminders and place them right on your desk, computer, bulletin board, phone or jot down on a large dry erase board by your work area.
Do This, Not That
When someone asks if you have a minute to help them, listen to their request or question and respond as follows:
- Evaluate whether you really are the one they need for this.
- How much time it will take you.
- Could someone else possibly handle it instead?
- Do you have something else that you’re supposed to be doing that is more important?
Once you’ve answered these questions, you’ll know whether to say “yes” or “no.”
It’s important that you learn to say “no” to people and projects that don’t respect your time. If you don’t set boundaries to guard your time, who will?
So, tell me… which organizing tasks are you going to tackle first?
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