On Being Organised

At the start of the year someone said to me they thought I was the most organised person they knew. Which was very nice of them, thank you kind person.

After that, it totally went to my head and I had an idea back in May to do a post on being organised, or, rather, how to be organised, and I’ve been scribbling notes and putting it off and self-censoring ever since. It bloomed into a 4-post series, and then started to evolve into a book outline, which just wasn’t appropriate – dammit, Jim, I’m a composer, not an author. I don’t have time for writing books, especially not those that have been written before, by people much more qualified and experienced than me, in much more organised (yes much lol) ways. So what was I adding? Not a massive amount, certainly not any that warranted the level of off-hours brain space. Said brain is like a dog with a bone sometimes.

A calm, blue sea and cloudless sky

After all that non-essential angst, I’ve since decided I won’t bother (because the answer is but a google away) with all the pop quizzes, checklists and strategies.

Instead I’ll say this – in my limited experience on this earth, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s very important to be organised, as organised as you possibly can be, with the resources and information at your disposal. This is why: if you aren’t (and you aren’t subsequently and/or consequently in dire circumstances) the chances are that someone else is doing the organising for you. Furthermore, if you aren’t paying for it, that’s uncompensated emotional labour that someone else (a woman?) is taking on along with their own life-organisation tasks… which just isn’t fair.

It’s for this reason I can’t be disorganised. I can’t expect someone else to take on that job without some sort of fair compensation. I’m just not built that way. It’s not perfectionism or control freakery, I just really can’t stand the thought I’m taking advantage of someone else’s good nature, so, as far as humanly and practically possible, I won’t.

A bench on a grassy bank overlooking a sandy bank and the sea on a sunny day

The other two ground-breaking (insert sarcasm emoji) conclusions I came to were that it was really difficult to be organised if you were either tired or had too much to do (when I put it like that, it seems obvious. Too obvious to even write. But sometimes it needs to be said anyway). I know that if I’m attempting to get my ducks in order when I’m either tired or have too much to do in the time I’ve got to do it, no amount of bullet journalling, creating good habits or systematising is going to get what I both need and want to do done.

I want to be organised so as to be more efficient with my energy (aka not getting as tired so as to enjoy life more, a simple desire)… so as to be able to do all the stuff I want to do alongside all the boring stuff I need to do.

Think of the reverse: If I’ve only one thing I want to do and one thing I have to do, and I’m feeling alive, content and focussed, how easy will it be to get those two things done? Tres. How easy will it be to get lost in the flow of those things I have to do? Super-tres. Being organised will happen without any effort at all.

Now, taking the thought experiment further: adding in more tasks, events, information, and data of any other kind will simultaneously increase the level of organisation* required and decrease the amount of energy I have to give to any one of these tasks, events, etc. because I’ll be dividing my total energy per each task (event, etc.).

I’ll also have decreased total energy available for the rest of the to do list after each task is completed. Eventually, adding more and more tasks (events, etc) will decrease my available energy to zero. And then I can’t do anything.

I think what I’m getting at is: wouldn’t it be better to just be kinder to ourselves and each other?

Firstly, we can acknowledge and compensate the organisational emotional labour others do for us alongside taking responsibility for our own organisational needs as much as we can (remember, though, that caveat: with the resources and information at your disposal – do what you can, don’t be a martyr).

Next, we can accept when we’ve too much on our plates to realistically be as organised as we’d like to be. After accepting, we can – with self-compassion – get shut of some of that stuff: it’s either delayed, indefinitely; moved onto someone else (with compensation – it bears repeating); or deleted.

Lastly, we have to take care of ourselves in order to have the energy to be as organised as we need to do all the stuff we want and need to do, to live full and rewarding lives.

Not much to ask, eh?

*So it’s probably worth at this point defining what I mean by organisation: prioritising, scheduling,  systematising and delegating… (oh good grief I’m writing the post I said I wasn’t going to bother with just quit while you’re ahead Heth)


All images copyright H. Fenoughty 2018, taken in Berwick-upon-Tweed or Tweedmouth earlier this year, aptly representing the a level of serenity I rarely but occasionally achieve by being as organised as possible. For those times it works, it’s definitely worth the effort.