The other day, while having a bite to eat at a local restaurant, I overheard an older couple (at least mid-60s) talking about their New Year's resolution to organize their lives.
Even though it was a light-hearted conversation, it started me thinking about what I needed to do with my life to get it in "order" now that I am in my mid-50s. You know what I am talking about -- those pesky little questions that pop into your head when you are getting ready to go to sleep or just sitting on the commode.
1. Are my retirement funds adequate or at least stable?
2. Is my estate planning in order?
3. What happens if I have a serious illness and require extended hospital or convalescing time?
4. Do I have the proper investment portfolio for someone my age?
5. Are my burial arrangements set?
6. Is my last will and testament ready?
These are questions that you would never even think about when you were a young, bar-hopping, hot-dating, disco-dancing, mullet-wearing stud muffin.
You know, those stupid little nonsensical questions that probably should be taken care of... IMMEDIATELY!
So, this got me to thinking even further about how well I organize my priorities.
Now, those who know me are well aware that I am a very organized man. Some would say I am way too organized. Those closest to me would say that I am almost an anal attentive sort of person. OK, I admit it. I like everything in my life well organized. Everything in my home is in its place and my "stuff" is clean and well taken care of.
When "shitz" out of place it bothers me.
But, in the bigger scheme of things, I still have a lot of loose edges in my baby boomer type of life. For instance, I am not completely confident that I am really and truly managing all of the questions I posed above.
So, in thinking deeper about this subject, I figured it was time to analyze whether or not I was genuinely organized and, if not, how could I get to the right level of orderly arrangement in my life.
Where do we start?
WRITE EVERYTHING DOWN
In my humble opinion, the first step to getting anything done at our age is to write everything down. We're old and sometimes we forget things. I am sure, if you are like me, you have tons of things on your mind. Write them down. Then you don't have to worry about forgetting them.
But this leads to another problem... little bits of paper and scraps of "to do" lists scattered all over your desk, the kitchen counter, the house, your pockets and even in your cars.
Well, what can you do?
KEEP YOUR NOTES IN ONE PLACE
I have my handy paper 4" X 4" "Jeopardy" desk calendar always at hand to write down whatever pops into my mind including what my daily priorities are.
This actually serves three purposes:
1) It helps me remember what the date is.
2) I learn "snifty" things on a daily basis like "The rhinoceros is the largest horned, odd-toed ungulate on the planet."
3) Most importantly, it keeps me organized.
Here's a quick snapshot of what's scribbled on my list today:
- Package and mail the items I sold on Ebay this weekend
Are these things important? Hell yes!
But are they my top priorities that need to be completed immediately? Hell no!
Sometimes, more often than not, life gets in the way of living.
So today, my Baby Boomer friends, we will begin at the beginning and start a list of how to prioritize the important issues, concerns, affairs and personal "stuff" in our lives.
If there are "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover" according to Paul Simon, then I am sure there are at least 50 ways to put some organization into your life.
We all want to get stuff done... whether it's the work we have to do so we can get on with what we want to do, or as the case may be, the priorities we feel are our real purpose in life.
You choose the ones that will work for you and I will do the same.
Hopefully, by the end of this exercise, we will all feel a little more secure knowing that we are concentrating specifically on the important issues in our lives.
To that end, I offer you my collection of 50 ways, tips, tricks, hacks and mnemonic devices I've collected that can help you organize your life better.
50 WAYS TO ORGANIZE YOUR LIFE AFTER 50
1. Pinpoint Major Priorities
Spend a few quiet hours writing down what are the utmost priorities that need to be tackled in your life. Hopefully, there are ten or less. Then spend another couple of quiet hours putting them in descending order of importance. Put a deadline date on each task. Make it two weeks. That gives you enough time to carry on your everyday life but also puts the pressure on you to complete the task in a timely manner.
Post the priorities on your bathroom mirror so you will see them every morning when you wake up.
Think about it... if you have 10 major priorities then you will have completed them in less than 6 months.
2. Focus on the Most Important Tasks
At the start of each day (or even better the night before) take 15 minutes to highlight the three or four most important things you have to do in the coming day. Do them first.
If you get nothing else accomplished aside from your MITs, you've still had a pretty productive day.
3. Carry A Backpack
The major priorities you're working on at any given moment should always be with you and you should always be working on them so keep them in "your backpack."
Set aside quiet time every day and every week to empty your backpack.
4. Wake Up Earlier
Add another hour to your day by getting up an hour earlier -- before everyone else starts imposing on your time.
What a beautiful time of day this is.
If you are like me, you will begin to crave the feeling you get knowing that you are beating the rest of the world to the early worm.
This is the seldom used act of generating ideas surrounding a priority without editing or censoring yourself. Get a large white board and put it in your office or on your kitchen table and attack each priority with a vengeance. Lots of people use mind maps for this: stick the priority you are thinking about in the middle and start writing whatever you think of.
Build off of each of the sub-topics, and each of their sub-topics. Don't worry about whether the ideas are any good or not -- you don't have to follow through on them, just get them out of your head.
After a while, you'll start surprising yourself with some really creative concepts.
6. Think On Your Feet
Always carry something with to take notes. Never be without a pen and paper. Keep your laptop, pad or mini recorder near you at all times. You never know when inspiration will hit.
For me it's usually while I am in the shower or on the commode.
Capture every thought that comes into your mind, whether it's an idea for a project you'd like to do, an appointment you need to make, something you need to pick up next time you're at the store, whatever.
Review it regularly and transfer everything to where it belongs: your major priority list, brainstorming board, most important task list, etc.
7. Get More Sleep
We just touched on this in my last blog series. If you want to learn about the importance of getting proper sleep then READ THIS.
Sleep is essential to health, learning, and awareness.
Learn to see sleep as a pleasure. Do not treat it as a necessary evil or a luxury.
Work in short spurts of 10 minutes, interrupted by two minute breaks. Use a timer. Do this five times an hour to stay on target without over-taxing your physical and mental resources. Spend those two minutes getting a drink, going to the bathroom, exercising or staring out a window.
This is my most difficult challenge to surmount. I have a real bad tendency to hit the floor running and never allow myself a break to refresh and rejuvenate my thinking process.
If I get up at 5:00 a.m. it can be five hours later before I realize that I haven't taken a break.
It actually makes me more tired and less creative than I could be.
9. Create "S.M.A.R.T." Goals
This system was first outlined in the November, 1981 issue of Management Review by George T. Doran and has been used extensively in the corporate world since. I believe in it's effectiveness wholeheartedly. In fact, every year I rolled it out as a refresher for my sales teams when I was in the unholy world of corporate sales management.
It is a great device for creating and pursuing your goals while helping to avoid setting goals that are simply unattainable.
It stands for creating goals that are: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely.
Watch a video about it HERE and use it.
10. Eat the Frog
Author and business guru, Brian Tracy titled his 2007 book "Eat That Frog." What does that mean? In simplest terms, do your most unpleasant task first. Based on that concept, if the first thing you do in the morning is eat a frog, the day can only taste better from then on. I recommend you take a look at his book HERE.
So there you have it -- 10 ways to start organizing the priorities in your life. Not so difficult, huh? Some may seem like "no-brainers" but they still need to be treated with respect -- they do work.
I will bring 10 more to you tomorrow.
If you go back to my very first blog from almost two years ago (isn't is incredible how I tie all of these things together so creatively) I started the "Survive55" journey with five quotes from Lao-Tzu the great Chinese philosopher.
Today, it seems appropriate that I end with one of those same quotes.
Thanks for joining me.
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step