Ask the Experts

Q: I’m Always the Last One to Leave Work!

We all have to-do list items that get pushed and pushed and pushed to the bottom because they are so boring or overwhelming or onerous. For this nurse, it’s the daily chore of completing patients’ charts that keeps her after hours. Here, organization guru Leslie Josel offers a clever strategy for anyone who needs an extra dose of motivation.

Dear Organizing Coach: “I’m a 49-yr-old RN with ADHD who works the night shift. I’m successful in providing PT care and but I have difficulty with time management at work. I am always the last to leave work because I’m behind in getting charting completed. At home, clutter is a big problem; my kitchen area and living room are tidy but piles clutter other rooms. Clutter causes anxiety. I often feel plagued by feelings of being unsuccessful, and I feel stuck in a cycle of attempting to tackle clutter but never finishing the job or waiting until the last minute, which causes me stress.”  — DLo757

Hi DL0757:

Always relying on our own internal motivation is exhausting. And it sounds like you ALWAYS need to be motivated to get stuff done, whether at home or at work. So try using the external motivation of your environment instead.

Are you tactile? Would pretty pens or file folders help you complete your charting more quickly? Do you respond to color? Can you surround yourself at work with colorful objects that will help you get going and stay focused on your tasks? Or perhaps you have a favorite snack? Sometimes pairing something we desire (a delicious cup of tea) with the undesirable (getting those charts completed!) provides motivation.

[Free Handout: How to Manage Your Time at Work]

Have you tried playing music while you work? Music helps the brain plan, focus, and initiate. Create a playlist of your favorite tunes. The key is to play the same playlist every time you sit down to do work. Eventually the music will act as a motivator; when you hear the soundtrack, it will signal your brain that it’s time to get work done.

Now about that paper clutter. You mention that you feel unsuccessful at finishing tackling the piles. The thing about paper clutter is that it never stops. Even when you feel like you might have it under control, another batch comes your way!

The key to staying on top of paper piles is to create an easy and efficient system that works for YOU! If you’re an “out-of-site, out-of-mind” girl, then set up a wall system that is visible and keeps what you need top-of-mind. Get creative. Filing cabinets are old news! Think wall files, magazine holders, and binders, even labeled bins. The goal is to create a system that you can comfortably set-up, maintain, and access.

When it doubt, throw it out. I’m a little cold-hearted when it comes to this. But before ANY paper gets into my house, it is sorted over the recycling bin or the shredder. Most paper isn’t personal so don’t treat it as such. Make hard cuts and get rid of what you don’t need before it takes up space in your home — and your head.

[19 Ways to Meet Deadlines and Get Things Done]

Organization guru Leslie Josel, of Order Out of Chaos, answers questions from ADDitude readers about everything from paper clutter to disaster-zone bedrooms and from mastering to-do lists to arriving on time every time.

Submit your questions to Dear Organizing Coach here!