Chronic disorganisation is about so much more than an aversion to colour coding your calendar, adding sticky tabs to notebooks, and filing paperwork away neatly. It is much deeper than a dislike for being disorganised or misplacing your keys. It’s usually triggered by a significant and stressful life event like the loss of a loved one, relocating, serious illness, or facing financial difficulties. Being chronically disorganised can also be caused by mental conditions such as ADHD and depression. Essentially, when life throws you a curve ball, it’s difficult to make organisation a priority.
In fact, disorganisation to this extent is serious enough to have its own organisation, the Institute for Challenging Disorganisation and its own professional certification: chronic disorganisation.
Being disorganised is one thing, it may impact your work and make it difficult to find things. Chronic disorganisation, on the other hand, is something that has an overarching negative impact on your quality of life on a daily basis. It’s not necessarily the hoarding we see on TV, but it makes people who experience it feel overwhelmed by their surroundings and even like they are drowning in clutter.
The good news is its not all doom and gloom. There are some practical ways that you can deal with chronic disorganisation in a way that doesn’t feel overwhelming. Additionally, there are small steps you can take towards overcoming chronic disorganisation so that you can lead a happy and fulfilling life.
Tip #1: Start now
The tricky thing about being disorganised is that the longer you leave it, the worse it gets. First, one piece of paper sits on the counter. Then another, and another. Before you know it, you’ve got a completely disorganised pile of papers, and each piece of paper is a decision that needs to be made, which can feel very overwhelming.
The sooner you get started, the less out of control you will start to feel. So, set a goal for yourself about something you would like to organise, like that pile of paper on the counter. Don’t attempt to organise your entire home and office in one go. Start with one area or one pile. Write your goal down on a piece of paper and commit to it. The act of simply starting will give you the motivation to keep going.
Tip #2: Identify the consequences
If you don’t have a reason to get going, getting started can feel insurmountable. It’s good to spend some time thinking about the consequences of delaying organising any longer. Is your home going to become so cluttered that you can’t function in it anymore? Is your business going to suffer when you can’t locate receipts and other important paperwork? You need to have a clear ‘why’ behind your actions to get started and to keep at it.
Tip #3: Work in batches of time
If you have the whole day ahead of you and a lot of organising to do, the situation will quickly turn into one where you feel like it’s all too much, leading to not getting anything done. Break your organising up into 10- to-20-minute bursts. Do as much as you can in that time and then celebrate yourself for getting it done. If 20 minutes is all you can handle in one day, it’s still progress and an achievement.
Tip #4: Break tasks down into steps
Much like batching your tasks into periods of time, you can also batch what you need to do into steps. So, if it’s that big pile of paper you’re working on, step one would be separating it into smaller piles based on categories (i.e., what can be thrown away, what needs filing, and what needs attention). Focus on doing things one step at a time rather than trying to tackle the entire task from beginning to end all at once.
Tip #5: Strive for good enough
Often those who are disorganised are people who strive for perfection. They become disorganised because, in their minds, organisation needs to be perfect. The truth is that it doesn’t need to be perfect and rarely ever will be. Rather than striving for perfection, work towards doing something to 80% perfection. So, if you get through the pile of paper and it’s not filed away perfectly and neatly, celebrate that you got it done in the first place rather than focus on the fact that it’s not perfect.
Tip #6: Delegate where you can
You don’t have to do it all yourself. There’s nothing wrong with getting an extra set of hands-on board to help you get and stay organised. For example, you could hire a virtual assistant to help organise your calendar and assist you with carving out time in your schedule to organise. They could also help you by organising your inbox into a sensible system so that you can find what you are looking for and even achieve inbox zero.
If you have an in-house assistant, ask them to help you organise paperwork and tackle your office filing system for you.
Also, if you are open and honest with family members about how disorganisation is affecting your quality of life, it’s likely they’ll want to jump in and help. There’s no shame in asking for help when you need it.
Tip #7: Visualise success
If all else fails, try visualising how you would feel if your space at home and at work were organised. You’d probably find yourself feeling calm and in control, something that those with chronic organisation would find very enticing.
Imagine how relieved you’ll feel when that pile of papers is no longer on the counter and instead everything is where it should be. Imagine how accomplished you will feel knowing you’ve achieved the task of organising that paperwork. If you struggle to get started, visualisation is a useful technique.
If you are currently struggling with disorganisation and how it’s affecting your life, know that you are not alone. Even some of the most successful CEOs are disorganised and need help getting on top of clutter. Just know that once you start, things will improve. Keep an eye on our blog for more organisation and productivity tips.