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How to Organize Anything


At first glance, organizing seems like a daunting task. However, with the right mindset, you can organize anything. My how to organize anything exercise is outlined below.

For easy, straightforward problems, I go through this process in my head. In contrast, when problems are challenging, I write out the steps I need to take to organize my life.

Writing things down helps me formalize next steps and actions. It is also an informal written contract that I make with myself and use as a guidepost to achieve my goals.

I’m sharing my process with you because it might help you, too.

How to organize anything is designed to take 10 to 20 minutes, get you in the frame of mind to organize, and familiarize you with implementing and reiterating solutions.

The how to organize anything exercise can be used to tackle any situation that requires organizing and planning. The technique can also be used in everyday situations when you are finding it difficult to come up with solutions to your problems.

The beauty of how to organize anything is that it forces you to get to the root of the problem and quickly begin implementing solutions.

The hardest step to organizing anything is getting started. Use this exercise to put your thoughts into action.

Take the next step on the path to ordering your life.


How to Organize Anything

1. Define the What

    Determine what you want to do. Find your what by asking yourself a few questions.

    What am I trying to do? What do I want to accomplish? What is my end goal?

    In a few words, clearly state your what.


    2. Ask Why

      Ask yourself why multiple times.

      Ask yourself why. Then ask yourself why again.

      Why am I doing this? Why do I need to do this? Why do I need to stop doing this?

      Each successive why question should be a follow-up to the previous why question. There should be a logical flow of whys that lead from one question to the next.

      Ask yourself why until you get to the root of the problem. Usually, you will ask why 3 to 5 times. If you find yourself asking why 10 times, you have gone too far. You have either misinterpreted the root cause of the problem, misunderstood the root cause, or started tackling an entirely new problem.

      Let’s look at some examples.

      Everyday Example

      Question: Why am I so tired today? Answer: I didn’t sleep well last night.

      Question: Why didn’t I sleep well last night? Answer: The baby kept crying.

      Question: Why was the baby crying? Answer: She’s sick and doesn’t feel well.


      Organizing Example

      Question: Why won’t all of my clothes fit in my closet? Answer: I don’t have enough space.

      Question: Why don’t I have enough space? Answer: I bought 10 new outfits for my new job.

      Question: Why did I buy new outfits? Answer: The old ones don’t suit me anymore.

      Question: Why don’t the old ones suit me anymore? Answer: They are out of fashion.

      Question: Why am I hanging on to old clothes that are out of fashion? Answer: Insert your own answer here. If your answer still focuses on your clothes and your closet, you are ready to think about solutions. If your answer focuses on how your mother gave you those clothes and you can never throw away anything she gave you, you have stumbled onto a new problem. Stumbling onto a new problem is fine, as long as you make a commitment to address that problem (and the original problem with which you started).

      Your answer to the last why question will help you brainstorm solutions.

      What are you going to do next?


      3. Brainstorm Solutions

        Brainstorm possible solutions and write down everything that comes to mind. When you can’t think of any more solutions, move on to step 4, weighing the pros and cons.

        If you are the type of person who can spend hours brainstorming, put a time limit on how long you will spend brainstorming or limit how many solutions you will generate. For example, limit your brainstorming session to 3 minutes, or say you will stop when you get to 8 solutions.

        How to organize anything is designed to be a quick process. If you need more time, you can always reiterate, as you will see in step 8.


        4. Weigh Pros and Cons of Solutions

          Now that you have a list of options, write down the pros and cons of each solution. Focus on the major pros and cons and try not to get down into the minutiae of each option.

          The list should not be exhaustive. Hit the high points and move on.


          5. Rank Solutions

            As you wrote your pros and cons, you likely gained some insights into which solutions would work best for your situation. Rank your solutions based on their feasibility, achievability, and time constraints.

            Description of Terms

            • Feasibility – how easy it is for you to implement the solution

            • Achievability – how likely you are to accomplish your goal using the solution

            • Time constraints – how likely you are to accomplish your goal given the amount of time you have to implement the solution

            After you rank your possible solutions, focus on the solutions that are most feasible and achievable in the time you have.


            6. Evaluate Top Solutions

              Evaluate your top ranked solutions. Only look at your top 2 or 3 solutions, as these are likely the solutions you will implement.

              Write a short description of the benefits of each solution.

              What value is the solution? What are the long term benefits? What are the short term benefits?


              7. Focus and Implement One Solution at a Time

                Get to work and begin implementing your solutions. Find out what works by focusing on one solution at a time.

