As the school year finally winds down, everything starts to seem a little… chaotic. Figuring out housing for next year, deciding upon next fall’s schedule, and so on are minor crises to tackle, but seem even worse when you're also trying to pack and ship away your entire dorm and ace your final exams - all in just a few days. With all the confusion, it’s easy to find yourself neglecting important tasks, forgetting where you put things, and basically finding yourself lost in all the pandemonium.
However, hope is not lost! While organizing your room and your academic work are important, true organization must begin and end in one place: your mind. Here are some tips on how to better organize your mind and improve your work habits to help keep you sane:
1. Write it down.
I’ll be the first to admit it: I’m hyper organized about everything in my life. I can't function unless there is some semblance of order set in place. Consequently, my life is a dizzying flurry of to-do lists, color coded charts and tables, and sticky notes. I’m often asked why I bother since my exceptional memory makes it appear as though such organizational attempts are redundant.
What people often do not realize is that sharp memories don’t necessarily become that way on their own. Unless you have an eidetic memory, an ability to remember small details and due dates is one that is partially acquired. For example, I have always found that physically writing down due dates helps me to remember deadlines better than anything else. Having everything written down in one place is not only convenient, but it can also help you remember this information better in the long run.
2. Remove any physical clutter.
Yet another not-so stellar admission: I’m a bit of a neat freak. Well, I’m a neat freak when it comes to my space, specifically.
I don’t know what it is about full trash cans, shoes not properly stacked on the shoe rack, or books on the floor that seizes my attention when I’m trying to concentrate or get things done, but these messes just end up driving me crazy until I finally cave in and fix them.
By that same token, next time you are feeling mentally overwhelmed, take a minute to look around your actual environment. I don’t know how I feel about feng shui, but I do know that having a cluttered environment makes it all the more difficult to get any work done. So either remove yourself from a messy apartment or just clean it up when you are trying to figure out what to do next. It might not end up doing much, but at least it’s one less chore to do later.
3. Stay focused.
Stay focused on what you want to get done, that is. When you have a mile-long to-do list, it’s easy to stray and work on a low-priority task instead of tackling the thing that's most important. It’s on the list, right? So what if it’s a reading due for Friday when you should be writing a response due tomorrow, which is Wednesday?
Clearly, you see where the solution lies here: Do things in order and then stick to that order. Being focused will help clear away any mental disorganization you may have, since trying to juggle multiple tasks at once when you don’t necessarily need to is unnecessarily stressful. By checking tasks off one by one, in order of importance, you’ll be better able to do a good job with each task and actually finish everything.
4. If it gets to be too much, decompress and take a step back.
Relax! I know I must say this in every article I write, but really, just take a breather for a moment. Stress does nothing to help you get organized - it just makes everything more hectic and difficult to handle. I’ve said it before so I’ll just say it again: things will seem different if you walk away, collect your thoughts, and then come backagain. You will see the world through different, healthier, and probably more productive eyes.
5. Accept your limitations.
Let’s face it: You can do all these things and work diligently with clear focus and still not get everything done. You may forget an appointment. You may not finish an assignment. You may not ace that test. All your organizational skills and excellent work habits will not change one basic fact: You’re only human.
Yes, you may be overwhelmed and rightly so. But remember, there are some things that are just out of your hands. Being shouldered with a ten-minute presentation, a fifteen-page paper, over one hundred pages of reading, and an extra shift at work in one day is a really unfortunate hand to be dealt, but you’ll get through it the best you can. Or maybe you’ll just get through it. In any case, life will go on, you will continue to prosper, and this moment of sheer panic will be a mere blink of an eye in just a few short years.
What do you think?
How do you de-clutter your mind? Are you a generally organized person? What are your organizational tips? What advice would you give to your more disorganized friends? How do you handle overwhelming situations that require juggling multiple things? Let me know in the comments!