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Organize and Reduce Stress
New Year's resolution: better organization.
Fri, 1 Jan 2016 12:00:00 PDT

Do you spend more time looking for things than doing things? It's frustrating when you're ready and excited to start on a project but you can't find your tools or the clutter in your work area is insurmountable. There are multiple techniques for reducing stress in your life. You may have heard of them: visualization and meditation, mindfulness, proper exercise and play time, good nutrition, better communication, and better organization. With better organization, you can eliminate one of the things causing the stress rather than just improve your ability to cope with stress.

Besides making it easier to find things, having an information organization system helps clear your mind. Rather than trying to remember a plethora of details, provide a place to jot down ideas, tasks, and decisions you have made. Get them off your mind and be able to focus clearly on what you are doing now.

Better organization might be your New Year's resolution and you're committed to making a difference this year. Let's take a look at ways you are able to get started on improving your organization. It does take some effort to organize but the payback will be well worth it.

(Photo courtesy of The Process Excellence String of Ariadne, 5S: eliminate the disturbances in a process.)

What is Organization?

Organization is a structure to provide a way for you to retrieve things (or information) that you or others have previously filed. It can be very lax or very detailed.

Today's trends in information access is for the software to be smarter and serve-up the information you are looking for. For example, Google search finds relevant website based on your search text, your previous searches, your location, and other factors. It obviously isn't a precise set of results but for that type of information retrieval, it is appropriate.

On the other hand, if you are looking at your financial transaction history, you probably don't want the software tool to return the most relevant transactions based on your previous searches and your location. What you really want to see is exactly all the transactions between two dates.

In the financial example, you require an organization that files transactions by date. Then, when you need to see transactions in a date range, it's very simple for the software to pull them out.

In general, to be able to pull information or things out of your structure in the future, you need to come up with a structure that will meet your future needs. How can you do that?

Future Needs

What are you going to need to look for in the future? How should you set up your organizational structure now to facilitate that?

You might decide that most of your information falls into the Google search style so, in the future, you'll simply do a search to find more or less what you're looking for. Or you may be meticulous and create folder upon folder and put certain notes in each folder. Then, by navigating a few folders, you can find exactly the things you put there.

Realistically, you probably can't predict what you will be looking for. Do I need a separate shelf in the garage for drywall screws, for lag bolts, decking screws, for wood screws? It depends. Do I have a lot of each kind? Do I only need one kind at a time?

(Photo courtesy of Mike Pope, The many dimensions of fasteners.)

If you already know what you'll need to look for, just set up the structure accordingly. If I have a lot of screws, I'll probably want a separate place for each kind. Maybe I'll even want to divvy that up by size. Then, when I'm ready, I can immediately go to the right shelf and pull out a carton of drywall screws.

If you don't know, take a guess. Start with a simple organization. At least have a separate area for the nails than for the screws. If that works in the future, great. If not, then modify your structure a bit.

Does It Work?

It helps to have tools like Perinote to organize abstract things. But it's still up to you to do the organization. If you don't file anything in the structure you've setup, the structure won't do any good.

Don't despair. It's ok to have a heap that you throw things at and deal with later. Maybe that's deliberately part of your structure. Some things need to be "put away" immediately, others don't really matter as long as you get them organized before you will need to find them again.

If your structure is too complex, it will be too hard too put things into it. It might also be to hard to navigate through it and find things.

Each time you retrieve something, you'll have an idea of how well your organization is working for you. You might discover that you have two areas of your organization that are very similar and can be combined. Or you may find one of your "bins" is essentially becoming a hodge-podge, a miscellaneous folder.

The point is you won't know what your ideal organization should be. What you really need to do is just start. As you discover what you need, you can change your organization to match. Over time, as you have different things to organize, change your structure accordingly.

Now, get started and dissipate stress!

More about Stress and Organization

Here are some more articles you can read, if you wish.

Huffington Post, 2013
Home Organization Is Major Source Of Stress For Americans, Survey Finds
5 Tips to Get Organized and Reduce Stress

Health Assessment Tools
Organizing Your Life Reduces Stress

Psychology Today, 2012
Why Mess Causes Stress: 8 Reasons, 8 Remedies


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