                If you implement multiple solutions simultaneously, you may miss something or overlook a long-term solution that really works. Oversights are possible when you try to do too many things at once.

                Granted, sometimes it makes sense to implement two solutions at the same time (e.g., sorting clothes into donate and keep piles while simultaneously sorting the keep pile by clothing type). That said, if you decide to implement two solutions at once, make sure the processes are complimentary and do not interfere with each other.

                If the processes interfere, implement one solution in its entirety. Then, move on and implement the next solution.


                8. Iterate and Reiterate

                  Iterate and reiterate each solution until you achieve your desired results.

                  You may have to implement a solution more than once, or incorporate a solution that did not rank among your top 3 solutions but fits your needs. As long as you keep your end goal in mind, refining your solution is normal and acceptable.

                  If necessary, repeat the entire how to organize anything process. Redefine your what. Reassess your whys. Reinvigorate yourself to achieve your goals.

                  Organizing is an iterative process. It takes time to find the right solution.


                  9. Keep Time in Mind

                    Dedicate 10 to 20 minutes to this how to organize anything exercise. Remember, this is a guide to get you moving in the right direction. It gets you started on the process of organizing. It is not designed to take 8 hours.

                    If you find yourself spending more than 20 minutes on your first iteration of completing this exercise, you are overthinking things. You can always come back later and do the exercise again (i.e., reiterate).

                    The goal is to make a plan and take action. Do a quick analysis of the problem, evaluate your solutions, and get to work.


                    Here is an example of all the steps in action.

                    1. Define the What

                      • Organize my email inbox


                      2. Ask Why

                        • Why do I need to organize my email inbox?

                          • I get too many emails.

                        • Why do I get too many emails?

                          • I’m signed up for a lot of newsletters that I don’t read.

                        • Why am I signed up for a lot newsletters?

                          • I wanted the coupons.

                        • Why am I not reading the newsletters?

                          • I rarely buy anything from those companies.

                        • Why am I still signed up for newsletters I don’t read?

                          • I don’t know. Good point. I should do something about that.


                        3. Brainstorm Solutions

                          • Manually delete each email

                          • Use email automation – write an email deletion rule

                          • Pay someone to organize my emails

                          • Unsubscribe from one newsletter a day

                          • Delete all of my emails and start from scratch

                          • Open a new email account – completely start over


                          4. Weigh Pros and Cons of Solutions

                          • Manually delete each email

                            • Pros – I’ll see the email newsletters I’ve subscribed to

                            • Cons – time consuming; I’m not interested in reading the newsletters

                          • Use email automation – write an email deletion rule

                            • Pros – emails will be automatically deleted

                            • Cons – I need to research how to create an email rule; there is a learning curve

                          • Pay someone to organize my emails

                            • Pros – I don’t have to do it

                            • Cons – expensive; I have to give someone else access to my email account

                          • Unsubscribe from one newsletter a day

                            • Pros – I won’t receive any more unwanted emails

                            • Cons – time consuming

                          • Delete all of my emails and start from scratch

                            • Pros – quick process

                            • Cons – I may accidentally delete emails I want to read or keep

                          • Open a new email account – completely start over

                            • Pros – start with a clean slate

                            • Cons – I’ll have to re-subscribe to emails and newsletters that I want; I’ll have to tell everyone my new email address; I’ll have to periodically check my old email to make sure I don’t miss anything


                          5. Rank Solutions

                            1. Use email automation – write an email deletion rule

                            2. Unsubscribe from one newsletter a day

                            3. Pay someone to organize my emails

                            4. Manually delete each email

                            5. Delete all of my emails and start from scratch

                            6. Open a new email account – completely start over


                            6. Evaluate Top Solutions 

                            1. Use email automation – write an email deletion rule

                              • Immediate solution

                              • Works long term

                              • Gets me to a place where my inbox is more organized 

                            2. Unsubscribe from one newsletter a day

                              • Long term solution

                              • Ensures I don’t receive more unwanted email newsletters


                                7. Focus and Implement One Solution at a Time

                                  • First, learn to write an email deletion rule and implement the rule in my inbox

                                  • Second, unsubscribe from one email newsletter each day


                                  8. Iterate and Reiterate

                                    • Keep unsubscribing from unwanted emails

                                    • Keep creating new email automation rules to unclutter my inbox

                                    • Manually delete emails that the email rules do not delete


                                    9. Keep Time in Mind

                                      • 15 Minutes

                                        • Time it took to complete the exercise OR

                                        • Time limit set to complete the exercise


                                      Now it's your turn. Use these steps to organize anything. 


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