A Guest Blog by Marcus Clarke BSc, MSc
We’ve all felt that mountaintop experience of being inspired. Whether it was a motivational speaker, a stimulating book, or a conversation with an encouraging friend or counselor, we all sometimes feel that wholesome drive to change ourselves and improve our lives.
But even with an entire library of self-help books, motivation can only take you so far. Even the best ideas will not make a difference if they are not matched with practical, concrete strategies. And these strategies, first and foremost, start with getting organized.
Here are 5 reasons why self-improvement can never come about without self-organization:
1. Having a Plan Keeps You from Wasting Energy
Abraham Lincoln once said, “If I had eight hours to chop down a tree, I would spend six of them sharpening my axe.” Knowing that we have a lot to accomplish in a short amount of time can feel very overwhelming, and taking time to stop, think, and create a plan can feel like a waste of time.
But in fact, formulating a plan is the most important stage in accomplishing a task or implementing a life change. Without following a specific plan, it can feel like trying to cut down a tree with a dull axe — you try and try but nothing happens.
2. Without Organization and Time Management, Things Drop
People who are very busy will sometimes say that “they have a lot of balls in the air.” This analogy is particularly apt, as even the best jugglers will always drop a ball once in a while.
Making sure that you don’t let something important drop requires two things. First, it requires that you devote adequate time to each of the things you have to do, whether it’s work, health, sleep, family, friends, or anything in between.
Importantly, though, without organization, it’s impossible to know which things require your time. Taking notes, keeping a schedule, and sticking to it will keep you from that nagging feeling that you are forgetting something, and help you accomplish your goals in a timely fashion.
3. Multitasking is a Myth
Many disorganized people maintain that they thrive on chaos; that multi-tasking is their forte and that they would actually be less efficient if they slowed down or focused on one thing at a time.
Sadly, this idea of multitasking is simply a myth. Psychology researchers have discovered that when doing multiple things at the same time – such as watching television, talking on the phone, and doing work on a computer – you are not actually multi-tasking but rather task-switching. These rapid switches from task to task require mental resources and lead to decreased efficiency, increased errors, and lapses in concentration.
When your mind and schedule are organized and your immediate surroundings are free of distraction, you are able to focus on one task at a time and devote all of your energy and cognitive resources to it. This not only leads to better work but a greater sense of accomplishment.
4. It’s Impossible to Track Progress Without Organization
The human mind is notoriously bad at tracking incremental progress. Financial investments and compound interest is a great example of this: Very few of us can intuitively grasp how very small amounts of money can grow to large sums through consistent investment and continual compounding.
In the same way, when implementing a change, without regularly noting progress and keeping track of your notes, it’s impossible to look back later and observe the cumulative effect of the change. Keeping a sustained level of organization over time gives the mind the rich encouragement that comes from seeing yourself make progress.
5. Keeping Yourself Organized Makes You Feel Better
Albert Einstein once remarked that a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind. And remember that Einstein lived in a time before computers — a cluttered desktop can be just as frustrating!
There is a salutary pleasure that accompanies keeping oneself organized. When your living space, your workspace, your calendar, your daily planner, your notes, your papers, and everything in between is neatly organized and well in hand, a feeling of calm, cool determination will inevitably emerge. Try for yourself and see how staying organized can make you feel more clear-headed, can help you sleep better, can make you less distracted, and can cause a positive spiral of mental and physical health benefits.
In order to change and grow, two things are required: to have positive thoughts, and to have positive actions. Without organization, even the best thoughts and ideas will never get translated into action.
Using the above tips, you can keep yourself organized and start yourself on a path towards self-improvement. You’d be surprised how even the smallest change can make a big difference in how you feel, how you think, and how you act.
Marcus Clark regularly blogs at psysci.co a psychology, science, and health blog that examines the latest research and explains how findings can impact and help individuals’ everyday lives.