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Organization isn't something that comes naturally to everyone, although most of us possess the most basic organizational skills necessary to navigate out way through the world and through our lives. Most of us can at least pay some attention to the time and can track our own activities and keep up with our basic responsibilities. Many have no trouble doing so for others, too. My own job involves a lot of that: juggling projects, information, and the demands of a whole lot of people pretty much every day, and it's rarely the same thing twice. I've been at this for a couple of decades now, so I'm both used to it and occasionally exhausted by it...though experienced enough to not let that show too much.

We can generally keep track of and manage the stuff we need to get through the day, do our jobs, get to class, or perform those tasks that keep our domestic lives chugging along, too: cleaning, shopping, cooking, home repair and maintenance; as well as caring for pets, children, or others. We all have systems we swear by, tricks to make it easier, shortcuts we make to fit it all in...or, we don't, and suffer the consequences.

This is where that "naturally organized" thing comes into play. For every one of us who has an instinctive grasp of how to process a lot of demands and arrange our time and resources accordingly, there are plenty of others for whom this kind of thing is a struggle.

Sometimes it's a small struggle...for example, being that person who's perpetually five minutes late to things because you get distracted and lose track of time, or are too optimistic in your estimate of how long something's going to take (like finishing this diary, for example...did I say Thursday AM?). For most of us, that's at worst a sort of low-level stressor, rather than something that's going to have a massive impact on our lives (unless you work somewhere with strict time clock rules or are surrounded by hyper-organized folks who are easily annoyed by this kind of thing). Sure, you might pay a few late charges on past-the-deadline bills, or get stuck in traffic because you didn't pay attention to rush hour timing, or something equally annoying, but it's not the end of the world.  

Sometimes it's a situational struggle: the people who have it together at work or in their dealings with the public, but are surrounded by chaos on the homefront; the people who have it all worked out in their everything-in-its-place home but feel overwhelmed at work or at school; the people who can organize their own lives down to the minute but fall apart planning a simple dinner party or meeting agenda involving input from others; the people who are super-good at organizing the details of something they're passionate about (like a collection or hobby), but not so adept at remembering to pay the bills or get their car inspected before the sticker expires or finish their research papers on time.

And sometimes it's a major struggle. There are plenty of people who just don't have a knack for organizing their time, their priorities, or their stuff. Sometimes it's a matter of taking on too much, or having too many responsibilities thrust upon us. Sometimes the issue is organic (it's hard to stick to a task or plan or schedule when you're dealing with ADHD or depression or an addiction), or rooted in complex behaviors like procrastination, OCD or hoarding. When this is the case, things can easily get out of hand, escalating over time until it's overwhelming (and sometimes too much to tackle without help).

I exist somewhere in the middle of all this. Decently organized at work, with only the occasional missed deadline. Enough experience organizing people that I've even done political volunteering and union organizing, but often a few minutes late for something, or scrambling at the last minute to finish what I'm doing. A pack-rat, but not a full-blown hoarder. Still, I know I could do better, and am always taking a crack at making it better (or at least planning to).

Getting organized is a favorite New Year's resolution, an appealing idea for those looking for a fresh start. It's an idea so enticing that "Get Organized!" is a perennial tag line on magazine covers---just the mention of it sells magazines. Heck, there are entire magazines (and TV shows, and industries) devoted to the concept. I find it too daunting to start something new at that time of year; I always feel like I'm on overload after the one-two punch of a busy work cycle and lots of family obligations.

Instead, I try to chip away at it in real time. I have met with some success with this approach, but if I want to be honest with myself, it's not enough. I've come to the realization that I need to set aside a bigger block of time to shore up the basics (organizing finances, getting personal paperwork in order), work on getting my house in order (literally: I'm talking painting, home repair, decorating, and finally going through some of the boxes still sitting in my basement). Because let's face it: it's easier to maintain an organized life than it is to set one up in the first place, and if you don't do the latter, it's nearly impossible to do the former.

So I'm taking a week off to get organized (or at least make a start). Getting organized is a huge help in any kind of major undertaking, from electing good candidates to approaching behavioral change to making your own life run the way you want it to. It's amazing how much more you can do and how much easier your life is if you plan ahead, have systems to track things, have a plan in place if something falls apart or a crisis hits, and have places for your stuff that make sense. Reinventing the wheel and making do with work-arounds can be exhausting!

Although I'm planning a full-on assault on the lingering disorganization in my life next week, I'm also going to build in some fun things and relaxation---no faster path to resentment than coming back from a vacation more tired than you went in!---and I'm also going to take a bit of a break from online stuff. Not a total break, but stepping back a little bit from online obligations so I can focus on other stuff.

If anyone at GUS would be so kind as to cover for me next Wed, that would be great!




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Originally posted to Vacationland on Thu Jul 17, 2014 at 09:36 AM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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