How To Be Organized in 2021 (Definitive Guide)
Welcome to this post about how to be organized!
I’ve always been a very organized person. My mom claims that I was organizing things around the house, like shoes or toys, when I was just 3 years old.
I know that we are going to have a wide variety of people reading this post. Some may be very organized and others may not be organized at all. If either is true, I think this post will be beneficial to you.
First off, just become organization doesn’t come natural to you doesn’t mean that you can’t pick up some tips and tricks to start becoming a more organized person. And if you already consider yourself an organized person, then I hope you’ll learn some advanced techniques or something that you didn’t already know.
I recently published a definitive guide on how to be more productive in 2021. You might want to check out that post as well as I believe organization and productivity go hand in hand. A lot of the topics talked about in that post will be reiterated here.
When it comes to organization, I believe there are 3 main areas that need to be organized: our physical space, our digital space, and our mental space. Those will be the 3 main topics we discuss in this post, so let’s get into it!
General Organization Method I Use
Before we get too deep, I want to mention the general organization method I use across all areas of my life. It’s a simple 3 step process that goes like this:
- Inbox – The inbox is where all of your stuff (physical, digital, mental) gets dumped. It is a temporary storage area that you use to house items before they get dealt with.
- Current – Items from the inbox then get moved somewhere where you keep items that you are currently working on. You’ll keep them out to remind you to work on them.
- Long Term – Once an item is taken care of, it moves to the permanent long term storage. Items mostly just sit here but can be referenced later if needed.
This might not make much sense just yet, but hang with me and I will show you how it applies to each of your physical, digital, and mental spaces.
How To Organize Your Physical Space
The first step I believe you should take to organize your physical space is to adopt a mindset of minimalism.
We have the tendency to accumulate more stuff than we would ever need. Minimalism is about being intentional about what stuff we keep in our lives and getting rid of the rest.
The trick is to go through each item and ask yourself if it provides value to your life. If it does, keep it. If it doesn’t, get rid of it.
I mention this first because it’s a lot easier to keep things organized when you have less stuff. So try to do some decluttering first and foremost before you move on to any other steps in this post.
Everything Has A Home
Now that you’ve decluttered, start finding homes for every item in your physical space. You need to find some place that’s out of the way, but also easy to remember where items are.
Once you establish homes for each item, return items there immediately after using them. Don’t wait until later, just put it away now. Things will quickly get out of control if you leave items where they don’t belong so try to be proactive the best you can.
Keeping that in mind, it’s a good idea to clean your physical space regularly. It takes a lot less effort to do frequent small cleanings than it does to do infrequent large cleanings.
I try to vacuum, dust, and take out the trash of my room once a week. As I result, I never feel like my room gets that dirty.
Physical To-Do Lists
No matter what your productivity system is, I believe that everyone can benefit from a physical to-do list. For starters, there’s something powerful about having a tangible to-do list in front on you. Also research suggests that we remember things better when we write them down.
So if you find yourself always forgetting what you have to do or not sure what to do next, try to implement physical to-do lists into your productivity system.
Following that same idea, a bullet journal is also a very good way to stay organized. I write goals, thoughts, to-do lists, etc. inside of my bullet journal. It’s a good way to see what you’re doing big-picture and to have everything in one place.
Read more about bullet journaling here.
Finally, I think it’s important to have a paper filing system to stay organized. You’re going to accumulate a lot of important documents including bank statements, tax returns, financial records, etc. that need to be held on to.
A well organized filing system allows you to access the documents you need quickly and easily.
How My General Organization Method Applies To My Physical Space
As I mentioned my general organization method at the start, I wanted to show you how that applies to my physical space:
- Inbox – I let paper documents and other things I need to take care of accumulate on my desk.
- Current – As I work on cleaning my desk off items either taken care of right away, moved to a folder of things I’m currently working on, moved to long-term storage, or thrown away.
- Long Term – In this case my long-term storage is my filing system which is where I put all of my papers I need to hang on to.
How To Organize Your Digital Space
As we transition to talking about our digital spaces, you must know that everything we just talked about still applies! You still should maintain a minimalist mindset, everything should have a home, you need to clean this space digitally, and you need to have a filing system that you follow.
First thing first, the most powerful organization tool that I use currently is Google Calendar. I use it to keep track of every area of my life including events, to-do lists, reminders, etc.
If you are unfamiliar, Google Calendar has a lot of great capabilities such as:
- Recurring events allow you to automate your calendar
- You can color code calendars and events which allow you to group, categorize, and prioritize your tasks
- You can drag events from one day to another allowing great flexibility
In addition to Google Calendar, I also use Google Drive (along with nearly every other Google product).
