When Overwhelmed by Organization, Accountability is your Ally

Planners, bullet journals, erasable calendars, diaries; I could go on and on. I am a recovering organization nerd. Every year, right after Halloween, I start browsing the sites for a new planner for the upcoming year. While I’m surfing for the best choice, I can’t avoid the new craze over bullet journals, desktops with white boards and the new desk calendars; I’m going down the rabbit hole in the matter of minutes. If I just get that new bullet journal with the markers and the planner, I’m ready to be totally organized and structured for the new year, no longer overwhelmed by the next year. But, as many of us know, it’s not quite that easy. Over the years I’ve learned that staying organized and out of the overwhelm requires more than bright colored planners and brand-new markers for your to-do list.

The most important component is YOU and your ability to hold yourself accountable. Accountability can be an easy word to throw around but a little more difficult in practice. It’s not easy for us to hold others accountable and even harder to hold ourselves accountable. But if you can start a step at a time, I know you can do it and start your new year feeling ready and motivated to ring it in.

The first thing you need to know is why it’s important for you. In my case, being organized, especially with my time management, allows me to makes space for intentional moments. Moments to do things that give me joy, creativity, laughter, relaxation; like walking my dog, playing cards with my elderly mom, curling up with good book or illustrating a new page in my bullet journal (wink). The why isn’t necessarily about the results you get from doing something, it’s really about the benefit to you and others. In coaching we call those values, those feelings and emotions that satisfy an inner part of us, and when they are not present, it feels like you’re missing something, you don’t feel complete. What is your why? What brings you joy? Satisfaction? Sense of belonging?

Once you’re aware of your why, the next priorities are the what and how. Using my example of organization, I know that planners have been helpful in the past, listing my daily to-do’s, keeping track of my appointments, project deadlines, etc. My experience has been good, and they are helpful, so why do I still feel overwhelmed? Because the planner doesn’t fill itself out alone, it requires focus and time. Unless I dedicate some time to plan out the to-do’s, schedule margins between my meetings, include all of the important project dates and timelines, it just takes up space on my desktop. One of the steps I can take is intentionally scheduling time to enter the important things in my planner, really thinking through the priorities and tasks. Making an appointment with myself to focus on my daily tasks and priorities. The planner is now assisting me with staying organized, it works for me, not me for it.

We all know that life happens. We are putting out “fires” all day and probably being interrupted more than we should, usually when we’re trying really hard to be productive. This is where accountability comes in. Hold yourself accountable, by being proactive and having a plan for when these things get in your way. When the “fires” occur, I know I may have to interrupt my focus time, but I’ll pick it up again until I’ve given it the complete time, I had designated for it. I may reschedule it, but I won’t miss the appointment. I’ll block it out on my calendar, so no one can slide into the calendar with an unexpected meeting. I’ll close my office door, even though I am working remotely, this lets others know that I need a little privacy, everyone except my office pup, she’s always welcome and even inspires me. At the end of the day, I take stock, did I do what I planned to do? What worked well? What can I do differently? And then I celebrate and adjust accordingly for the next day.

As a recovering organization nerd, I know first-hand, how much frustration, space, and money I am saved from, just by setting my intention, holding myself accountably and focusing on my why. You are your best accountability partner, set your goal, know your why, make an intentional plan and be proactive about the obstacles that can get in the way. And if you’re curious about my planning system, I consider myself a hybrid person, I use a Franklin Planner for planning, outlook for my calendar and Ohuhu markers for my doodling. But I don’t have drawers full of unused planners and journals anymore.

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