I don’t know how it always seems to happen so quickly, but here we are welcoming in yet another new year. I often ponder how life must really zip by quickly for people who are disorganized, since they are often running late, in a frenzy looking for misplaced things, or in a panic because they forgot to pay a bill or do some other important task. My wish for you this year is that you experience the peacefulness and joy that comes from being organized and in control. Here are five simple tips that will help you in this endeavor.

1. Look ahead. Choose a day each week (I’ve chosen Sunday) to look at the upcoming two weeks to see if there’s anything you should be doing now to be prepared for future appointments, commitments, events or projects. Although you may feel you can barely keep up with what you need to be doing now, investing time to plan ahead will go a long way towards making life easier. For example, if you’ll be attending a wedding in a couple of weeks, wouldn’t it be nice to have your clothing ready to go, the gift purchased and sent, and the babysitter reserved well in advance? Eliminate the last-minute panic you might normally associate with such events by taking a quick scan of what is coming up so you can prepare in advance. Note on your calendar what you need to do and when you’ll do it so you can leave all the last-minute anxiety to the bride and groom.

2. Clean up every day. Clutter has a way of draining our energy and attracting more clutter. Eliminate this possibility by spending time at the end of the day cleaning up from the day’s activities. For example, clean off your desk – put away loose papers and supplies so when you start the next workday, you’ll be able to focus on the most important task at that moment, rather than be overwhelmed by the work you left out from yesterday. Clean up the day’s dishes – waking up to a pile of yesterday’s dirty dishes can zap your energy and tempt you to just keep adding to the pile. Put your clothes away – hang up the clothes you wore that day (I hang lightly-worn clothes that I’ll wear again on a hanger and put that hanger backwards on the closet rod), or put them in the dirty clothes hamper – why not create a serene environment rather than a chaotic one piled with dirty clothes? You get the idea – create and maintain a clutter-free space to clear your mind and prevent you from having to start your day with yesterday’s work.

3. Process your mail efficiently. Whether you deal with it every day or once a week, do something purposeful with each piece of mail you handle, rather than just putting it “here for now.” Toss the junk, shred sensitive information you don’t need, and decide what to do with what’s left. If you can’t act on what’s left right away, create a place where these items can “live” until you are able to process them. Be sure to carve out time to take the necessary action – use your planner to schedule time for phone calls, errands, filling out forms, etc.

4. Set up a filing system for your papers. Only save papers you need for tax or legal reasons, are certain you’ll refer to in the future and can’t get anywhere else, or would like to save for sentimental reasons. Create a filing system you can trust – ask yourself, “Where will I look for this item when I need it?” rather than “where should I put this?” Use whatever storage system works for you – a file cabinet, binders, scanned onto your computer, plastic bags, etc. As long as it works for you, it’s a good system. Make it easy to find what you’re looking for by creating a simple index of the categories you’ve used for your filing system – a quick scan of the index will let you zero in on where to find what you’re looking for. File regularly - set aside time once a week or so to keep things manageable. Play some energizing music to keep you on task.

5. Learn to say “no.” While it’s admirable to be of service to others and give the gifts of your time and talent, putting others’ needs before your own can deplete your energy and make you less able to give of yourself. It’s analogous to assisting someone else with their oxygen mask before putting on your own when flying. Take control of your life instead of letting others control it by identifying what’s important to you and living your life around those things. If you agree to take on obligations you resent or for which you don’t have time, you’re not going to be of help to anyone, and you’ll take away room for the things that enrich your life.

Author's Bio: 

Internationally known professional organizer, author, and speaker Sue Becker is the founder and owner of From Piles to Smiles®. She enjoys helping people from around the world live better lives by creating customized systems to overcome their overwhelming paperwork, clutter, and schedules. She specializes in helping people who are chronically disorganized - those for whom disorganization has been a lifelong struggle that negatively impacts every aspect of their life, especially people with AD/HD. Her hands-on help, as well as her presentations, have helped thousands of individuals create substantial change in their lives.

Sue is Illinois’ first Certified Professional Organizer in Chronic Disorganization. She co-authored the book Conversations on Success, and has appeared as an organizational expert on NBC News and the national TV show, Starting Over. A CPA, Sue has an MBA from Northwestern University’s Kellogg Graduate School of Management.