I almost broke my neck this morning. I woke up to the lovely sounds of birds during mating season, amplified through a powerful phone speaker. Morning-me is a lazy piece of shit and doesn’t have his snoozing behavior under control. Evening-me knows that and puts the phone out of reach so I have to get up.
I slowly pulled my arm out from under my sleeping girlfriend’s head with the precision of a heart surgeon, then set out to silence the birds advertising their sexual finesse. I didn’t get far, though.
On my second step, I tripped over my girlfriend’s slippers and fell head-first into my cabinet. She didn’t even witness her attempted murder but was sleeping like an angel, quietly drooling on the pillow, her cute snore mocking my misery. I thought about throwing her out the window, but the mountain of paperwork associated with first-degree murder made me change my mind.
Then, I sighed. Just a few years ago, these would’ve been my slippers.
I used to be extremely disorganized. Appointments? Late. Meetings? Unprepared. Important documents? Sure, right under the stack of receipts, coffee cups, and yesterday’s lunch.
Since then, I’ve made a 180° degree turn — and realized something profound:
Being disorganized is sh*t, being organized is “the sh*t.”
Imagine for a second what your life would look like. No more stress being late, panic over a lost document, or apologies because you forgot a meeting (again). Instead, you’ll be organized, productive, and have a lot more fun.
However, most people disregard a core element of being organized. They spring clean, write fancy to-do lists, and get Marie Kondo tattooed on their forehead. But after a few weeks, everything’s back to chaos.
Organizing isn’t hard. Staying organized is.
Any system, your life included, is subject to entropy — an always-increasing measurement of disorder. Like cream spreads in coffee, the thoughts, things, and people you hold dear spread throughout your space. Meetings fill your calendar, Amazon orders your cabinet, and thoughts your cerebrum.
That’s why organization isn’t a one-time thing. It all comes back tomorrow. To keep the chaos at bay, you’ll have to cultivate small, sustainable habits.
What You Can Learn from Beaver Dams
Their dams are sophisticated structures, put together from trees, branches, leaves, stones, and mud.
Building these takes great organization. If they just threw everything into the stream and hoped for the best, they couldn’t even clog a bathtub.
Instead, they start with a couple of big trees and build everything around them.
Like beavers, organized people have a solid base they build their days on. They find their unshakable ground in routines and rituals, whether it’s a glass of water and five minutes of stretching in the morning, a short walk at lunchtime, or a bit of reading at night.
Establish a small, achievable routine and stick to it like clockwork. It will become a solid and reliable structure to build your days on.
The Ultimate Weapon for Lazy People
MMA fights are brutal — and so is the training.
Contestants harden their shins by rubbing hardwood over them, again and again. It’s painful, but it’s still better than having their leg snap in half like a twig during a fight.
Preparation is a key element to being organized. Accumulate resources now and draw on them when shit hits the fan.
As Benjamin Franklin said:
An Ounce Of Prevention Is Worth A Pound Of Cure.
You don’t have to rub a broomstick over your shins every night in case a brawl breaks out at the office, but a few small tricks go a long way.
- Prepare food in advance. Cooking takes almost the same time no matter if you make one, two, or five portions. Most foods are easy to freeze and reheat and having emergency provisions for a long day can be a lifesaver.
- Check your notes before a meeting. It takes five minutes but makes you seem like you spent hours on it. Small effort, huge gain.
- A perfect morning starts in the evening. Prepare cereal, clothes, and car keys. What takes five minutes in the evening takes about half an hour in the morning, especially if you’re already late. Trust me, it’s science.
Preparation is the ultimate weapon for lazy people in the fight against chaos. It not only saves you time, effort, and stress, but also puts you on top of your shit.
If You Fail To Plan, You’re Planning To Fail.
2 Simple Rules for an Efficient To-Do List
Call me a weirdo, but I like trains. They get you from A to B, they’re reliable and more eco-friendly than cars, and in every country but Germany, they’re on time. I’m waiting for a delayed train in a cold and dreary station as I write this.
