Have you ever wondered why some people’s lives are in perfect order, whereas others live in total chaos, unable to find even their left shoe let alone important documents?
It may come more naturally to some than others, but there are habits that those of us who are less efficient can adopt to help us up our organizational game.
Here are 10 things organized people, often without even realizing it.
1. They have routines.
But more importantly, they stick to them.
Routines may seem dull and creativity-crushing, but they create order and predictability and allow us to do things almost on autopilot.
When we don’t have to think about what we’re doing, it frees up space in our brains for other things, allowing us to handle our work and personal lives with greater efficiency.
Organized people keep well-defined schedules for their work and home life, for example, working through tasks or responsibilities in the same order, at broadly the same time each day.
That’s not to say organized people aren’t flexible. In fact, a really organized person will factor in contingency time to each activity so there is plenty of time to handle any unexpected issues that crop up.
2. They keep it tidy.
To the organized person, working opposite someone whose desk is cluttered with papers, used coffee mugs, bagel wrappers, sales slips, and a wide array of rarely used stationery is a form of torture.
Organized people keep it minimal and clutter-free, both at home and at work.
If there is stationery on their desk, you can guarantee it is necessary and used frequently. Sales slips are promptly recycled or filed away, and the only coffee cup on their desk will be the one they are currently sipping hot coffee from.
This means they can find things easily, and they don’t waste precious time tracking down missing documents or school sweaters.
This doesn’t stop at their physical surroundings, either. Their virtual world is generally tidy too. Emails are filed into sub-folders, and apps are grouped into categories.
When something needs locating, they are the ones to ask. Unlike Lynda, sitting at the desk opposite, who can’t even find her keyboard.
3. They put things back in their place.
And everything has a place.
This one is key to organized people keeping their desks and homes in order. If everything has a place, and everything is kept in its place, keeping things tidy is much easier.
Things aren’t tidied up haphazardly, they are returned to their designated location so that everyone knows where to find them.
At home, the kids’ toys are organized by category, winter and summer clothes are separated, and personal documents are filed according to type.
At work, everything on the desk is strategically positioned to maximize access and efficiency.
Organized people rarely leave the office without checking their desk is straightened up and ready for the next day.
As a result, they can quickly and easily locate things when needed and they don’t waste time running around like a headless chicken trying to find ballet shoes or swimming goggles two minutes before they’re needed.
4. They prioritize.
Organized people are skilled planners. They can easily identify the most important or time-sensitive tasks and work to achieve them first.
They don’t get sidetracked by trivial jobs (even if they are more appealing). At work, when their boss or a co-worker asks them to do something, they aren’t afraid to ask how urgent it is and prioritize it accordingly.
At home, they use prioritization to allocate their time in ways that align with their values.
For example, they set aside time for the things that make them happy and relaxed, be that family experiences, socializing with friends, reading, watching TV, relaxing in the bath (or dare I say it, for me, doing the housework).
When there are household or personal goals to meet, such as decorating, or studying for a qualification, organized people use their planning and prioritization skills to ensure their dreams are realized.
5. They manage their time (and other people’s).
With prioritization, planning, and keeping to routines, comes good time management.
Organized people realistically plan how long things will take, and crucially, stick to the timings. They know that things don’t always go to plan, so they factor in contingency time to deal with any unforeseen circumstances.
They set boundaries, and aren’t afraid to say no when they know something isn’t going to be feasible.
They don’t overpromise and underdeliver.
At home, they are often responsible for keeping everyone else on schedule too.
They pride themselves on arriving on time, which can be easier said than done if children are involved. So they allow double time to deal with dawdling, lost teddies, meltdowns, and umpteen toilet trips.
Because they manage their time and set clear boundaries, they tend to find a good work-home life balance.
That’s not to say they don’t find it hard, or that they don’t get stressed (and disclosure: they do get it wrong sometimes), but when they notice things are slipping out of whack, they take steps to re-align them.
6. They make lists.
You wouldn’t be alone in thinking that organization is a natural trait that you either have or don’t.
And this is true, to some extent. Some people find it easier, and for others, like those with ADHD or difficulties with executive function, it can be more challenging.
But not impossible.
Some of the most organized people I know have terrible memories, and struggle to keep track of the many comings and goings in their lives (me included).
So they use to-do lists, reminders, diaries, post-its, and calendars to make sure they don’t miss key events or responsibilities.
I’m not embarrassed to admit I have an alarm on my phone each weekday that reminds me to collect my daughter from school. Working from home I sometimes lose track of when the work day is ending, so I need to be prompted.
If you are a working parent, or you have people you are responsible for, the number of time-sensitive things you must remember each day is immense.
Organized people know there is no shame in using the tools available to them to make life run that little bit smoother.
7. They don’t procrastinate.
Organized people are doers.
Yes, they like making a clear plan, but they don’t spend days or weeks going over and over it or endlessly weighing up the pros and cons of an idea.
They make an informed decision, and then they go for it.
They can’t stand dawdling and to and fro-ing, and waiting around for other people drives them mad.
They spot problems at an early stage and take prompt action to deal with them before they escalate.
This avoidance of procrastination means they use their time wisely, and efficiently and as a result, they are usually highly productive individuals.
8. They are detail-focused.
Organized people tend to instinctively hone in on the finer details both at work and in their personal lives.
They pride themselves on this meticulous focus and hate making silly mistakes.
At work, they are known for their accurate and thorough work.
In their personal lives, they pay close attention to the small everyday things that make life important.
If their partner has a big presentation coming up, they remember to wish them good luck. If a co-worker talks about their son starting college, they remember to ask after him. If their friend has a new haircut, they notice and compliment them.
They spot small changes in people’s moods or behavior that others might miss.
This focus on detail gives them a reputation for being thoughtful and reliable in both their personal and professional pursuits.
9. They keep track of their finances.
When someone is organized, it usually extends to all areas of their life, and finances are no exception.
Whether it’s their own or their family’s, they keep regular track of the incomings and outgoings to make sure there are no nasty surprises.
They might use Internet banking or apps to keep track of their finances in real-time and have alerts set up to notify them of any issues.
Their use of lists and reminders means they don’t miss bills or payments through disorganization or forgetfulness.
And because they are proactive and focus on details, they spot errors or identify financial problems on the horizon and take action to deal with them.
10. They delegate.
They know that being organized sometimes means organizing other people to get the job done.
They aren’t embarrassed to ask for help, and they don’t bite off more than they can chew.
They know and accept when they’ve reached the limit of their expertise (or time), and they reach out to others who are better equipped to deal with the task.
They know their own strengths and weaknesses and they identify those of their family members and co-workers.
They use this knowledge to appropriately distribute tasks to ensure they are completed in the most efficient and accomplished way possible.
Not only does this alleviate their own workload and help them keep to time, but it also fosters an environment of trust, cooperation, and collaboration with those around them.
Organized people engage in many behaviors that contribute to their efficient and structured lifestyles, often without even realizing it.
Although they may come instinctively to some people, the rest of us can improve our organizational skills by adopting the strategies outlined in this article.
It may take time, but eventually, these behaviors can become ingrained habits, giving us a more structured, and often less stressful lifestyle as a result.