How to Organize Your Day

Do you ever rush out of the house in the morning, five minutes late, only to realize you left something important behind? Do you find yourself scrambling to complete an endless list of tasks at work before leaving the office for the day? You know these transitional times can be the most disorganized of the day. However, they don’t need to be. With a few simple routines, you can keep your mornings and evenings–not to mention the times between–more organized, less stressful, and more efficient.

Decide What Needs to be Done First

Take out a piece of paper and pen. Make three columns on this paper. Title each column: personal life, job and community.

List everything you need to do this week under each of these headings.

  • Place an “A” next to everything in each column that is a high priority.
  • Place a “B” next to everything in each column that is a medium priority.
  • Place a “C” next to everything in each column that is a low priority.

Next, review everything under “A” and number them according to importance, with 1 being the highest priority. Do the same for columns “B” and “C”. Determine which hours of each day are going to be allocated to each of your headings: personal life, job and community. Within the hours allocated, go to the designated column and start with the item labeled “A1″, then go on to “A2″. When you’ve completed all the “A’s”, go to “B1″ and so on. When the time is up, move on to another column.

Make Trade-Offs

Plan when you’re going to tackle tasks and allow enough time to complete all or part of them. Work on difficult jobs first, or at a time when you’re at peak performance, saving the less stressful tasks for when you have less energy.

The idea here is to slot your tasks into the places where they’ll fit best. Certain tasks will always need to be done at specific times, of course—you can’t eat breakfast the night before—but by scheduling tasks for the times when you’ll be able to do them most efficiently, you’ll save time and frustration.

Get Your Routines in Place

With your task list in hand, develop routines for each part of the day in which you do similar tasks. Your routines should not only cover the tasks listed, but should also outline the order in which they occur. For example, your night-time home routine might look something like this:

  • Wash dinner dishes.
  • Set kitchen table for breakfast.
  • Prepare lunch for tomorrow; put lunch bag in fridge.
  • Put papers and supplies for work in briefcase.
  • Check weather for tomorrow.
  • Choose outfit based on weather forecast.
  • Get ready for bed.
  • Set alarm for morning.
  • Read, then go to sleep.

The idea is to get a sequence of tasks on paper, and to follow the sequence as best you can.

Adjust as Needed

Your self-management plan may not work the first time you try it. There will be times when your self-management process falls apart. As you follow your routines throughout the week, you’ll things you’ve forgotten, or find you can take care of several tasks at the same time

Your routines should be flexible enough to accommodate changes. Sticking to a routine that doesn’t work is as inefficient as not following one. These steps are not static but need to change and grow with you. Make time to review your process and see what changes can be made.