No More BUTS: Streamline Your Life
I used to joke with my friends that I had my own organizational system; it was just so complex that no one else could understand it. In my office you'd usually find dozens of notes written on paper scraps, and my day planner was crammed with meeting times, shopping lists and phone numbers -- all in no apparent order. I used to take great pride in this disarray. After all, as Albert Einstein said, "If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?"
But while my friends simply rolled their eyes at my clutter, they were less forgiving when my mental and environmental messes affected them. I missed plans, forgot birthdays, made multiple dates for the same night and was always running late. My scatterbrained filing and chaotic "organizing" were no longer novelties -- they were liabilities. I would agree to new projects at work without realizing that my plate was already full. I would forget to return important forms, such as the ones for renewing my insurance policy. I would have to make several trips to the store to get the ingredients for one simple dinner. In my mind I was living a freer life than my schedule-following, order-abiding friends, but I was really just making simple tasks hard.
The turning point came the morning of a big work presentation. I was already late when I ran out to the car, only to realize I'd locked my keys inside the house. I looked for my spare house key, then realized I'd never returned it to the hiding spot after the last time I'd locked myself out. In the end, I had to call a friend who lived nearby and ask her to take me to the office, which would have been OK if it had been the first time I'd asked for this favor. (It wasn't.)
Clearly, if I wanted to keep my friends -- and my job -- I needed to add some real organization to my life. I started looking for ways to streamline my schedule, organize reminders and prioritize my to-do list. As I changed my habits and tried new apps, I found that frantic moments and forgotten tasks were appearing less and less often. Nowadays my desk is still often buried in papers, but I never miss meetings and have even started to have fun keeping track of things.
Are you resisting the need to streamline your life, whether you're simply overscheduled or completely unorganized? No matter what type of overhaul you're looking for, there's a way to make life easier.
But... I don't think being scattered is a problem. Awareness is key. "When you begin to see the consequence of what you're doing -- disappointing friends, frustrating coworkers or creating undue stress for yourself -- you'll realize that change is necessary, and that you're the only one who can make it," says John Shukwit, MA, LPC, life management therapist at Canyon Ranch Resorts.
But... I like being busy. Right, but are you busy with things that are important to you, or with obligations you later regret agreeing to because they take longer than they should? "Ask yourself, 'What's really important to me?'" suggests Shukwit. "'Is it necessary to do this?' If it's not, use time-management to build in what's important and drop what isn't."
But... I don't like keeping a schedule. According to Shukwit, creating a daily schedule is important because it ensures you'll stay on top of what you truly need to do -- little tasks as well as meetings, dinners and so forth. But don't just track the have-tos: Schedule in fun and fulfilling activities as well, such as yoga class, movies or time to read a book.
But... I don't know how to start. "Set aside some time for stillness, reflection and self-awareness throughout the day," says Shukwit. "As you become aware of what you're able to do and want to do -- and what you do out of habit or obligation -- pay attention to what happens in your mind and body." Chances are you'll feel better once you're committing to fewer unimportant events.
But... I want to find an easier way to keep track of my schedule and to-do list. Pencil and paper works, so long as you keep your calendar with you at all times. But to store ideas, notes and more so that they're accessible anywhere, anytime, use evernote, suggests Seth Porges, a technology expert. "This service syncs notes -- both written and audio -- across devices so you can jot a note on your phone and look at it on your computer," he says.
But... my schedule is already pretty organized. There are lots of ways to streamline your life that have nothing to do with your work schedule. For example, what about those mornings when you can't figure out what to wear? Make things easier with Cloth, an app created by Porges, which allows you to categorize and organize your favorite outfits -- shoes, apparel, accessories and all -- by occasion, weather and more.
But... what about streamlining my home? "It's cheaper and easier than ever to automate your home," says Porges. The Philips hue is an LED lighting system controlled by smartphone which can adjust brightness and color throughout your space. Sonos allows you to stream any song in the world from any number of music-sourcing sites (or your own music collection). And the Nest thermostat saves you time and money by adjusting to how you live: You control the temperature of your home by smartphone, and the device recognizes and responds to your habits, cooling down and warming up automatically based on your past preferences. All of these apps buy you a little more time each day to spend on other tasks.
But... I don't want to add a bunch of new technology to my life. "Some streamlining apps actually enable you to get rid of some of your tech tools," says Porges. For example, there are ones that allow you to ditch all of the remote controls scattered around your living room and instead access everything from your smartphone. Some to consider include dijit, irule and Zmart.
But... what about streamlining errands? "Most people know they can automate their bills," says Porges. "But a lot of banks also let you scan or photograph checks and deposit them without ever having to visit the bank itself."
But... I simply have too much to do. Sometimes if you're really overwhelmed or busy it's helpful to delegate. Taskrabbit lets you hire people to do pretty much anything in the world you might desire -- from waiting in line for your new iPhone to setting up your IKEA furniture. Says Porges, "When you're overscheduled, outsource it."