How to Stay Organized

Once the fact that it is necessary for us to organise, is instilled in our minds, the next important thing is to know how to carry out the endeavour. If the skill is not acquired, then our situation will be similar to that of a train which knows where it is supposed to go, but has no fuel in its tank. This rule actually applies to all facets of life: having a vision is not sufficient unless a suitable and correct strategy is employed—and the strategy will hold relevance if and only if additional required competencies are groomed. Take the example of a person who aspires to be a champion car racer, and also has his own sports car. Unless he learns how to drive and practises extensively, his vision cannot be achieved. Apply this example to the vision of having an organised lifestyle. Until and unless we adopt the right road to such a healthy system, we are bound to stay in a mess. Do remember that success is a journey, not a destination (Arthur Ashe), which means that the process is equally as important, if not more, as the product. Let me now take you through the route that takes us to organisation. Keep as little stuff as possible On my very first day of the sixth grade, a teacher of mine announced a treat for the student who, by the middle of the year, had the cleanest lesson diary. True to her word, she gave the student with the neatest lesson diary a treat. Later, I happened to ask that guy how he managed to maintain such a neat diary, since I had expected mine to be the neatest. His reply took me by surprise. He said, “I got the treat because I rarely used my diary, simple!” The purpose of the story was not to discourage you from writing down your tasks or to-dos anywhere: in fact, it is one of my top recommendations. Rather, the ulterior motive behind sharing this story was to give the idea that lesser things are easier to organise than a whole lot of things. Not that managing a lot of things is an impossible task, the fact that an empty house is the neatest, remains unshakable. Aiming to accumulate as much stuff as possible is not just a very problematic task, but also inflicts greater issues when it comes to putting them in place. Take the simple example of a ‘buy one, get one free’ offer by some tomato ketchup brand. A lady decides to avail this offer, goes to the store and buys five one-kilogramme packs of that particular ketchup. As per the scheme, she gets five more packets—a total of ten. When she reaches home, she finds that there is space for only two in the kitchen cupboard. Since she now has nowhere to keep the remaining eight packets, they will end up in some place where they do not belong—probably the kitchen counter. And when something is placed where it does not belong, it does not look good.  

Businessman stressed by too many tasks
Businessman stressed by too many tasks
Please remember that every sale is not for you to visit, every scheme is not for you to avail, and every pamphlet is not for you to take. A bizarre mind-set has developed in our community that “everything that is being given out for free, is for me”, and I will not be surprised if some day, cyanide pellets are being circulated and people are willingly taking them. Before buying or taking something, let your choice trickle through these four filters: i. Do I need it? ii. Does it facilitate me in anything valuable? iii. Do I have the space to keep it? iv. Do I already have something which can serve the same purpose as this product? If you are buying the product with the intention of gifting it to someone, additional to these four questions, ask yourself yet another question: v. How long do I have to wait before the gift is delivered to the intended person? A positive answer to all the aforementioned questions will determine whether or not you shall take that product. The idea being conveyed here does not apply to material matter alone. Coming back to the story I discussed at the beginning of this subheading, the idea of avoiding piling up (or in other words, cluttering) proves effective in other facets of life as well. A student, for example, will find it useful not to fill every square millimetre of his journal and not writing in the margins in order to consume space. Likewise, an office worker will be at ease of mind if he avoids piling up his to-do lists until they become impractical. Rather, it would be wiser if he gets the pending things struck off his to-do list before introducing yet another set of activities. This sums up the idea of how and why keeping as little stuff as possible is resourceful. Throw away unimportant stuff If it is not important, throw it away without a second thought. Yes, it will be a hard task, since many a times the articles that you are considering throwing away due to their now-unimportant nature, will be things with whom very valuable memories are associated. It may be a teddy bear which has been with you since your childhood, or a birthday card a dear friend gave a very long time ago. This makes the task of throwing away increasingly poignant, and the endeavour is delayed. Come to the practical side, people! For how long will you continue piling up stuff on the basis of the memories associated? For how long will you cramp your drawers with articles that have, since long, lost their relevance to the goals that you have set? Living in the past is not how systems will work. I remember listening in some Islamic discourse that one reason why Islam prohibits photographing living beings is the photographs’ tendency to take us into a trance—a sea of memories—which is wholly against the religion’s practical and action-oriented nature. So if, for a moment, we put aside the possibility of becoming organised by throwing away unimportant stuff, we will, nevertheless, enjoy the perks of living a more practical life. Another aspect of this is the stuff whose immediate use you cannot anticipate. There might be some essays with you which you don’t need any more, yet there is a possibility that your younger sibling might need them in future. Or probably, stacked in your store might be huge pieces of wood, which you have not thrown away due to the possible need of them in the times to come. This, once again, is an impractical approach, based merely on highly fluctuating probabilities. In this world of limited resources and limited available space, we cannot live in a world of “possibilities”. This world of possibilities is too vast, and the only way to succeed in it is to pile up everything you’ve ever had, and buy every thing you possibly can. The consequent stacking of stuff that the “residents” of this “world” will do, will cause little more benefit than just drastically reducing the available space. The result, once again, will be cluttered places and untidy locations, the effects of which do not require any explanation. I personally feel that such stuff shall also be discarded. It might be possible to store some of the data, like the aforementioned essays, in an electronic system. If such a possibly exists, great, otherwise throw the stuff away. Time is more precious than money—we cannot possibly afford to waste our time locating important stuff in a sea of articles which we may or may not need in future. If, in future, you encounter the need of that item, you can always buy it. Do not rely on the “Raddi Paper Waala” (scrap dealer) One of the healthiest ponies1 that ever grazed upon the DMRs2 of organisation is the reliance of the scrap dealers. These are street vendors, who go about door to door, asking for scrap. They then pay you for the scrap that you provide them with. Unfortunately, the ever-increasing lust for wealth in the growing middle-class has resulted in an increase in the number of these vendors—these people desire to make money out of anything possible. I don’t know how great a problem it is outside Pakistan, but as far as Pakistan is concerned, this pony is becoming cancerous. Much more serious than it seems at surface-level, this pony has a tendency of triggering a ripple effect, a mutiny against keeping as little stuff as possible, and encourages you to delay throwing away unimportant stuff. This is the stepwise procedure of what actually happens: 1. The pony makes way into your head and stresses the importance of making money out of the waste/scrap that you have. 2. Unavailability of a suitable scrap dealer, or your inability to find one, induces procrastination in you, and encourages you to keep your waste with you for increasingly long periods of time. 3. Meanwhile, the pony becomes more poisonous, and tells your brain that your scrap is worth a higher price that what most dealers are willing to give in exchange for it. So by the time you are able to find a scrap dealer, the misconception has become so deeply-embedded that you turn him down, saying that he is not paying you sufficiently for your scrap. 4. Simultaneously, you keep piling up your supplies of waste by taking every pamphlet you get and preserving every newspaper you buy. The cycle might differ here and there for different individuals, but it is more or less the same everywhere. This perilous scrap cycle exponentially reduces the storage space available to us and creates a visibly appalling mess. The psychological impact this mess causes can also result in squabbles and quarrels. If, by chance, you are affected by this pony, the only way to get rid of it is by being cruel to yourself (which is actually kindness in the longer run), and believe me, it requires nerves of steel. You will not succeed in killing this pony if you compromise on lower prices for your crap. Rather, you will have to throw the stuff away without charging anything for it! It will be hard for the first couple of times, but soon you’ll get over it., and you will yourself be surprised to find out how clean your store (which might previously be more of a dump-yard) becomes, and how easily can you locate things there. Do not put things in nooks and crannies or other weird places This is pretty self-explanatory, I suppose. Despite that, the reason why I chose to discuss this under a separate subheading was the reality that nooks and crannies or sofas and beds are very attractive places to keep goods. Why shall I pinpoint anyone else? After returning from a game of cricket, I myself tend to throw my ball and keep my bat under the bed, and this is frequently the fate of my socks as well. However, this shall not stop me from advising you not to do so, and I pray that may Allah enable me to practise this as well. The first thing that you need to understand is that a sofa is not the place to dump your laundry, the back of your chair is not the place to dry your socks and your bed is not your bookshelf. As I mentioned earlier, things look good only where they belong, so stop putting stuff in quirky places. I can assure you that you will feel tranquillity. One of the challenges in which you are bound to lose is counting the nooks and corners of your house. A soon as you feel you’re done, out of nowhere, another place will pop out where you can place something. This stresses the gravity of the situation: once you get into the habit of placing things in nooks and corners, the possibilities are endless. This makes the habit even more dangerous, as it is effectively impossible to remember all the places where you kept your stuff. If you have acquired this habit recently, then most probably you will not have forgotten the places where you had kept your stuff—but don’t be deceived. Just like one does not develop addiction to a drug immediately and nor does he start degenerating with the first dose, this bad habit will not show its adverse impacts in the first time. Over time the case will worsen and you will find yourself in a colossal mess as you try to locate the desired things in an endless permutation of possible places. Sometimes the nook is bigger—and it is an absurd reality that bigger the nook, the more the level of disorganisation, as you will tend to cramp that corner with more things. Looking for something in the diversely clustered messes will do nothing more than to just exemplify the mess. So, to cut the long story short, nip the devil in the bud and stop cramping nooks and crannies, or crowding your sofa or your bed and climb up the ladder of organisation. Maintain a catalogue Once you have gotten rid of unimportant stuff, and all the irrelevant things are safely done away with, you will be left with things you actually need—things which add value to life. Your drawers and cupboards will be neater. But is that it? The answer is no. To maximise chances of avoiding getting into a mess in future, it is a wise idea to maintain a catalogue of all the things you have. If a manual catalogue is too tedious to prepare, go for an electronically prepared one. In my opinion, no software is simpler and more powerful for this purpose than Microsoft Excel. Now, this catalogue that you will prepare will not merely be a collection of all the things that you have. Rather, it will be resourceful if you take every drawer and every cupboard separately, and then make the list of all the things therein. Keep some spare space at the end of every list—just in case you need to add additional stuff to the place in consideration. Also add a column indicating whether any article has been removed from that place or not. This will ensure that you have a check on all your belongings. On a spiritual level, it will also help you thank Allah for the blessings that He has bestowed upon you. Many a times, electronic gadgets are not within close reach. Therefore, I would also advise you to get a mini-sized print-out of the localised catalogues, and paste them on the respective places, so that as soon as anything is taken out, it can be ticked on the sheet pasted. Delay in indicating whether an article has been removed is the first step in the disaster that may ensue later. The side-effect of this strategy, however, is that you will be given titles of ‘over-efficient’ or ‘nerd’. Just put aside these frivolous remarks and continue with your efforts. Cataloguing has positive impacts in other areas of life as well. A few days back I was asked to conduct a workshop on organisational skills and study tips with my juniors in school. One advice that I gave, and always give to all my peers is to maintain a catalogue for their journals. More often than not, all students have multiple journals for the same subject, with some topics in one journal and some in the other. In order to avoid wasting time browsing through the journals looking for notes on some specific topic, what I do and also advise others to do is to make a catalogue (or index in other words), indicating the topics which the journal has. This index shall be pasted at the head-page of the journal, so that one glimpse at the journal can tell you whether it contains what you’re looking for, or not. Now, if you have a complain that this process is too long and too tiring, then be assured that organisation is not an easy task, but living an organised life, nevertheless, is. Invest time in this, and I can guarantee you that you will benefit immensely. Keep items that invoke a sense of organisation If disorganised work places and other messes can have a negative impact on our lives, then surely items related to organisation can have a pacifying effect? Well, if you say yes, your answer is correct. Even though it is seems that a nice calendar in the room, an elegant clock on the wall, constantly ticking wind-up alarm clock on the bedside table and a tidy daily scheduler on a tidy desk won’t make much of a difference, the reality is that they do (provided that rest of the room is neat, of course). The psychological impact these organisational aids create helps you develop permanence in your efforts. Tidy your room someday, and try placing a nice pencil holder on your desk. Place a diary on one corner as well, and you’ll see how you fall in love with the table. These articles will not directly play a role in organising your room, but will definitely by resourceful in helping you preserve the organisational level of your room, by making you fall in love with it. Remain consistent As paradoxical as it may sound, one of the most important reasons behind disorganisation is organisation itself. What exactly happens is that when you are at a very high level of organisation, you begin to compromise on stuff. You might, for example, start feeling okay with a file out of its place. A teenager might be okay with a T-shirt lying on the bed. After all, it’s just one shirt. This is the most venomous mentality one can develop. When you step onto the path of organisation, there is no stepping back and there are no compromises! Just like one person can bring about a positive revolution in a society, one disorderly file, or one single T-shirt out of place can trigger a disaster that can undo all the pains you undertook organising yourself. As soon as you see something out of place, fix it immediately. History has proven delays to be fatal previously as well, and will continue doing so, regardless of the century or situation. It might be difficult to organise, but even more so it is to maintain this level of organisation. Remain consistent, and the world is yours! Source: timelenders.com

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