Escape the Will-Power Trap by getting Organized


Okay, so here is the scoop. I am one of those annoyingly ORGANIZED people. In our house, I religiously de-clutter (much to the annoyance of my spouse). And what stays has to have it’s place – the rubber bands, the spare papers, mail, keys, sports equipment, cleaning products, office supplies etc.  My pantry shelves are organized by food groups (again, much to the annoyance of my spouse). Teas and coffee on one shelf, starches and grains on another, then sweet stuff like canned fruit, honey and jams etc.  Same goes for the freezer – a protein, vegetable, fruit and starch section. Seems compulsive?  Then I won’t even tell you about my spices!


I have a method which keeps me on track.  I say “on track” deliberately, because there was a time when I was not.  Which caused me a lot of grief.  But for now, back to my organized self …


My closet is arranged by clothing type (sweater, shirts, jackets, pants, skirts) and each subsection by colour.  My casual clothes are on one rack and my business attire on another.  Yup, it’s true.  Maybe you can relate or maybe it simply sounds overly structured to you. But that’s the beauty of having a customized method.  It does not have to work for anyone but me.  I plan my day out the night before or first thing in the morning by picking three priority tasks which I want to complete, no matter what happens that day. My system opens up time pockets and it makes me more efficient than when I fly by the seat of my pants.  I do this, because it helps me focus on what really matters. For example, I decide when and what I will do for exercise the night before and lay my workout clothes/gear out beforehand.  This helps me to not miss workouts, even when I am traveling.  And it feels good.  I know myself, unless I make it easy to say yes to exercise, I get lost in all of the competing reasons NOT to do it. No time, too tired, unmotivated – any of that sound familiar?


You may be relieved to hear that I don’t organize everything in my life.  That would feel too restricting for sure.  And freedom is a huge value of mine.  But I do organize the stuff which sheer will-power can’t handle. Ironically, being organized gives me the space to have more freedom and time for the things that really matter.  For example, I can get ready in the morning in no time flat, which gives me more time to get my workout in and also support my clients … all before I even officially start my work day. For me, being organized and planning my activities translates into days where I accomplish not just more, but more of what has meaning.  And it feels great!


Furthermore, these little victories help catapult me like instant jet fuel through rough patches – stress, unexpected inconveniences and demands on my time, competing responsibilities and set backs.  For the same reason, I plan the meals I will make in advance, because those tend to be healthier meals and they fuel the fun stuff I like to do! Check!


I was not always like this.

In my early university years, I struggled a lot with time and task management. There was less external structure than when I was in high school. And I lived on my own. Organizing appointments and commitments felt like a juggling act. I usually completed everything in the end, but there were more all-nighters and cramming sessions then I care to admit. And guilt. Because deep down, I knew I was not tapping into my true potential.  I was not adding the value to the world on the level I wanted to.


And, it caused me a lot of unnecessary stress.


Also, I often felt overwhelmed. Procrastination goes hand in hand. I did not get enough sleep. I was out of shape.  My immune system was poor.  I think I caught every cold my university had to offer! I had awful writers block.  And at the end of the day, it always felt like I was behind the 8 ball. Sound familiar?


So what changed?


The key impetus for change was a huge challenge I had to face. One that was very meaningful to me, but scared me too. I moved to Germany to do my Master’s degree in Psychology – away from my current home, my family and friends, my usual routines, not to mention the language I was most comfortable with.  I knew I had to change to minimize the risk of falling into the same trap as during my Bachelor degree years. I was not doing anyone a service when I was unorganized, least of all me. But how was I going to change the way I was doing things? And the way I lived my life?


I started by making the choice to change.

And really believe that I can do it.


I had to flick the switch. Sounds too simple to work?  Not really. It all starts with a conscious choice.  I did not know this at the time, but I also started coaching myself as I explored answers to questions like these:

  1. What helps me be at my best? What has to be in place for that?
  2. When do I stumble and what are my moments of weakness?
  3. What deliberate habits do I need to put into place to circumvent these?
  4. What could get in the way of my best intentions? And what does my back up plan look like?
  5. How will I celebrate the steps I take in the right direction?


I learned what worked for me and what does not.


As it turns out, I am a person who is very sensitive to her environment. When my home is disorganized, for example, it rubs off on my thoughts. My mind feels less centered, more distracted and it keeps me from focussing on what matters.  I learned that I am at my best, when I exercise regularly. And also, when I feel good about what I eat. When I have stimulating conversations with others. When I take the space and time to enjoy my family. And when I spend time outside at least once a day. I  created an organizing system to support good habits which proliferate a positive outlook. Even if my method may be too dogmatic for someone else, it works for me. And it builds a strong foundation for the work I do for others.


What matters is to find and get started on a METHOD which will work for you!


Does it require a big life disrupting event to kick off this kind of change like it did for me so long ago? The psychologist in me could discuss that back and forth, but at the end of the day, does it really matter? If you do have a stressful experience right now, think about how you can use that as the catalyst for change. The Dali Lama explains that human beings grow the most when we are tested beyond what we think we can handle.


The common denominator is – all change starts and ends with you.


Start by booking a 20 minute date with yourself. Go to an inspiring space without any distractions (preferably somewhere outside) to reflect on these questions:

  • Where in your life are you happy?
  • Where are you not?
  • What do you want more of?
  • What “warning bells” are ringing in your life, which could be YOUR impetus to change? (Psst, if you don’t find any, try to dig a bit deeper. Sometimes they have been ringing for so long, that it’s hard to differentiate them).


At the end of the day, ACTUAL change in your life can only be done by you.

It always has.


No one else can do this for you. So you might as well learn how to do it right.  This is why I created The Self Coach Approach.  If you are curious, check out my Online Self Coach Approach Mastermind Group by CLICKING HERE.


Yes, a trained coach or therapist can also help. A good book on the subject can give you tips. I will share some of the helpful tips about self coaching and the psychology of changing your habits in blog posts ahead (some of the content I cover with my 1:1 clients and in my Online Mastermind Group).  And here a juicy tip for the road: Willpower is finite. Don’t rely on it to get things done.


Escape the will power trap by creating and applying a routine which works for you and your goals.


Answering the questions I posted above are a great place to start. How would your life benefit if it was more organized? Do you currently have a method which works? If not, how will you support yourself to find one?


Want more tips? As promised, I will share more on the subject in future posts and on my Facebook page. Also, leave your comments and questions below and I will happily reply.

I am looking forward to hearing from you!


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