Organization at home and at work
May 8, 2008 10:52 AM   Subscribe

Please help me with oganization of daily tasks at home and at work.

I am an adult who has been diagnosed with a learning disability that affects organization. Because of my age at diagnosis, and the fact that I'm out of school, I seem to be on my own as far as figuring out how to best manage with this.

I usually get everything that I need to do done, but it seems that I put in a lot more effort than might be necessary. Just the ordinary tasks of daily life often feel overwhelming. My life is full of daily frustrations and annoyances about not working at peak efficiency because of stupid things like forgetting my wallet at home, not being able to find papers I need, taking messy notes and having to rewrite them, having bought multiples of things because I didn't realize I already had them, etc. I also straighten up my apartment on a daily basis, but there are always clothes everywhere and a sink full of dishes (how does this happen???)

I often find myself doing double or triple duty in order to keep on top of work projects, for example.

I'm wondering if there are any general (or specific) principles I can apply to simplifying my life and work routine? I'd be happy to provide more info if necessary. What about you super-organized folks? How do you manage things? Thanks!
posted by mintchip to Grab Bag (8 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: P.S. I'm looking for a job right now so that's another example of something that it would be a good idea to approach in an organized and focused manner.
posted by mintchip at 10:54 AM on May 8, 2008

I think a lot of people find themselves in this situation, not just you, though I don't know the extent of your learning disability.

Some people like a method called "Getting Things Done" (GTD) which consists of writing out every project you have, grouping it by where you'll do it (e.g. work, home, errand, etc.), and writing out the very next step for each project. As you complete a step, you write down the next one. Another good GTD tool is a tickler file where you place items you need to in folders. Each folder represents a day of the month. Refer to the day of the month to see what items (e.g. Concert tickets) you have to address that day.

For myself, if I have an early meeting or need to remind myself to do things I'll write it out on a post it note and stick it somewhere I can't miss it. Same with my wallet, keys, etc. I keep those right by my door. For chores, I briefly tried a chore calendar where certain cleaning chores are done on certain days. You can find an example at the website Keep It Simple (?) or just google cleaning calendar. My house is still a mess, so I should probably try again.

Keep in mind that lots of folks have messy places and forget things. Don't beat yourself up. The people I know that have spotless, perfectly organized homes spend more time on it than you think. I am specifically thinking of my parents, who pretty much organized / cleaned 24/7, though I didn't realize it until I thought about it.
posted by xammerboy at 11:00 AM on May 8, 2008

The National Study Group on Chronic Disorganization has some pdfs that might be helpful.
posted by zamboni at 11:20 AM on May 8, 2008

I really like Google Calendar for organization. I can plug in my work schedule, assignment due dates, and so forth; I then get an email every morning with my agenda for the day. Leave that up or print it out and it's a good list to check things off of. It also integrates well with Remember the Milk if you so choose.

Another Google calendar trick is to set up reminders on days before assignments are due. So, make an event for the due date of the assignment and then make an event two days before, four days before, etc. just saying "Work on this assignment!". Just that little memory jog can be helpful.

A final thing you can do is make the calendars public (or viewable by a select few). The added accountability of knowing someone else is seeing your to-dos for any given day may make you more conscious of them.
posted by justnathan at 11:27 AM on May 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

Actually, having a sink full of dishes can be pretty efficient; it's just unsightly. For me, it's most streamlined if I wash dishes in the morning (while waiting for the coffee to be ready), because then the sink is already empty come dinner-time when it most needs to be available for cooking stuff. After dinner, I just add water and soap and leave them soaking, ready to wash up in the morning. Doing dishes once a day is about as efficient as you can get without a dishwasher.

Similarly with clothes -- I have a spot in my closet where I toss things that I have worn but are clean enough to wear again (e.g. pajamas, a cardigan). Dirty things go on the floor of the closet. I only fold and hang clothes as part of doing laundry; otherwise it seems like a waste of time. The main thing is to keep them separated (clean vs. worn-but-clean vs. dirty) and, ideally, behind a door.

I have a really basic list system for keeping all the tasks organized. It's 6"x9" little spiral notebooks, left folded open to one page. Notebook A lists all tasks. Notebook B is for today's tasks. Notebook C is for notes and details.
• Every morning, I read the list in Notebook A and write the tasks I'm going to do today in Notebook B, crossing them out in Notebook A as I transfer them.
• Notebook B therefore starts with a clean page every day of fresh tasks. Cross off the tasks in Notebook B as you do them.
• Anything left undone/uncrossed from Notebook B at the end of the day gets written back in Notebook A for reconsideration the next day.
• If you think of a new task, or someone calls and leaves a message, decide if it's a "today task" (write it in Notebook B) or a "not today task" (write it in Notebook A).
• Notebook C is just for notes and details, like if I research prices or flight times and need to write down the info in order to make a decision later. I never throw anything away from Notebook C, just file it on a shelf when it's full, in case I need those details later.
posted by xo at 11:46 AM on May 8, 2008 [3 favorites]

In short, the principle is: have a place for things.

Clothes: clean, worn-but-clean, or dirty.
Dishes: clean, or dirty.
Mail: in the mailbox, in the trash/recycling, or in the bills-to-pay pile.
Bills: in the bills-to-pay pile, or paid and filed.
Paperwork: active and on the desk, or done and filed.

If you're organizationally-challenged, I think it's most important to have a bag that you carry with you. It contains: keys, wallet, cellphone, pen, notebooks, sunglasses, things you are bringing to and from work (+/- video games, magazines, ipod, headache medicine...). It is, simply, with you at all times. Just bring it. Bring it everywhere until, like a seatbelt, you feel naked without it. If you are walking anywhere, this bag should be on your body. If you are sitting, it should be on the table next to you or at your feet. Bring it to smoke, bring it to the bathroom. If this guy had his bag with him, he could have called someone to get him out of that elevator. He could have written poetry while he waited.
posted by xo at 12:15 PM on May 8, 2008

posted by b33j at 2:02 PM on May 8, 2008

The tip that's helped me most is to put things back where they belong after I've finished using them. It was a hard habit to develop (and I'm still in the process) but it relieves my mind of a lot of stress.
posted by davcoo at 5:49 PM on May 8, 2008

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