You’re going to need some sort of digital storage system, I think Google Drive is a great solution.
I use it for everything: personal, business, and school files are all on there. I break each life category into a folder and then break each down into sub-folders as well. Whenever I can’t find something in my folders, the search tool works wonderfully.
You can 15gb of storage on the free plan, and after using Google Drive for several years I have only used a fraction of that.
Some people store files in the “File Explorer” on their computer. I personally don’t like doing this for a few reasons.
- If a file is stored on my computer then I’m not able to access it if I am away from my computer.
- If my hard drive were to suddenly get corrupted or be destroyed, I would lose all of those files.
What I do instead is upload files to my Google Drive, and then download them back to my computer when I need them.
The only files I have in my file explorer are shortcuts to apps that I use on my computer.
Unsubscribing From Email Lists
In addition to organizing your files, you’ll probably also want to organize your email.
The first thing that I suggest is that you declutter your email just as your decluttered your physical space.
The best way to do this is to unsubscribe from email lists that don’t add value to your life. To do this:
- Navigate to the inbox, all mail, or trash section where you can see the 100 latest emails you have received.
- Go through them one by one asking yourself if they add value to your life and if you actually read them.
- If they don’t, scroll to the bottom and look for “Unsubscribe”. You should be unsubscribed from that list automatically, but you might have to follow a few more steps.
- Repeat this for each of your 100 latest emails. It shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes.
- Wait a few weeks, then do this again. You may need to do it 2-3 times to fully clean out your inbox.
Now that you have more emails coming in, it’s time to try to achieve “inbox zero“. If you haven’t heard of this, it’s the constant process of trying to keep your inbox empty, with 0 items in it.
While it sounds like a lot of work, it is very rewarding and beneficial. With nothing in your inbox, you can rest assured that everything is taken care of.
When an email comes in, one of the following should happen:
- Delete it
- Respond to it
- Save it for later
- Move it to a folder
This plays into that idea of a temporary inbox. Your inbox is an inbox, not a place to keep things permanently.
To give this a try, go through and move any important emails to another folder. Then, select everything that’s left and delete all of it. Don’t worry, you’ll have 30 days to recover anything if you need to.
Suddenly your inbox is empty, now it’s time to keep it that way.
Real quick I’ll also touch on labels. Labels are Gmail’s folders essentially. You can drag any emails into these labels and they will remain in that folder without being deleted.
So, when you have any important emails you need to keep, move them to a label instead of keeping them in your inbox.
Another one of my favorite organization tools are spreadsheets. I love tracking stats, to-do lists, and keeping other records on spreadsheets.
I like to make one master spreadsheet for each category of my life then make multiple tabs (pages) on each.
How My General Organization Method Applies To My Digital Space
Once again, here’s how my general organization method applies to my digital space:
- Inbox – My email acts as my inbox of my digital world. I either delete, respond, take care of, or move emails out of my inbox.
- Current – Sometimes I leave items in my inbox for a few days if they are something that I am currently working on.
- Long Term – I move emails into label folders if they are important emails that I need to keep.
How To Organize Your Mental Space
We’ve organized our physical and digital spaces, but we also need to take care of our mental spaces.
One idea that helps a lot is separating your thoughts, ideas, and tasks into different “life buckets”. Life buckets are essentially different category’s of your life.
Some of mine are personal, business, and school. Business breaks down into sub-buckets as I have a few different businesses that I work on.
I think it’s really helpful to utilize these life buckets across every area of your life. Color code and categorize your thoughts, to-do lists, email, files, etc. based on these life buckets.
It will help you get a better picture of where each item applies to your overall life.
A brain dump is the single most important aspect of mental clarity to me.
If you are unfamiliar, a brain dump is a place where you dump your thoughts out of your head by writing them down.
Once things are written down you can stop thinking about them and free up your mind for other ideas.
Once a week, I sort my brain dump into three categories:
- Action Items – These are items that need to be taken care of now or scheduled on my calendar for later.
- Thoughts – I move thoughts to a separate note where I can reference them later if I want to.
- Trash – Items that aren’t worth keeping are deleted.
How My General Organization Method Applies To My Mental Space
In my mental space, the brain dump is how I follow my genreal organization method:
- Inbox – Thoughts are written down into the brain dump then let go.
- Current – The brain dump items are then sorted into either action items, thoughts, or trash.
- Long Term – The action items either get taken care of or scheduled for later which in this case is the long-term storage of ideas.
I really only scratched the surface on a lot of these ideas. I recommend you do more research or read some of our other posts to learn more about what we talked about today. Anyways, I hope you enjoyed this post on how to be more organized in your physical, digital, and mental spaces. If you have any questions feel free to leave them in the comments below! Happy organizing!
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