There are essentially two parts to organizing: getting organized and staying organized. Recognizing that basic division is the first step in how to get organized fast. Here are six more.

1. Limit efforts

It rarely makes sense to address both parts in one setting. This why it is counterproductive to run out and buy organizing supplies to stay organized first. You first need to review your possessions to get organized. Limiting your efforts to just getting organized for starters is the first step in organizing fast.

2. Singular focus

The get organized part needs to be broken down further, to get organized fast.  Studies show that multi-tasking is less productive. Therefore, when you can reduce your task down to a single focus, you can move faster.

3. Identify

Getting organized is built on the foundation of prioritization. To prepare for this process of prioritization, you must first identify and clarify what you have. Sort like things together and do it quickly. Remember, you have singular focus, so you can work fast. Don’t spend time overthinking your categories. Keep them very general—books, keepsakes, clothes, paper, etc. Context drives decisions. 

While you sort, temporarily stack, to open up floor space. Banker boxes are helpful. You will need this floor space and a clear table to review, in the prioritize stage.

4. Prioritize

This is where the rubber meets the road, because it involves decision-making. This is what slows us down the most when getting organized. Not to worry. Start by recognizing and saving the biggest categories for last. In a home office this will probably be paper and in a bedroom, this will probably be clothes. You may have to do this in another session. That may feel, like procrastination, but it’s not. You have moved the process forward, by grouping like things together and establishing processing space. The next piece of time you have, you will be ready to organize faster.

Meanwhile, with the categories that you are addressing, review them fast. You can prioritize fast, because you are not spending any thought on where an item should go or what container it should go in. All you are focusing on is whether to keep or not. For items you are not keeping, you just have to decide if you want to  discard, donate, sell, or give to.  Keep a trash bag for the discards and medium boxes for the rest nearby. This limits your movements so you can move fast.

5. Action later

Some of the items you decide to keep, may require an action. This is helpful to recognize, but it is important to separate the identity of an action from the action itself. For example, maybe you see a piece of paper that you need to shred. You may think that it only take a few seconds to walk across the room and shred it. However, if you are in an office with a lot of potential papers to shred, those seconds add up fast. Here’s the other thing, identifying an item’s priority requires your unique knowledge; shredding does not. Probably most of your next actions don’t require it— scanning, sending, selling—to name a few. Those can be delegated. If you do them yourself, you will have singular focus, so that you can work faster.  Remember, to organize your actions fast, identify now, act later.

6. Distribution

Once all the prioritization focus is behind you, then you can just focus on distributing items to their appropriate locations. For example, maybe all the discards and donates can go to the garage. Again, you can get help with this, because it doesn’t require your unique knowledge. When your are reviewing items in a given room, you might see items that don’t belong. You can collect these items in an “elsewhere” box and during this distribution stage you can distribute them. You can do this fast because you are just focused on distributing.

As for the keep items, now is the time to consider containers. Once you are clear on the quantities of each categories, then you can make the best choices. You are now at a point, where you can set up systems to stay organized. This is a subject for another post.

Make no mistake, getting organized is a project, not a task, so don’t give it short shrift. By recognizing that it requires a series of short stages with singular focus, you can get organized fast. Furthermore, you will be able to prioritize more effectively. This sets the stage for more sustainable systems to stay organized. Just shoving stuff in a box never leads to sustainable systems. It doesn’t matter how special the box is;-)

Are you thinking of a project that you could use these tips on? Do you have a practice that you like to use to get organized fast?