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To think a scatterbrain can become organised?

(59 Posts)
apachepony Sun 11-May-14 11:19:22

I am a bit scatty, messy and disorganised. It really affects my work performance, I haven't done very well in work recently but have just landed an exciting challenging new job. But I'm scared to accept it because I'm going to fail again unless I seriously get more organised, and work harder and more efficiently. Aibu to think that if I read up on time management and organisation, pick up some tips and train myself really hard to follow them, that I can become organised and efficient? Or am I just fooling myself? Has anyone any success in transforming themselves from scatty to organised?

Slutbucket Sun 11-May-14 11:24:09

This is where outlook and it can really help.

Auntimatter Sun 11-May-14 11:32:02

I'm pretty organised by nature but don't see why someone shouldn't learn to be: is not rocket science.

Keep a list and write stuff down, including deadlines, immediately.
Put them into Outlook with reminders set I advance of the deadline.
Have a plan of what you are going to do next/today/this week - but be prepared to revise it (maybe a lot) as things come up.

All pretty straightforward, but it does take self-discipline and that may come hard if you aren't used to it.

What in particular do you have difficulty with? Deadlines? Forgetting to do stuff? If you can work out what it is you do and find a new way to do it, that can be your new habit.

Don't try to change yourself entirely, though, or you will be overwhelmed and not succeed; gradual but sustainable changes are longer-lasting.

siblingrevelryagain Sun 11-May-14 11:39:18


Am naturally disorganised but I learnt to be very organised at work and with the children (uniforms/lunches/parties etc). I'm actually very good when I need to be, but as it's not natural I like a bit of chaos at the weekend, when things aren't particularly routine or planned/organised!

MomOfTwoGirls2 Sun 11-May-14 11:47:18

Me also.
I'm also naturally unorganised, but am reasonably organised at work.

Lists and discipline!

lottiegarbanzo Sun 11-May-14 11:47:29

Yes you can. It will be hard work and it will feel hard - and you'll know that when you slip back into feeling comfortable, you're not doing it right. To start with anyway. After a while the new approach will allow you to feel comfortable and get things done - and know you are getting them done.

First, recognise that people who are 'naturally organised' are like that because they've adopted systems and techniques that work. The idea of doing that came naturally but they do have techniques, it's not magic.

For example, I know people who lose their keys. Why? How? My keys are either in my hand or in my handbag, in the right pocket. Always. Returning them to my bag is the first thing I do, every time.

A former colleague wrote to do lists, then tackled the difficult, unpleasant things first. Brilliant.

Work out what your issues are: procrastination? Underestimating how long things take? Getting diverted by things you enjoy and ignoring harder things? Not recognising how long you have available to do each thing, so the need to do a 'good enough' job, or delegate, or say that something will not happen to a certain deadline? Poor planning, so you can't see when tasks need to happen? Poor project planning, so you don't break things down and hit the milestones, seeing it as all or nothing instead?

apachepony Sun 11-May-14 11:55:07

I think, having read a bit over the last few day, one of my main problems is procrastination - putting difficult tasks off, getting distracted by the internet, getting a coffee. Just inability to concentrate! Also a bit messy. It will be hard to sort this out but I'm hoping if I just train myself over and over I can get myself into good habits. I think I have more potential than I show - well I keep on talking myself into really good jobs and disappointing when I'm there. This time I don't want to disappoint...your tips and thoughts are really helpful

slightlyglitterstained Sun 11-May-14 12:02:58

If just sitting down and focusing is the problem, you could try the pomodoro approach.

Basically you install a little timer, and work for 25 minutes. Only work, no checking incoming email, no making tea, just the task you've sat down to do. Then you take a 5 minute break, no more - you can do whatever you want then. And then you do another 25 minutes, and so on.

whatever5 Sun 11-May-14 12:10:56

When I was younger I was quite disorganised but I don't think that anyone would say that about me now. As other's have said you need to adopt techniques that work for you. Different things work for different people. I find it helps to use googlemail for send me reminders of things I have to do. I also do any quick jobs straight away so that I can forget about them. After that I prioritise according to what is most important.

slightlyglitterstained Sun 11-May-14 12:30:24

I was (and still consider myself to be) disorganised - however during my degree as a mature student my fellow students thought I was Ms SuperOrganised, so it can be done!

