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Lisa Hess offers 6 strategies to help find - and make - the time to organize.

The past year and a half of hybrid teaching has done a great job of unceremoniously shoving everything out of its way, my writing included. A few weeks ago, as I took steps toward making my writing a priority again, I thought about a question we often ask ourselves when it comes to organizing.

How do I find time to organize?

We all know that the end result will be a time saver but life always seems to intervene. In the last year, life not only intervened, it left quite a bit of chaos in its wake. 

So. How do you take the time you need to create order?


Make it a priority.

I know that sounds like an admonishment, but it's not because I feel your pain. I desperately wanted writing time, but there weren't enough hours in the day -- at least not enough hours during which I had the energy to concentrate on the task at hand. When I finally realized that I was using my best hours on other things, that was the nudge I needed. One (or several) of those things could be moved out of prime time one day (or more) a week so I could put writing (organizing) first. Sometimes, it's as simple as a shift in the schedule. Other times a little creativity, delegating or outsourcing may be in order. Or maybe a little takeout while I spend the time I'd have spent cooking writing (organizing) instead.

Go public. 

I took the first step toward this months ago when my writing accountability partner and I agreed that Zoom meetings were better than no meetings at all. We're pretty good at being both carrot and stick for one another, knowing when compassion is needed and when a good, swift reminder is the better approach. The thing this week that pushed me forward most of all? Signing up for a virtual writing retreat through my college. I participated last summer and got soo much done. Prime time writing (or organizing) + accountability = success. And small successes often nudge us to larger ones.

Remember that taking small steps works. 

I'm teaching a summer class, so there's no way I can attend every session of the virtual writing retreat but I know from last summer that it was fun, motivating and it had an element of socializing as well, so I hated to say no. Saying yes meant setting my perfectionism aside (I must do every session every day!) and committing to the sessions I could attend. 

Commit (in your own mind). 

I know from last summer that the schedule for the writing retreat is flexible and I can add or subtract sessions as I need to without reducing my public credibility, but I also need to make a commitment to myself. The first step was marking that week out in my calendar. Next, I had to make a promise to myself: no appointments will fill what looks like blank squares on my planner page unless there is absolutely no other choice. Finally, I took out a pencil and (lightly) marked a great big W (for writing) in each of those blocks. No blank space? No room to add a commitment because that time is already spoken for.

Do the prep work.

The writing retreat is two weeks away. In the meantime, there are elements of my summer class I can take care of so I don't have to do them that week, freeing up more time to attend additional sessions. If you're going to schedule a block of time to organize, be specific (and realistic) in terms of what you want to accomplish. The night before (or the morning of if you're a lark like my husband), make sure everything you want to work on is in one spot. Then, when it's time to dig in, you won't waste precious time.


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We all know that the end result will be a time saver but life always seems to intervene. #catholicmom

Why didn't I do all of this in the last year and a half? Because everything else that was going on managed to consume all the energy I had. Some times are like that. In those times, I rely on small steps. Write the blog post even if it's late. Grade part of the stack of papers. Make a list of what I'll do when life eases up and I can somehow locate some creative energy again. Every step forward is a step in the right direction. 

So. How will you find time to organize?


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Copyright 2021 Lisa Hess
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