Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Organization for the Unorganized

This month we have all been talking about organization and while there are a lot of excellent tips on how to get organized, the simple fact of the matter is that not everyone can do it. I am one of those people and while I can appreciate the beauty of a well-organized room, it is not something that I can, in turn, create.

To be completely honest, I enjoy being unorganized.

Yes, organization is grand. I know, I've tried it but there is something thrilling about the opposite. You know the shiver of dread that courses down your spine as you look for those car keys. You're late for your meeting but instead of finding your keys on that dusty old key rack, you are searching frantically through the house. There is an adrenaline boost, the inner dialogue that if you just find those keys in time, you swear you'll be more organized.

It can be quite addictive and I can only blame this excitement on long forgotten instincts passed down from my hunter/gatherer ancestors. I mean, what else could explain the loud shout of victory as I unearth the keys hidden in the vast jungle of my living room and parade them through the house; a hunter after a successful hunt.

But I digress, this post is not about me but is about how to become organized while still being unorganized at heart.

The first thing to do is to accept that you are unorganized. Go ahead, say it, you will only feel better after you do. I mean, there are things in life that aren't organized and sometimes that's okay. My socks are not going to be upset because I shoved them into the drawer with my t-shirts and if they are, they aren't going to say anything to me about it.

Once you have admitted it, think about what areas of your life can be organized and what can get away without being organized. I find that I can organize my kids' schedule like a drill sergeant, however, when it comes to my office...let's say it's far from organized.

But that's okay because you can learn to live with it and you can learn to cheat. That's right, I used the word. Being unorganized is all about cheating to make it look like you're organized and here are a few things that you can do.

One: Color code your notes

This may seem organized but if you saw my color coding system, you would probably run for the hills. Generally, when I am working on something, such as research, I keep several different colored pens handy. I find that my thoughts come out in any order and as I am jotting one idea down, another idea will pop in my head. Instead of flipping to a new page, I simply pick up a new pen and jot it down before returning to my work. All I have to do is remember that red is for character A, blue for character B, gold for plot lines, pink for subplots and so on. It is a form of organization but it doesn't look organized.

Two: Purge the system

Without organization, comes clutter. It is the nature of the beast and most unorganized people will simply shuffle that clutter into a drawer and then ignore it. Before you get too embarrassed, remember this is fine. The key to cheating on clutter is to purge it every few months. Spend a day or two shuffling things into folders, throwing out things that aren't needed, and then tidying up your work area. It may seem easier to do it as you work so you are organized but if I file something away now, I won't be able to find it when I need it, honest.

Three: Make a note

List keeping seems to be great for being organized but they don't always work. I hate lists and the best way to keep me from doing things is to give me a list. I tend to ignore the list and think, "Well, it's on the list so it will get done," without actually doing it. To cheat on list building, you simply make one or two notes of important things that need to be done. So, for instance, I may have a note stuck to my computer screen right now that says, "Sirena, make sure you write about being organized for Black Rose."

Four: Goal set

I have never set a goal to be more organized, because, let's face it, I won't reach it. However, even the unorganized can set goals but it should be done in much smaller increments. Sure you will have that big goal, "I want to publish x amount of books in x amount of years," to strive for but you generally have small steps that don't have any rhyme or reason. Instead, they are daily goals like, "Today, I am going to edit one chapter of MS," which will get you closer to realizing the "BIG" goal but in as unorganized a manner as you can muster. It also lets you cheat at goal setting because you are being organized without realizing it.

Five: Find a little order in the chaos

The last tip that I have is to find just a little bit of order. The way that I do this is with my computer. Each project I am doing has its own file folder. In the file folder there are other folders such as contract, NDA, finished work, work for editing, works in progress. It can look a bit messy but it does give you some direction in the chaos. In addition, your schedule can be ordered simply by using other people's schedule. I know I have x amount of hours while the kids are at school to do certain tasks. I also know that during those hours I will need to take the dog out x amount of times. They have a routine and a schedule and I can parody a schedule of my own simply to accommodate them. Because I am working on their schedule, I start planning those few hours in my head while I am taxing the kids or making lunches. When I get back, I am organized enough to sit down at the desk and get working.

And there are a few tips on how to be organized when you aren't.



  1. Sirena,

    These are some very good tips. I like the color coding. I think I might try that one.


  2. Thanks Tricia. I love using different color pens and I often get comments on how pretty my notes are. ;o)


  3. LOL, you made my OCD twitch but great advice. It is funny I am so completely organized in all things in my life except my computer. I always mean to copy and store those files and emails into the right folder...but it always seems something comes up and I get sidetracked. Maybe it is because it looks all neatly stored when I close my laptop cover!