8 Ways to Get Organized in 5 Minutes


August 6, 2009   •   Fact checked by Dumb Little Man

Here’s the problem, though: not being organized actually makes us slower, which is something we certainly don’t have time for. If we don’t know what we’ve got, where it is, and how to find it, we run into serious problems, lowered productivity and raised stress levels.

I’ve frequently found that taking just a few minutes to get organized will actually save a ton of time; and these things really only take a few minutes. Here are eight ways to get organized in only five minutes. Some are only for your computer, others can be applied anywhere in your life.

  • Digitize
    We’ve all got lots of notes lying around – notes to yourself, things to remember, reasons why we’re fantastic (that one might just be me, come to think of it). Take a few minutes, and type them up. Phone numbers, addresses, tasks, personal notes and the like are all easier to find, edit and use when they’re digital.

Try an application like Evernote, which is great for pulling together all the disparate and random notes and thoughts that come to your attention on any given day.

  • Consolidate
    Maybe you’re not a computer person (they are evil, after all). Take all those disparate, loose notes, and consolidate them. Take a single, large piece of paper, and copy over everything you still want or need onto that one sheet. Having everything in one place makes it easier to find, and gets rid of some of the clutter that has inevitably entered your space. Even if you do use a computer, the same idea applies – pull all your loose text files, or sticky notes, into one easily accessible place. 
  • Pick a Space
    This is one of my favorites and definitely one of the most satisfying ways to spend a few minutes organizing. Pick a small space, like the top of the refrigerator, or underneath your bed; clean that like crazy – I mean it needs to be immaculate. When done, move on to another small spot and declutter that. Breaking this down into small manageable projects will make getting organized a ton less intimidating. 
  • Mind Dump
    This is one of the best things you can do, both for your sanity and your productivity. Periodically sit down with a pen and paper (or computer, or a napkin), and write down everything in your head. Things you need to do, things that are bothering you, things you want to know; whatever it is, get it all out of your head. It’ll free your brain to think about other things and give you an idea of what, exactly, is on your mind. You can mind dump anywhere, and you’ll always feel better having done it. 
  • Mass-Trash
    Go through your stuff, ignore everything you want to keep, and simply have a throwing-away party. I do this with digital files all the time, but it works equally well in your home or office; just get rid of stuff. Usually, what takes the longest is figuring out what to do with the stuff we still want. So don’t do that. Just get rid of everything else, and marvel in how much less junk you’ve got to deal with now.
  • Systemize
    Filing is the not-so-fun, but logical, next step from the mass-trash bonanza. It can be made a lot more fun, and simple, by having a system in place. So, before you start filing things willy-nilly, create a simple system for it. Think about the ten things you have the most of: where does each one go? What do you want to do with them? Once you’ve got an obvious, no-brainer system in place, knowing where everything goes and putting it there just becomes muscle-memory. And that’s much better than filing otherwise. 
  • One Thing, One Place
    This is all about avoiding the overwhelm that can come from trying to get organized. Instead of dealing with everything at once, just pick one thing – say, movies. If you’ve got 300 movies lying all around your house, and nowhere to put them, just work with those. Find a home for them, get them all in their right place, and organize them to your heart’s content. There’s no wondering where each new thing goes, because they all go in the same place. Just put everything in the same place, and leave the rest of your stuff for later. If nothing else, at least one thing’s easier to find now. 
  • Make it Searchable
    This one’s obviously only for your digital life (if you’ve got a way to search through all your real-world stuff, let me know! Blank check is yours). One of the great advantages of the speed and power of our computers, as well as the Internet, is how powerful the search functionality is – you can find almost anything with just a few clicks. Google does it for the Web, and there are a bunch of solutions for searching your computer stuff. If you’ve got a PC, Google Desktop is a great one, as is Copernic Desktop. Mac users: Spotlight is your best friend. Searching is faster than filing, not to mention more complete. Pick a folder on your computer, dump everything into it, and search away! 

Getting organized is a daunting task, but is made much easier by doing it in bursts – a few minutes, or one particular thing, at a time. Before you know it, you’ll have a perfect system, a clean space, and a huge boost in both your sanity and your productivity.

What other ways can we get organized in only a few minutes?

Written on 8/06/2009 by David Pierce. David Pierce is a college student, freelance writer, and lover of all things Web-based. His blog, offering tips on how to thrive in a digital world, is The 2.0 Life, and he can frequently be found on Twitter. Photo Credit: evelynishere

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