What’s the degree of organization we need to possess in order to achieve goals? Or is it all in organization?! What if the secret is in creating and applying structure to your time and activities, without having to keep EVERYTHING under control?!
As a “recovering perfectionist” (yep, I do believe we must ditch this quality for lifelong success and happiness), I am changing the way I used to view organizational skills, or at least rearrange the areas of my life that truly need them. Professionally, when using organizing tools like Outlook calendar and email sorting rules or OneNote, it helps me get organized without agonizing about it – these tools, among many others, are simple plug-ins, that do most work for you. Same goes for Excel and Word templates, desktop sticky notes and smart phone tools.
In my personal life, I am as spontaneous as could be – I like to just get up and go, make and change my mind at the last moment, surprise my family with last minute trip or activity. My closet resembles a casting studio, my kitchen wouldn’t mind some tidying up and my garage is a treasure chest of lost and found objects. But it works – for me! What could be more important?!
The area I used to struggle with and the one I’m constantly working on improving (no perfection here – just working on making it better) is unstructured time. These are time slots of no planned activity, transitions between activities, and waiting hours. Like when you come home from work and till dinnertime, or after putting kids to sleep, that hour-and-a-half wait before going out with your family/partner/friends. These are the times I often turn to food without necessarily being hungry. And non-hunger eating has its consequences – not only it easily becomes a go-to habit, it usually leads to eating more than we need, causing discomfort, guilt, self-loathing and weight gain.
What should we do with unstructured time? Structure it – create a handy list of “plug-in” go-to activities to use during those times. It’s like using flash cards – once you practice them several times, they automatically appear in your head as your solutions during those problematic moments.
Below is my list, and you can come up with your own, based on your preferences, capabilities and accessibility:
- Reading – I love reading, I carry my Kindle with me almost all the time, and when I don’t – I have Kindle app on my phone, so I just go there.
- Writing – I use Notes app on my phone to jot down ideas, plans, to-dos, shopping lists, topics for my blog articles.
- Mindfulness practice – either meditation, or just practicing awareness and breathing, if closing your eyes and meditating is not available to you. Practicing mindfulness was found to reduce stress, anxiety, compulsive behavior and depressive thoughts.
- Physical movement – gentle stretching, short or long walks (depending on where you are), going up and down the stairs in your building.
- Make a list of things you’d like to do this week/month/year:
- Home-improvement and decorating ideas
- Books you’d like to read
- Places you’d like to visit – and specific things to do there
- Plan your upcoming vacation
- Fitness activities you’d like to do (pilates, boxing, running, etc.)
- Cooking ideas
- Things and activities you’d like to learn and plans for doing them – scuba-diving, gardening, web-design, make-up skills, children’s book writing, recipe developing, scrap-booking, photography, blogging, learning Microsoft Office, baking, yoga, making You-Tube videos, color-coordinating your closet, foreign language classes, guitar lesions – let your imagination take the spotlight!
- Call someone – a friend, mom, sister, old coworker.
- Social media – that’s an easy one, though try not to just reserve to it – takes away from many productive things you could do during those times.
- Get cooking – perfect time to prepare that casserole you’ve been wanting to make.
- Do an at home (if you are at home) Facial Mask – those take anywhere between 10-30 min, some require you to stay still, and the benefits are literally on your face! You can even combine face mask+meditation for a total mind-body experience.
- Organize your closet – no need for any elaboration here 🙂
- Create your personal budget – balance your check book or use a spread sheet template to calculate your expenses and figure out ways to keep them low.