What makes you procrastinate? For me, I put off things that I don't know how to do (yet) or that I think will be difficult because I'm secretly a bit intimidated because I might try and fail and that, of course, would prove I Am Shit.

I get around that a number of ways - by telling myself I'm not actually going to do it, I'm just going to do a half hour discovery session to find out a bit more (and then once I've started I'm okay). I also tell myself this is a first pass, let's aim for good enough first then think about improvements later. Another thing is telling myself I'm smart enough to start, even if I don't yet know how I'll finish the whole thing. (That last bit is from this book: )

Have you ever asked for help with time management from your manager? Discussing it and making it clear it's something you're working on might help.

tigermoll Sun 11-May-14 13:27:12

I too was 'naturally' disorganised when I was younger - forgetting/losing things, being late, missing deadlines, etc.

I have now become MUCH more organised, to the point where people who know me now simply can't believe that my family still regard me as 'the scatty one'. So it is totally possible, and much easier than you think to change.

I would say the most important thing is to work out WHY you are disorganised - here are a few possible reasons (although by no means exhaustive, and I'm not saying any of these are necessarily you):

A way to manage people's expectations of you - if you are known to be a bit all over the shop, people are less likely to ask things from you. Similarly, if you're always pulling things out of the bag at the last moment, it means that you have an 'excuse' if something's a bit under par - "well, I think that's a pretty good report, considering I hadn't had any sleep and finished it at six in the morning" etc.

A way to opt out of less agreeable tasks - if your time management is always right down to the wire, then you feel you are 'allowed' to disregard the things you don't want to do.

A way of passively showing that you aren't happy/coping with your life - the classic cry for help (BTW a 'cry for help' should always be heeded, not disregarded, in my opinion smile )

A feeling that you work best under pressure - this one is slightly trickier, since many people genuinely do their best work under a tight deadline. If this is you, then you need to factor this in, rather than trying to work against it.

A way to 'test' how much the people around you notice/care - it can be very reassuring when people drop everything to help you out of a hole of your own making. For example, a friend of mine (who would never dream of being late for work, etc) regularly shows up hours late to social functions or doesn't show up at all. In her case, it's a mixture of social anxiety, and wanting to get the reassurance of everyone saying 'so you made it at last! Hurrah!' or 'we missed you last night. What a shame you couldn't make it.'

Ordinary common-or-garden laziness - being organised is more boring and less exciting than everything always being in a flap. If you consider that the effort of organisation isn't actually worth avoiding the hassle of being disorganised, then you'll lack motivation to change.

Phew, sorry, that one is a bit of a mammoth post - I'll stop now smile

aquashiv Sun 11-May-14 13:40:50

Three things changed my inner slob life;
1. Make Lists
2. Do it now.
3. A shredding machine

jamaisjedors Sun 11-May-14 13:50:48

V good post tigermoll.

I have realised a lot of these things about myself recently, and also realised that not everyone functions like that.

I started with Flylady around the house, on-and-off, and have changed my attitude about a lot of things.

I am a terrible procrastinator too.

I think you can do this, I am considered organized at work and elsewhere, whereas I know I'm a secret slob and always sailing too close to the wind.

lottiegarbanzo Sun 11-May-14 14:30:32

Why do you procrastinate? Do you not really understand the task, or not feel able to do it? Does it seem overwhelming? Do you imagine you'll be able to do it all at the end?

I think a really important technique is breaking tasks down into bit size chunks. That makes it much easier to start, as you only have to do the 'look into it, think and start sketching a plan' bit for an hour say, then you have something to come back to, one step further along. Also, you are constantly achieving things, which gives you positive reinforcement so helps you move on with the task.

