No matter how old you are, where you live, or what you do for a living, September always carries that fresh, back-to-school feeling. And it’s not just the smell of falling leaves or sharpened pencils (or, um, shiny new iPads). It’s a time of new beginnings, second chances, and yes – the perfect time to finally get organized. But where to begin? Should you organize your home, your bedroom, your basement? Or maybe you should start with organizing your schedule and your time more efficiently. Then again, those unpaid bills or outstanding loans could probably use an organizational touch. Our money is on organizing those areas of your life that will make you feel the most organized, and therefore, happier and less stressed. While an alphabetized Blueray collection may bring inner peace to some, most people will get the biggest benefit when they get organized in terms of their finances, taxes, and personal and small business expenses.
When you first decide to get organized, the mental clutter surrounding your potential project will be enough to overwhelm even the most impassioned taskmaster. Instead of looking at the big picture, try and see the forest for the trees. You can’t do everything at once, and you have to start somewhere. If you have a pile of bank statements, receipts and invoices that need to be scanned, begin with the receipts first. Separating those into a single pile could very well count as your sole task for that day. You don’t need to spend hours and hours sweating over your laptop to get organized. Five minutes at a time is plenty, and you’ll be amazed at how quickly five consistent minutes per day adds up to some serious organization.
Another great way to get organized is to make it into a game. Whether you’re going it alone, working with a partner or loved one, or organizing your office, timing yourself and earning rewards is a great way to get motivated. Give a Starbucks gift card to the first employee to finish preparing and filling their envelope of scan-ables for Shoeboxed (this is a quick and easy task, so get ready for a flurry of activity!) If it’s you who needs to get organized, have a friend or significant other withhold your favorite treat (Ben and Jerry’s? A glass of Argentinian Malbec?) until you finish your five minutes. Hey, no cheating!
This biggest thing to keep in mind when it’s time to get organized is that all you ever have to do is one thing at a time. It may be helpful to make a list of each task you’d like to complete in order to feel organized. And isn’t feeling organized the whole point? For example, “Make a list of things to do” is, in itself, a perfectly legitimate task that will bring you one step closer to achieving your organizational goals. Setting small (even tiny) achievable goals for yourself boosts your confidence and makes you feel like you did what you set out to do. So instead of writing “Do my taxes” on your to-do list, start with “Email my CPA” or “Research online tax solutions.” If you’re really ready to get organized, don’t shoot for the stars. You’ll get where you’re going, one tree at a time.