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Wendy Betterini photo Trying to juggle work and family in one space can be overwhelming. There never seem to be enough hours in the day to complete everything that needs to be done. One debilitating result of a busy environment is clutter.

Cluttered surroundings affect us deeply, both mentally and physically. When we're surrounded by disorder, we feel confused, drained, exhausted, and overwhelmed. We feel like we've got an avalanche hanging over our heads, ready to start the deadly slide at any moment. Who can work effectively in surroundings like these? Yet most of us do it day after day and wonder why we're not as productive and efficient as we know we could be.

Neatness and organization seem to get pushed to the back of the list when we know we have more important things to do. Most of us are busy caring for the children and/or spouse, working on our jobs/businesses, running endless errands, and keeping up with recreational activities for the kids, spouse and ourselves. Who has time to organize?

However, tidiness is one thing that many of us can do RIGHT NOW to boost our business efforts. If I told you that keeping your workspace neat would virtually guarantee you a pay raise, would you be interested?

Cluttered surroundings dampen our enthusiasm, creativity and energy. Clearing away the clutter creates a harmonious atmosphere, so we feel energetic, happy, and peaceful - and therefore we are able to think more clearly, and get more done. Which, in most businesses and jobs, will equal more income (whether short term or long term).

Once most of us understand this, we go on a mission of organization. We clean, we fill trash bags with junk, we sweep, vacuum, and dust. Finally, we have a beautiful, clean desk! How long does that last? If you are like most of us, not too long. In no time at all, you've got piles of paper that need to be filed again, to-do lists, idea files and more, all balancing precariously near the edge of the desk. You've got sticky notes tacked up all over your monitor, cork board, printer (and even your forehead, if you're particularly forgetful). What happened to our mission of organization? How did the clutter creep back in so quickly?

What most of us fail to understand is that clutter does not exist solely OUTSIDE of us. Our outer clutter is simply an extension of the inner confusion and chaos of our own minds. We feel overwhelmed, busy, stressed and rushed, so we don't have time to focus on the "little details" of our lives. As our jumbled desks can testify, those little details add up to a lot when they are neglected for any length of time!

In order to permanently solve the clutter issue in our lives, we must first tackle the "jumbled thought syndrome" of our own minds. This is not a one-time task, however. It is an ongoing one that we must work on every single day. Consistent, small efforts will pay off in big ways. Think of it as maintenance, like showering. You wouldn't go a whole month without showering, and then take 31 showers in one day, would you? You need to do it every day. Tackle your clutter and chaos in the same way.

Here are five tips to help you do just that:

1) Use a planner/notebook. This doesn't have to be an expensive, leather-bound organizer unless that's what you like to use. A lined, 6"x9" spiral bound notebook works just as well and you won't be afraid to mess it up with your scribbles. Have a "calendar" section, where you designate one page for each day's activities. Write down appointments, work assignments, errands, and anything that needs to be done that day. Also have sections for ideas, future projects, goals and anything else that fits your business and family. This planner serves as a place to organize your ideas and tasks so they aren't running rampant through your mind while you're trying to be productive.

2) Spend 15-30 minutes DAILY picking up, putting things away, filing paperwork, and neatening your workspace. That seems like a big challenge when you've got so much to do, but small, consistent effort in this area will pay big dividends. The objective isn't to be a "neat freak," but rather to eliminate clutter and create a harmonious environment.

3) Beautify your workspace. Do a good cleaning once a week: vacuum, dust, wipe down your computer monitor, printer and the surfaces in your office. Then light a scented candle or some sweet-smelling incense to enhance the peaceful atmosphere. Buy some pretty flowers for your desk, or some inexpensive watercolor prints to hang on the walls. Making your workspace beautiful is one deterrent to being chronically messy.

4) Expect the Unexpected. Sometimes no matter how much we plan and prepare, things will come up that take us by surprise and force us to rearrange our whole schedule. When this happens (and it WILL), accept it. Do your best. The great thing about making consistent efforts to be organized is that surprises like this are no longer so overwhelming. When we're already overwhelmed, the unexpected can be the straw that breaks the camel's back! But when we're on top of things for the most part, it becomes a little something we deal with and move on.

5) Take time to dream and think. Remember that clutter and chaos are the result of a confused, overwhelmed mind. We need time to ourselves to just think, be, and dream. It doesn't have to be massive amounts of time, but at least 30 minutes a day. Get up a little earlier, or stay up a little later and just sit quietly, alone. Breathe deeply, empty your mind and enjoy the quiet. Some of our best ideas come from moments like these. Keep a notebook handy during your quiet time so you can jot down anything you don't want to forget.

Understand that organization and tidiness are habits, just like chaos and clutter. If you want to change your business results, change your habits. New habits take time to fully integrate in our lives, but one bright day in the not-so-far-off future, we'll realize that we're going through the motions on autopilot. We did it, we conquered our clutter! Until then, just remember to breathe and take it one step at a time.

About the Author: Learn more about home business, telecommuting, balancing a career and family under one roof, and all aspects of working at home at

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