In 2016, thousands of people downloaded planners I had designed. I couldn’t use the planners myself, I was only good at organized thinking in theory. In practice, I couldn’t maintain a simple intentional habit to save my life. How many planners, notebooks, systems have I purchased only to forget they exist within days?
I started really pushing into habit development around then, but it wasn’t until 2018 that I was able to implement and diligently maintain a daily practice. For a time – but then something would happen, a minor roadbump, a major depression – and the habit was abandoned. I’ve been struggling to reestablish habits since the beginning of the lockdowns, which threw me completely off course. I could manage for a few days, but overwhelm would set in.
In March I started taking meds for (previously undiagnosed) ADHD – the immediate effects were amazing, I started experiencing life in a brand new way, free of the fog, exhaustion, and pure chaos that was my constant. Then I adjusted to the meds, and those benefits started slowly slipping away. We upped the dose, and after the same outcome, we took a bigger leap up. In May, I started at 60mg, which is still lower than the Vyvanse ceiling, and still avoiding Adderall, which admittedly scares me a bit.
It’s been three months. Three months of calmly and blissfully putting things in order, cleaning up 36 years of disorganized existence. Almost every day I wake up smiling, ready to embrace whatever the day has for me. Some days are still gloomy or unmotivated, and those days are powerful – because I am still capable of functioning, still able to manage my thoughts and not spiral into anxiety, and able to remember clearly that it’s just a day, and tomorrow will be good again.
All of that was not really the point of this post – such a rambler.
One of the things I’ve been able to do is adjust my thinking about routines and organization – something I’ve been in a lifelong struggle to master. I realized that so much of what I’d tried to create in the past was built around the Pinterest-worthy systems of should. I wanted things to be pretty and perfect – but that’s not how I function, that is not who I am. I’ve instead begun to adapt systems to how I actually think and live. I will talk a lot about that here.
I’ve come down to the core concept of containers to manage systems, and it is being applied in all areas of life. Yes, it makes sense if we are talking about tangible (or digital) items – but this concept is also applied to the less tangible thoughts, habits, relationships. A place for everything, and everything in its place.
I think my favorite, and obvious, container solution I have implemented is an inbox & processing system for all things. For so long I would spend hours creating a perfectly organized system for something, and then when I was actually doing a task I would forget the system existed. I would create a file structure for saving documents, but when I was actually working I didn’t want to spend the extra 30 seconds finding where it went, and I was focused on the next thing – so it just went wherever it landed. There are some areas where I have built processing into the routine, no longer allowing myself to put it off – putting away laundry is the best example. But for most things, I’ve created spaces (inboxes) for things to be processed when I am in processing mode. Rocks collected, bookmarks, files downloaded, photos taken, items purchased. There is a place for everything, including the things out of place.
One thing I still need to develop a system for is how to manage my ideas, which I am more full of than ever. Part of all of the system creation I have been doing is also tackling the messes of the past – and with the ideas system, I plan on sorting through the piles of notebooks, multiple google doc accounts, and very likely even old messages with my best friend. Out of curiosity, I did a quick search of our Facebook messages – over 400 instances of “I have an idea” – how many were immediately forgotten or abandoned? Most.
As a person who loves to be spontaneous and live according to my whims, I believe deeply in systems. Having systems in place that support your lifestyle, and the simple functions that are involved with living, you have more time and freedom to do whatever the hell you want. For me, it’s not about rigidity, rather it allows for more stress-free adaptability. When I know everything is taken care of, it’s not a big deal if things don’t go according to plan. I know nothing will get out of control, and I have a roadmap back to order.
The sites that I am currently building (I am hoping to launch this week!) are another system, for the less tangible. For so long I thought of my website as a finished thing, that I just needed to build it and they would come. In reality, I never used my websites, I always hated them as soon as they were done, and nobody ever (not ever) found me through them, it’s not why they existed. They existed because I thought they should – you just should have a website if you are an entrepreneur. The ability to give a web address to someone, plug it into my profiles, was the only real benefit.
Now, however, I see them totally differently. I see them as freedom – I get to just create, to do the work I love, and I am building the containers (websites) and systems to help me organize and share that work, instead of letting it collect dust tucked away in a forgotten folder.
Everything feels so wildly different these days. I am so excited for all aspects of life.