When asked what my secret is to staying organized, my general answer involves keeping things simple–I don’t have a lot of extra stuff and most of it has a place to live. Am I successful everyday? That’s a definite no! (Like you, I’m busy trying to have a life:-) However, most of the time I can easily the clear piles and clutter and put things away in their designated homes. The same is true with managing time. Keeping things simple by consistently using a calendar and not over scheduling makes life easier and less overwhelming. What complicates this well intended process is the multiple demands placed upon us by ourselves and others.

A simple solution involves saying “no” to more things and actually making a list of what you won’t do. And when I say make a list, I don’t mean some “back of an envelope”, “scribbled on a napkin”, or “circling in your brain” kind of list, I mean an actual written or typed list that you honor. And if you’re the kind of person who likes making lists and crossing things off, you can even work counter-intuitively by crossing things off your “Don’t-Do List” when you honor the list by not doing something (Wow, that’s a lot of double negative, sorry!!!).

Some “Don’t-Do List” items can be adages for life while other “Don’t Do” items can be added to your list during a particularly busy time of life (e.g.Before you leave on a trip, during the holidays, when kids are on school break and you don’t have childcare, or you have a big work project deadline and no bandwidth for extra stuff, etc.). Sample “Don’t Do” items:

  • Don’t join a book club
  • Don’t volunteer at school this semester
  • Don’t go to bed after 11:00 p.m. during the week
  • Don’t throw my 3 year old a birthday party
  • Don’t do a 7 day juice cleanse (I may have no friends or family left after 2 days of this:-)
  • Don’t look at social media when I’m trying to write my latest blog post
  • Don’t take on a large house project for 6 months
  • Don’t work past 6 p.m. in summer
  • Don’t join the neighborhood association board
  • Don’t feel guilty about the number of unread emails I have
  • Don’t say yes just because I think others will judge me if I don’t
  • Don’t worry about every little detail in planning our family trip
  • Don’t bring my phone/computer/ipad into my bedroom at night
  • Don’t say yes when my son wants to play two sports in one season
  • Don’t try to do everything myself, ask for help from friends or family
  • Don’t accept every weekend invitation we receive
  • Don’t join another networking group
  • Don’t let exercise and good eating habits be the first to go when I’m overwhelmed

Having a “Don’t-Do List” is just as important as having a “To-Do List”. You can focus on your own priorities and not be weighed down by too much or things you don’t want to do. Keeping things simple and avoiding the unnecessary will help you to get more done and feel less overwhelmed by whatever comes your way.