“My list is blowing away.
What will I do without my list?”
“I cannot remember any of the things
that were on my list of things to do.
I will just have to sit here
and do nothing,” said Toad.
from “A List” in Frog and Toad Together
written and illustrated by Arnold Lobel
Harper & Row Publishers, 1972
Newbery Honor, 1973
accessed YouTube 1/3/21
Orderliness is my 2021 word of the year. I’m feeling optimistic, but I’ve felt that way before. Lists are helpful. My grocery list, on paper or in my head, is organized either by grocery aisles or alphabetically, depending on how many items I need to remember. My to-do list is usually better off in alphabetical order. When I organize it in the chronological way I’d like to accomplish the activities, very often it doesn’t work out well. I tend to write my errand lists from farthest point to the place closest to home. List making is a chore, but one that I enjoy.
My mom and my dad were not really opposites in the organizing realm, although they looked like it. Mom was a minimalist. A place for everything, and everything in its place was her mantra. Dad, well, he liked his stuff. He had collections: stamps, newspaper articles (mostly about stamps), old envelopes (waiting for their stamps to be soaked off). But he was methodical. His stacks of stuff, while plentiful and difficult to dust around, had plan and purpose. He could put his finger on anything you asked him for at a moment’s notice.
A few years ago, the Huffington Post ran an article called “14 Habits From Organized People That We ALL Should Borrow” https://www.huffpost.com/entry/habits-of-organized-peopl_n_4921454 While not really habits, these qualities are still relevant and important. Here’s my take on them. (I divided “list makers” and “sorters” to end up with 15.)
Goal oriented. They know what they want. They plan how to get it.
Optimistic. They believe the world is mostly working the way it should.
Conscientious. They have a “can-do-ness” about themselves and prefer plans to spontaneity.
Decision-makers. They’re good at prioritizing and keeping the big-picture in mind.
Not perfectionists. Good enough is really good enough.
List makers. Whether written on a calendar, other dedicated space, or kept in their heads, organized people seldom forget an important task.
List checkers. They really do the things on their prioritized lists and check them off.
Sorters. Like with like is the way organized people keep everything in its place. Knowing where to find things is a real time-saver.
Do-it-now attitude. If a task takes fewer than five minutes, an organized person will get it out of the way. Procrastination, when it happens, is sometimes inevitable.
Planners. They like to leave a time cushion big enough so that if something else comes up, it will work into their schedule. (see above)
Not afraid to ask for help. They think about time as a resource with value, and effectively allocate tasks among others so everyone can work efficiently.
Uni-taskers. Multi-tasking is a myth. Really. We think we’re doing more than one thing at a time, but that’s a trick our brains play. Actually we flip nano-second by nano-second from one task to another, taking our attention away from both. (see post from 1/1/2019)
Tuned-in to their biorhythms. Knowing the optimal time for getting a particular task done increases productivity.
Habit formers. Habits are important. Doing something without having to think about it is a real time-saver, even though it can be a creativity stifler.
Know how to de-stress. Practicing yoga, meditation, visiting a counselor, or escaping into a good book, organized people know when and how to “get away from it all.”
This is a long list. While some of those qualities are already habits, I found a couple points to keep in mind as 2021 marches on. I hope you did, too.
But, lest you think all I do is make lists, please know, I also keep my spices alphabetically arranged. (I keep a running list of those little jars that have mysteriously multiplied, too, so I don’t replace dried basil or marjoram two weeks in a row.) I have my socks separated into winter weight and summer shorties, seasonally rotated because my drawer is pretty small. My bookcases are arranged by subject, then by author, just like at the library.
And, while I’m prone to procrastination and diving into rabbit holes, I like to think of myself as organized when I need to be, mostly because I don’t like to waste time looking for stuff.
Science has shown that people who live in messy, cluttered spaces are less able to concentrate and focus. When distractions abound, our minds tend to wander. While this may be a good way to get the creative juices flowing, it really can hamper our ability to be productive.
Is habit really the opposite of creativity? I don’t think so. My habits allow my brain the space it needs to be creative. Now, where did I put my pencil?
-—stay curious! (and sort a junk drawer!)