Make it easy on yourself

Acquiring just a few good organisational habits will help your day go with a swing rather than a bang – because life doesn’t have to be so hard.

It’s a commonly held misconception that life is hard. That it’s a struggle, a war, and that, even in the comfort of relatively peaceful first-world countries, we still have to do daily battle – with a never-ending to-do list, demands from family, friend and bosses, the pressure to keep up with fashion, the news, the Joneses…

But I don’t buy all that. Sure, life has its challenges. They range from the everyday, like finding and keeping a job and maintain good relationships, to the exceptionally hard times when we encounter death, heartbreak, serious illness, depression… Luckily, these kinds of major problems are infrequent for most of us. What’s more, when the serious problems do come along, we have a tendency to rise to the challenge – we activate our support network, we shore ourselves up, and become acutely aware of the need to be kind to ourselves and stay strong.

Nice and easy does it every time

In my experience, it’s not the “big stuff” that floors people, but the accumulation of lots of “small stuff”. When people talk about what regularly exhausts them and causes them stress, more often that not it’s the regular hassles, the daily grind, a lack of time, the constant feeling of frazzled and overstretched. Yet, most of these sources of stress are self-induced. Household clutter is an issue for many people – yet what’s to stop them clearing it away? The pre-work rush gets lots of us off to a bad start but the quality of our morning routine is entirely in our own hands.

Acquiring a few simple and healthy organisational habits can make such a difference and help you live a more easeful life. After all, when you rush from place to place, lurching from crisis to crisis, are you running your life or is your life running you – into the ground? I get frazzled at times, just like everyone, but I do try to stick to a few great strategies for making life just a little easier and therefore more pleasant for myself and everyone around me.

If it will only take two minutes, do it straight away

You get home from work and change your clothes, remove your jewelry, etc. It takes almost as long to throw everything on your dressing table as it does to put them in the wash basket, hang them up and put your earrings into your jewelry box. The difference: a clear bedroom, your favourite gold hoops don’t eventually get lost, and, when you have friends for dinner that week, the pre-visit clearing up is reduced, which in turn means you don’t have to rush home from work, frantically stuffing piles of cloths under the bed and swearing as you step barefoot on the aforementioned lost earrings!

Leave more than enough time between meetings and appointments

You need to make a doctor’s appointment. The receptionist suggests 6pm on Tuesday. You’ve got a meeting until 5.30pm and you want to get to your tango class at 8pm. The doctor’s office and the dance school are about 45 minutes apart. Sounds doable, but before accepting the appointment, think about the possibilities for that day. Your meeting ends at 5.45pm instead of 5.30pm. You don’t even have time to tidy your desk before rushing out the door to the doctor. She’s running late and you don’t get to see her before 6.45pm. The doctor has a test she wants you to undergo, she calls the clinic to make the appointment while you’re there…the clock is ticking. You leave her at 7.15pm, run to the station, catch a train in the nick of time and arrive at your class just as the warm-up is beginning. You’re already hot and frazzled, you haven’t had time to change your shoes, and you go straight into the class without even having time to say hi to a few of the other regulars (which was the reason you joined in the first place – to make new friends). What part of all of that did you actually enjoy, let along savour? And, seriously – why on earth would you do that to yourself?

Pack your bag the night before

It takes three minutes to make sure your handbag is ready for the next day before turning in for the night (even better – do it as soon as you get home, before you sit down to relax). Run through your day in your mind and imagine what you’ll need as you leave the house, see a client, walk to the tube, call a taxi, stop by the shops. Keys, purse, phone (does it need charging? plug it in now!), train pass, lip balm, period is due – shove a couple of tampons in the side pocket, meeting first thing – do I have a few business cards in my wallet?, take that letter to post, grab a reusable shopping bag… It’s one thing you won’t have to do the next day before the coffee has truly kicked in and you’re firing on all cylinders.

Delete or file emails as you read and reply

My email inbox is basically my online to-do list. Everyday, I go through the new emails, read and file things that are just for information, delete the junk and am left with, say ten, that actually require action. I fire off responses to the ones I can (glorious quick wins) and then file them. The inbox is now halved. As long as an email remains in my inbox I know I haven’t finished dealing with it, and the fact that it’s not lost among 50 emails that I have dealt with means that I won’t forget to do so.

Let the phone go to voicemail

Ok. Minor rant now. Why, oh why, do people answer the phone only to say, “Sorry, I’m in a meeting / having lunch with a friend / in a museum. Can I call you back?” Firstly, it’s rude to the person they’re actually with. Secondly, it ruins their concentration and ability to be in the here and now. Thirdly, they almost always forget to call that person back because how often do you immediately write “Call Sandra back” on your to-do list?  What is so wrong with letting calls go to voicemail when it’s an inconvenient time to talk? The voicemail reminders ensure you won’t forget to return the call, and you’re etiquette karma is intact.

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