Errands and Non-Urgent Projects

I read a book called Organizing From the Inside Out by Julie Morgenstern that was recommended to me by a professional organizer. This book was helpful in a lot of ways, but my previous post got me to thinking about one strategy I’ve used with great success.

I have a file folder in my filing cabinet labeled “errands.” In it, I stuff things to be filed, envelopes with addresses I need to put in my address book, insurance forms that need to be filled out, etc. I used to let that stuff pile up on my desk, assuming that I would do it right away. And sometimes I did. But when I procrastinated, the pile would grow, eventually becoming a source of stress.

Now that I can stuff paper like this into the file folder, my life is much easier. Anything urgent goes on my 5 Things list, the rest is left alone until there’s nothing else urgent to do. I haven’t looked at it much, I’ll admit. So nothing much has changed except that I don’t have the stress. (So, a lot has changed.)

I also dedicated a shelf in my closet to “non urgent projects”–which consists of piles of things to sell or give away, clippings of recipes I’d like to add to my recipe binder, and hardware for a lighting project I’d like to do someday in my apartment. Having a place to put this kind of thing makes my home more organized and aesthetically pleasing. But the “non-urgent” label is also helpful. I don’t open my closet and view the pile with concern. I know that nothing in there is time-sensitive. One day, I will wake up on Saturday morning and really want to improve the lighting in the living room. Until that days comes, I’m not worrying about it.

If you’re a grad student who, like me, has a fair amount of guilt over what’s been left undone, try slapping a “non-urgent” label on something. Not every item on your to-do list is equally important or time-sensitive. If you can’t avoid guilt, at least feel guilty about something that matters.


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