“Be Organized” is the fourth of my Six Simple Rules. I am organized in countless ways and have long felt I’m a naturally organized person.

But it wasn’t always that way for me. My organized life is made up of a collection of small habits I’ve adopted over time.

What I recently came to realize is the key to my being organized is my inclination for efficiency—and being organized is a way for me to achieve near-term efficiency benefits.

Recognizing the possibilities of near-term benefits is important because it helps to make changes stick.

The first piece of making changes stick is desire—one has to want to make a change. The strength of that desire matters as well—if you greatly desire to make a change, it is pretty clear you will be more likely to do so.

Another element is how much impact the change will have on your life in the near term. For example, people have trouble giving up smoking because it’s an addiction, but also because they don’t see a near-term advantage to quitting—they don’t feel a great urgency to quit, so their desire to change is overwhelmed by the existing habit.

That’s why I’m starting to think an additional way to help yourself make changes you want to make is to identify, and keep top-of-mind, a list of the near-term benefits that will come from making the change.

Many of my habits are designed to save time in the near term. I am drawn to efficiency—to saving time—and the opposite usually feels like a waste of time to me.

For example:

  • When I work hard to find a way to do something, and it yields positive results, I make notes so I can do it the same way the next time the situation arises. (“Why reinvent the wheel?” I often say to myself and to others.)
  • I rarely misplace things, because I am good about “having a place for everything and keeping everything in its place”. (Keys, wallet, remote controls, etc.)
  • I rarely, if ever, forget to buy something when I go to the supermarket or a CVS because I make a list before I go. (I know shopping lists are not a new concept, but forgetting items is also a familiar concept to most of us, and lists help avoid that.)
  • When non-perishable items are on sale, I buy them in bulk, if at all possible. (As long as you have the storage space in your home, and the money to lay out for the larger quantities, doing this saves time and money.)

Another reason for many of my “Be Organized” habits is to prevent myself from creating unnecessary “projects”.

As with many types of work, in my office we are always juggling multiple priorities. Sometimes, urgent situations require us to “drop everything”. As a result, other work, such as required paperwork, then piles up. (I’m calling it paperwork, but it’s now computer work.)

When the paperwork piles up, it becomes a project to handle later—a project that is often dreaded, and sometimes put off so long trouble can result.

I urge people in our office to avoid, when at all possible, having the paperwork become a dreaded “project”.

Similarly, I have gotten into the habit of entering my expenses every day into the expense tracking app our company uses. It literally takes seconds to do this each day, as opposed to the “project” it becomes when one saves expenses to enter en masse each week or month—or even year, as I’ve seen some people do!

The same applies to activities at home, such as keeping up with laundry and dishes, and keeping the place tidy overall.

In the 1980s, when I first started working in an office, I wore a suit and tie every day. When I got home from work, I couldn’t wait to change into more comfortable clothing. My suit would end up on a chair in my bedroom, as would the suits each successive workday. On Saturday, I would hang all of them up.

I found the weekend suit-hanging “project” annoying and, at some point, I realized I preferred hanging up the suits each day.

What are some of your “be organized” habits?  Join the conversation with your comments…

Best regards,