You Don’t Have to Be a Neat-Freak to Stay Organized

This is the third post in a series on How To Get Organized. Don’t forget to check out the first and second one, too.

Getting organized is easy. Staying that way is what’s difficult for most people. But it doesn’t have to be.

I want to show you that staying organized is not as complicated as you think. Even naturally disorganized people can learn how to stay organized. I’m living proof of this. Just ask my wife.

The Inbox is the key

Out of the five tools we looked at in the last post, the inbox is the key.

This is because it is the hub. It is the transition point where “stuff” becomes actions, appointments, or resources.

Think of your inbox like an airport, only all the planes that fly in don’t know their final destination. They land at the airport, figure out where to go, and then take off toward the place they belong.

All the stuff that floats our way – mail, forms to fill out and sign, ideas, newsletters – will crowd the airspace of our mind and office. This slows down our efficiency until we corral it into our inbox, and then tell it where to go.

How the five organizational tools work together

The five tools I mentioned last time don’t function in isolation. They form three tiers for organization. As much as I hate belaboring metaphors, I’ll continue the airport illustration.

1. Your ubiquitous capture tool is the black box. It continually records the latest stuff going on in your mind that might be important later.

2. Your inbox is the airport, where everything lands.

(Now here’s where the simplicity shines)

3. Your projects list, calendar, files, and trash are the only four destinations for the “planes” (your disorganized stuff) when they leave the “airport” (your inbox). As you go through your inbox, you will find actions to do, places to be, or information you’ll need later. If it’s none of the above, why keep it around? Pitch it.

Many airports, still just four destinations

The complicating factor in this organizational flow is that we have multiple inboxes. Keeping up with them can be overwhelming.

Email. Voicemail. Facebook. Twitter. Feed readers. Text messages.

These are all additional inboxes. In fact, anything that contains disorganized stuff is an “inbox.” When my family moved, the moving truck was an inbox. Right now my car is an inbox.

The beauty is that every inbox shares the same four potential destinations. Did this blog post have things you want to apply? Projects list. Do you want to accept that Facebook invite? Calendar. Is that email important for an upcoming project? Files. Does that newsletter contain useless information? Trash.

You are the air traffic controller

I hope you now see that staying organized is not about being a neat freak. It’s about having a simple system.

Your job is merely to keep your stuff moving. Direct it into your inboxes, and then out to the places where you can put the stuff to use.

Don’t miss the rest of this series on How To Get Organized: