Getting organised – what holds us back?

To be organised, don’t avoid, engage. And use your diary to make sure you stay engaged. Photo by Unseen Studio on Unsplash

Alison always feels behind.  Her house is messy, with things left where she last put them down.  She wants to decorate, but never seems to get round to it.  Her work seems to be one endless stream of customer problems, with her never feeling she has got to the end of it.  All her appointments happen in a rush, with her arriving late.  She means to catch up with friends, but something always seems to get in the way.  She is always short of money.  She often falls ill, and she suspects it’s through tiredness and stress.  And she never seems to have time for her own creative projects.

Alison’s situation is typical of many of us.  We aspire to a tidy, attractive home.  We wish to feel on top of our work, ahead and well-prepared.  We wish for enough resources to support a happy social life.  We want to be healthy and to be spending time doing what we want to do.  It’s just that life seems to get in the way.

I’m not going to deny that life is often hard.  Many of us face situations which make it difficult or impossible to maintain everything.  Around the world every day, homes are destroyed, jobs are lost, people go bust, relationships break apart, people get ill, and their beloved projects are thwarted.

But, even if life seems to have left us in difficulty, there is always something we can do to make a start.  We can’t guarantee good fortune; but we can make it more likely for ourselves and those around us.

Here are seven steps to bringing some organisation and improvement into our lives.


Choose one improvement activity at a time, and write down what it is.  Otherwise life gets in the way, and we forget.  Many people slump because they look at everything at once, and then get overwhelmed.  Make sure it is small enough for you to cope with.


For every improvement identified, try to book a slot in the diary.   At that diarised time, try to make a start, however difficult or strange it feels at first.  Use the time slot you have allocated.  Then, if necessary, book another diary slot.


For every improvement activity started, don’t avoid, engage.  If it feels difficult, or a complication arises, note the complication, and see what can be done.  It’s extremely common to avoid instead of engaging.  That’s why improvement and maintenance jobs pile up.


Try to treat every improvement activity as a learning experience.  Don’t expect it to go perfectly, but do expect to learn how to do it better next time.


Once you have learned from your first attempt, begin to categorise.  Learn to recognise all situations quickly, and slot them in to their appropriate place in the diary.  Once you have a system for prioritising by type, and handling, what life throws at you, you will be more organised in your response.


At the end of every effort, recognise and reward yourself.  It could be a cup of coffee, or a piece of music, or an exclamation.  But do include something.  If you watch tennis, you’ll notice that professional players are coached to perform a victorious gesture, like a fist clench, every time they win a point.  This is to program a reward response in the mind, which encourages more good action.


Keep diarising the next improvement activity, and keep following your diary.  It’s thousands of little repetitions that finally build a flow that achieves a good result.  Don’t be discouraged and walk away.  Habit and repetition are what builds a new life.