Organizing rules abound, and some of them make a lot of sense. One of my favorites is one that Erin stresses in her new book: “A place for everything and everything in its place.”
But other rules are more like folklore and can be ignored or replaced with better versions.
Only touch it once
If you followed this rule exactly, it would imply that you needed to pay a bill as soon as you opened the envelope it came in. You would need to scan, file, or shred the bill right then, too. But it’s perfectly fine to place the bill wherever you put bills to be paid, and batch process it with others during some future planned bill-paying time.
Similarly, if you’re straightening up a room, you don’t need to take each misplaced item to its proper home when you first pick it up. Rather, it makes more sense to accumulate all the items that need to be moved to other rooms and then do one trip to put them all away.
The main idea here is to avoid picking something up, like a paper in your in-box, and putting it back without doing anything. Instead, determine the next thing you need to do related to that paper. For example, a bill that looks wrong might mean you need to check your files or make a call, so you’d note that next step and place the bill wherever it needs to go (in a to-do file of some sort, perhaps) to make sure you follow through.
If you haven’t used something in six months (or twelve months), get rid of it
If it’s been awhile since you’ve used something, it’s certainly worth thinking about why. You may well decide it’s something you no longer need or want.
But sometimes there are good reasons to keep things that haven’t been used for a year or more. Maybe you’ve put an activity or hobby on hold for family reasons (a new baby, for example) or business reasons, but you have every intention of resuming that activity or hobby in the foreseeable future.
Or maybe you have something that only gets used for specific occasions, such as formalwear. If you haven’t attended a formal event in a year or more, that doesn’t mean you should necessarily get rid of the tux or the gown that you adore.
Any rule that just doesn’t work for you
I totally agree with the time management advice that says it’s important to make time for sleep. This advice is often packaged with rules about sleep hygiene:
- Keep the same sleep schedule every day
- Don’t read or view a screen right before bed
- Keep the bedroom totally dark
I trust the medical professionals who suggest these rules, and I’m sure they work well for many people. But I ignore all of them, and I sleep just fine. As always, you need to figure out what works for you, which may involve breaking an organizing rule — even one that’s generally good advice.