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Posted: January 11, 2012

Eight great ways to bring order to chaos

Getting organized in a disorganized world

Teri Karjala

Organizing a desk piled high with paperwork or a marketing plan for the new year may seem like a daunting task. It's especially overwhelming when these are just two of a dozen other projects that sit waiting for your attention.

Recently, I found myself becoming more and more disorganized. While adding new clients and the resultant piles of paperwork means that the business is growing, the clutter and chaos can feel like a huge, unmanageable and disorganized world.

So I decided to "go simple." I decided to return to this basic: Organize my thoughts. By beginning with the simple priority of organizing my mind, I was able to develop a foundational platform that the organization of my business can grow from.

In the mental health field there is always a feeling that your job is never ending. At the start of each day there are new clients to treat, piles of paperwork to be filed, phone calls to return, and emails to send. The job of a mental health professional simply never ends. No matter how many times a day you check your inbox, it seems to always be full.

Here are my "go simple," organize-the-mind steps. They returned my desk and my business to one that feels sane, managed and sometimes, even serene:

1. Set goals. This does not just mean the yearly goals you set as the sparkly ball drops at midnight on New Year's Eve. Goal setting should be done daily. The more specific the goals for the day, the more organized your day will become. Goal setting is most effective when you start broad and work your way to the specific. Set yearly, quarterly, monthly, and weekly goals. Write them down and keep them in a place that is accessible and will allow you to reference them when writing your daily goals. In one of my "mastermind groups", my accountability and goal setting group, we talked about "chunking it down". Breaking it down and taking baby steps, makes it easier to digest.

2. Organize your day the night before. This is one of the best tools I have come across. Research states that the last 45 minutes of the day is when the brain processes information more than other parts of the day. Therefore, it is important to use this time productively. The brain will have plenty of time to process your upcoming goals if you write them down the night before and not as you are rushing out the door in the morning.

3. Mind Mapping.vI was first introduced to mind-mapping by Jack Canfield, in his book, The Success Principles. The process is simple: take all your mind's clutter of ideas and thoughts and write them down in an organized method. This process has allowed me to clear my brain. It ensures me the space I need for more creativity and authenticity. Mapping the contents of my mind gives me clarity.
4. De-clutter your space. Paper is the first thing on my desk to make it cluttered. I am notorious for my paper piles. Paperwork, files, and mail are neatly stacked and organized, becoming a fortress of clutter on my desk. In the age of technology I have finally figured out that these piles are not necessary. I am using tools, like a scanner and my tablet, to eliminate the clutter from my space. Organizing the paper in my space more efficiently has allowed me more room to focus on what is important.

5. Technology. We live in the era of such wonderful technology. All of the devices out there have great applications for organizing from calendars to mind-maps!

6. Intentions - what do you want to happen today? This may seem similar to setting goals, but there is a difference. Starting your day with intentions is a more broad and general purpose of your day. This should act as a platform for your goals of the day to work off of. Setting intentions helps you stay on task and keeps your thoughts stay organized by focusing on an intentional outcome.

7. Break while working. Research states that an average adult brain can only focus for approximately 20 minutes. Based on this research, taking frequent breaks will allow the brain to stay focused and engaged. A fun and easy way to schedule in breaks is using a timer. Set a timer for 20 minutes and race against the clock to get your task completed before the time is up.

8. Keep it consistent - your brain needs consistency. Some studies say a pattern is established after you've done it 25-30 days consistently. The above behaviors should be done every day and should become a pattern in a well-organized and thoughtful life.

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Teri Karjala is owner of the Creative Counseling Center, LLC, as well as Talking With Teri, LLC. Teri’s passion for the business aspects of owning and maintaining a business has made her a sought out coach by others in the helping fields. She is a regular columnist for ColoradoBiz Magazine and speaks to therapists across the nation in building their thriving practice. Recently she has released her “How to Live Deliciously” Creative Journal Series to help inspire and empower adults, teens, and children. These are available in print at

Enjoy this article? Sign up to get ColoradoBiz Exclusives. The opinions expressed in this article are solely that of the author and do not represent ColoradoBiz magazine. Comments on articles will be removed if they include personal attacks.

Readers Respond

I like your keep it simple message. Elaborate system for staying organized are usually doomed to failure because by definition they are difficult to keep up. I'd also like to add one item. Don't geat yourself up if you become disorganized. We're all human. Sometimes we can't help but be overwhelmed. When this happens, take a deep breath, go back to square one, then go forward one simple step at a time. By Steve Breitman on 2012 01 24
Should I make a folder for all my unfinished 'to do' lists? Thanks for the article. By David Sneed on 2012 01 11
Great article! Sometimes I find myself wondering how I can get organized. I'm glad I took the time to read this article to realize how these simple steps, which I've used in the past, could help. I just needed to remind myself how a small change in the way one does things can have such a big impact in getting organized. Thank you. By Curtis on 2012 01 11

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