By Levo League
February 5, 2015

Being organized means something different for everyone.

For some, having an immaculately clean and minimalist workspace is the only way that they can get things done. Others do their best work surrounded by clutter and with good reason–research has linked messy workspaces to heightened creativity.

Regardless of what your organizational fantasy looks like, bringing it to life can be tricky–especially when you’re bogged down with day-to-day responsibilities and still trying to crawl your way out of the post-holiday fog.

The best way to tackle an overwhelming and intimidating task like getting organized is to break it down into steps. So, if you’re trying to make your morning routine more efficient, clear the cobwebs from your to-do list, or just clean up your desk, buckle up. We’re about to get organized.

1. The Commitment

Carving out time for involved projects is tricky and in order to follow through, you’re going to have to own it and fully commit. Just like a visit to the doctor, a hair appointment, or dinner plans, you need to block off time for this project. Writing out a specific plan of exactly what you want to accomplish during your chunk of time can also be an effective way to stay focused.

Once you find an available slot, mark it off on your calendar and don’t make any other plans. Another helpful strategy is to find a friend or roommate that you can discuss your plans with, and then arrange for this person to hold you accountable to your original commitment.

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2. The Purge

Exactly what it sounds like–put it all out there. If your mission is to set up a storage system for your bedroom, empty out all of your drawers, dump out your ‘miscellaneous’ bin and grab that stack of papers from underneath the chair. If you’re trying to organize outstanding tasks, make a list of literally every single thing that you need to do. It doesn’t matter how small or insignificant it is, if it’s something that needs to get done, put it on the list. A notebook, white board, or dedicated Google doc are great places to house this master list.

3. The Trimming of the Fat

This part of the process is also known as “ruthlessly prioritizing.” Do you really need that magazine from 1994? Probably not. Haven’t worn that shirt in three years? Say goodbye. Is one of the items on your to-do list no longer important to you? It’s gotta go. Some would argue that this is the most challenging part of getting organized because it requires you to be firm, decisive, and clear about your priorities.

4. The System

Making something part of your daily routine increases the likelihood that you’ll stick with it, even when it feels inconvenient or uncomfortable. Implementing an organizational system will help you automate and before you know it; straying from your routine will feel odd and being organized will be your new norm.

For organization involving time and task management, apps like Things or Wunderlist can help you schedule your tasks in advance and set deadlines. For room and desk organization, Muji and The Container Store are good places to get the tools you need to create a system that will work for you.

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5. The Maintenance

So, you’ve just finished your organization session and your closet/calendar/desk looks incredible. Then, a particularly busy month strikes and everything is exactly how it was when you started. Prevent this from happening when you’re initially creating your system by setting up reminders to jog your memory. These could be Google calendar alerts, a sacred 15 minutes of desk organization every day, or a weekly half hour dedicated to managing your calendar and tasks.

This article originally appeared on Levo.com.

Contact us at editors@time.com.

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