Trains are great because they run a specific schedule. You know you’ll arrive at your destination. There’s no risk of taking the wrong highway exit and ending up in Albania instead of Alberta.
But if you want to quickly cover a lot of ground, you can’t stop at every small village or wait for delayed passengers.
Organized people are like trains — their to-do list is their schedule and nothing gets them off track.
However, most people do to-do lists wrong. They write random tasks on a note and tick them off one by one. They get things done, but they don’t make progress.
Here are two quick tips to turn your to-do list into an efficient operating schedule.
- Set Most Important Tasks (MITs) for the day Your day might start well, but at one point, the fuckery begins. An unexpected meeting, a coworker needing help, or tripping over your girlfriend’s slippers and breaking your foot. Even if everything goes smoothly, you’ve often exhausted most of your cognitive resources by lunchtime. Decide which three tasks move your needle the most and make your day a successful one. These are your MITs — start on them first thing in the morning and don’t touch anything else until you’re done.
- Batch the small stuff Jumping from task to task kills not only your productivity but also gets you off track, making you less organized. The solution? Do all the small things in one go instead of having them disrupt your flow multiple times a day. Watering plants, bringing out the trash, and answering emails can all be done quickly. Batch them together so you’re less prone to distractions.
Use Electronic Help
Today, smartphones can take a ton of liability and cognitive stress off your brain.
I use alarms for all my recurring tasks. I’ve got one to turn off my internet at night, another one for my weekly review session, and a few to check in with my accountability partners. Don’t stress your brain trying to not forget. Just wait for the ring ring.
However, the biggest electronic game changer I’ve encountered is Evernote. To say it’s a note-taking app would be an extreme understatement. From archiving documents and photos over automatically sending meeting notes as emails to tracking your habits, there are very few things Evernote can’t do. They’ve even got a bunch of templates to use free of charge, whether for meetings, project management, or creative writing. Today, I use it as my go-to note-taking and organization tool and it has saved me a ton of headaches and frantic searches for lost notes.
Outsource as much of your brainpower as you can.
Your Environment Can Make or Break You
People say eyes are the windows to the soul, but I disagree. If you want to know someone’s inner workings, have a look at their room — and if you can, their browser history.
There are two types of people in this world — the ones who put things right away and the ones who let them sit until the pile is too big to be ignored. But this is a two-way street.
Your environment has a huge impact on you and your behavior.
It’s hard to stick to your diet if there are stacks of cookies everywhere and if you’re surrounded by tottery towers of dirty dishes and massive mountains of long-forgotten laundry, your head will start spinning just from looking at them.
But putting thing away before it piles up is easier said than done.
For years, my room looked like a Ninja Warrior training ground, and breaking this habit was no easy feat. But there’s a little trick that has helped me keep my surroundings in order.
Every night, I do a five-minute cleaning session, so every morning I wake up to a clean and organized room instead of facing yesterday’s mess.
We Are What We See. We Are Products Of Our Surroundings.
Your Most Important 10%
I’m too much of a time-optimist. I often assume something will take half an hour when in reality, it takes twice as long.
Things don’t always go as planned, which can turn your days into a stress-fueled game of catching up and always being late. Luckily, there’s a simple solution.
When I set up my work structure for the new year, I included one hour of buffer time every day. This means even if a task takes longer than anticipated, I’m still not running late, which has been a huge contributor to my peace of mind.
Always schedule 10% of extra time, whether you write a report, do the dishes, or have a date.
Best case you’ll have some free time to prepare yourself or relax, worst case you’ll be on time. Both will make you much more organized.
Being organized and having your surroundings in order is awesome. Less stress, panic, and apologies. More time, control over your days, and confidence in yourself.
However, getting organized isn’t a one-time thing. Instead, you have to build small, sustainable habits.
- Use routines and rituals as cornerstones for your days
- Prepare in advance
- Use a smart to-do-list
- Make technology work for you
- Clean up right away
- Use buffer times
Choose what you need most, do it for a month, and see how much better you feel.
For Every Minute Spent In Organizing, An Hour Is Earned.