One thing I find a lot of scatty people have in common, not all though, is they are poor listeners. They are dreamers who assume things, believe their own assumptions, then are really surprised when their idea of a task turns out to be different from other people's, usually after some time and effort have been wasted or other people let down.

Always listen actively, ask questions, take notes, seek clarification, send an email after a meeting saying 'as discussed, I will be doing a, b and c, please confirm / discuss if that's not correct'. No-one minds anyone getting things clear, even asking 'silly' questions, if they then get the task right.

lottiegarbanzo Sun 11-May-14 14:37:57

Are you better under pressure, when you really have to ignore everything else and throw yourself into something? If so, create that pressure by setting milestones with deadlines.

Also, when you work plan properly, you find that actually, your real deadline for each task and each stage of the task often is much earlier than the late stages of the whole thing, because you have other commitments and because some of your work is dependent upon and feeds into other people's and you may need to coordinate and chase some of that.

Whathaveiforgottentoday Sun 11-May-14 15:30:40

I don't think you will ever get to the place where you will be naturally organised, but you can learn systems to help you cope in the different environments.
I'm naturally untidy and have an appalling short term memory especially for verbal information so writing everything down for me is vital. I have a very large planner (teacher) that goes everywhere and I would be lost without. I have to tidy each day and always tidy on fridays to keep on top of things and have pretty good filing systems etc.
Making lists helps cope with the little jobs that need doing that get overlooked. Not perfect but it all helps.

On the bright side, disorganised people are great in a crisis as we've had so much practise!

Whathaveiforgottentoday Sun 11-May-14 15:48:27

Just going to pick up on one thing that lottie mentioned
For example, I know people who lose their keys. Why? How? My keys are either in my hand or in my handbag, in the right pocket. Always. Returning them to my bag is the first thing I do, every time.

I'm forever losing things like keys but I do have strict routines but I tend to lose them if say, I put them on a table as somebody has asked me to sign something, then forget to pick them up again so something has interfered with my routine. I just fail to pay attention and although it sounds like a cliche, despite having systems, they don't always work. I would love it to be as easy as just remembering, but I just don't. Trust me, life would be so much easier if I was just organised. I think some people find it hard to understand that others don't find being organised easy.
This isn't a dig at what you said but I did want to explain it. I'm not excusing the behaviour just trying to explain some of the difficulties. I'm sure if I thought it was worth it I could probably find some medical label but as i've coped so far its probably not worth it.

careeristbitchnigel Sun 11-May-14 15:56:39

I have ADHD but work in a job where deadlines, logging information/records and organisation is critical. Recognising that i struggle was a real turning point.

Don't use outlook/it. If you're scatty it becomes one more thing to organise/forget. People in my office seem to spend hours organising their outlook diaries and to do lists but less time apparently actually doing the work on those lists. Get yourself an a4 page per day diary and diarise when you need to do things. Paper to do lists updated every day. Takes me no time at all and i never forget anything

careeristbitchnigel Sun 11-May-14 15:57:25

Also another one for "everything in its place". Not because i am anal but because i will lose it otherwise.

Sandthorn Sun 11-May-14 16:11:05

Totally agree with PP that the "naturally organised" people are just the ones who've learned the strategies that work for them. I am not naturally organised. I was the student who just about scraped a pass in coursework, but pulled it round by acing the exam, but that doesn't work in real life. I floundered quite a bit, and still do when I take my eye off the ball, but you can totally learn to keep your head above water.

I think the books are a great place to start. But you'll need practice, practice, practice to change your behaviours. Same if you can get your employer to send you on some training (best organisation tips I ever got were actually from a project management course).

My absolute top advice is to allocate a proportionate amount of time each day, each week and each month to analyse what you've got on, how much time you've got to do it, fill in diaries/calendars and write some lists. This is one thing you should never be too busy to do: it will pay back in extra productivity.

matildasquared Sun 11-May-14 16:13:09

Yes, to pick up on the points above, the key to being organised is to not trust yourself. I basically manage myself as though I were an imbecile.

At work I have absolutely everything on a schedule, and I print out a paper back up. I write a to-do list for the next day and make sure my desk is neat before I leave. I know that I would most likely keep deadlines and meetings and priorities in my head, but still I write myself reminders. I put my keys, phone, diary, in the same place all the time. I write myself emails and send myself texts to remind myself of key times/dates.

When there's a large project to do, I break it down into smaller tasks and make myself stay on schedule. I assume things will go wrong--i.e., that a train will be late, that a colleague will forget to give me some data--so I leave in time for that.

lottiegarbanzo Sun 11-May-14 16:38:45

whathaveiforgottentoday you see I'd say you have an idea about a system, you don't actually have a system, because you don't implement your idea.

I just do not put my keys down. If someone asks me to sign something, I pause to put my keys away - not because it just happens but because I think about it, every time but also because by now they only 'feel' right and safe in my hand or bag - then I do the other thing.

I also check I have them before leaving the house, every time, 'keys, purse, phone, yes, go'. Not that I need to but the consequences of not having them could be dire, so it's a useful fail safe.

You need to have the certainty about the rightness and importance of your own actions to prioritise them above other people's demands upon you. They really do not mind waiting five seconds.

I have a friend who is always losing things and it is precisely because she never finishes one thing before 'being distracted' onto the next. It's partly that she always wants to be in the middle of whatever's happening, so responds to and is distracted by other people far too easily. I've watched her do it, from one thing, to the next, to the next.... Never completing or tidying up anything. Chaos strewn in her wake. Something left behind in the other person's car / house / wherever she went away for the weekend EVERY time.

matildasquared Sun 11-May-14 17:10:54

Yes! Absolutely, you have to prioritise things and be ruthless about protecting your priorities.

I get a lot done at work. Some of that is down to getting in early every day, but mostly it's down to carving out chunks of time for specific tasks and not letting anything distract me. Multi-tasking is bullshit.

So for example if I have to draft grounds of appeal I tell myself I'm doing it between 10-11. Urgent phone call? It can wait until 11. Colleague wants to chat? Great, see you at 11. Coffee break? 11. Sometimes people roll their eyes at me a bit but as long as the time is finite they'll know I'll get to them.

matildasquared Sun 11-May-14 17:21:42

I don't know if it helps you at all, but I have a story of when I was interviewing people for a job and some of these issues came up.

A few years back I had to interview for a receptionist for our company. This would be the main meet-and-greet and answer-the-phones person for an office of several hundred people. Somehow I ended up as the manager for this position.

We'd had trouble in the past of people being late to open up the front reception and get the phones. It was a big big deal. If that desk area was empty at 8:05 I would literally hear about it all damn day.

So when I was interviewing people one of the questions I'd ask would be: "Are you the kind of person who's always on time or are you always running a little late?"

You would be AMAZED at how many people said, "Oh yeah, I try to be on time. I mean, sometimes if there's a problem with the bus or traffic I might be running late but I always am sure to call if I think I'll be late."

WRONG ANSWER! I would just put down my pen and stop writing. Had I not just said you'd be responsible for opening the reception area the whole company? Get the earlier bus!

I only had one person who said very calmly, "I'm never late." She got the job--and she was never late!

ApoqA Sun 11-May-14 17:23:05

Of course a scatterbrained can become organised if they want to. I have, and if I can then anyone can. Firstly I use my iPhone and SIRI for all appointments, lists and reminders. It's synced to my ipad and Mac.
I put everything on my phone.
I also have a filing cabinet at hone and everything is perfectly filed away. I know I sound smug but I don't care! I am proud of my filing.
The last thing I use all the time is a to-do list. I always try and do the worst thing first.

I also do certain things in a very ordered fashion. For some things I work slowly and methodically and I try and duplicate how I do things. For example, when I travel, I always use the same bag where I always put the same things in the same pockets. My passport goes in the same place everytime.

I think the very reason I am so organised is because I have to find a way of dealing with my rubbish memory and scatty nature.

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