Trading (and life, if we’re honest) can sometimes feel like a juggling game – like you’re constantly trying to keep all of the balls in the air while rushing to catch the next one. Especially if you have a day job, a family, and who knows what other commitments to throw into the mix.
If you’re going to keep everything ticking along smoothly and chaos to a minimum, you’re going to have to learn to be organized and keep on top of things. So, here are our Ten Commandments of an Organized Life…
1. Thou shalt not put off anything that can be done in two minutes
Rule number one… if a task comes to your mind and you know it’ll take less than two minutes to complete, do it straight away, whether it’s ringing up to make that appointment you keep forgetting about or replying to an important email. It might distract you from whatever you were doing, but so would stopping to make a note to do it later – and this way, it’s done.
2. Thou shalt do the worst work first
This rule is particularly important if you’re feeling swamped with things to do… pick the task you’re least looking forward to, and do that one first. Otherwise, you’ll know it’s waiting to be done and probably end up in a vortex of procrastination.
By starting with your least favourite task, by the time you’ve finished it, you’ll feel like you’ve achieved something, which will motivate you to keep going. And because you’ve done the worst task first, the rest won’t seem too bad.
3. Thou shalt never fail to plan
Fail to plan, and plan to fail. It’s a cliché, but it’s also true. Start every day with these three things to hand:
- Your trading plan
- A to-do list
- A list of the three things you absolutely must get done that day.
As Warren Buffett famously said, “Risk comes from not knowing what you’re doing”. So make sure you do know what you’re doing, where you’re going, and what you want to achieve.
4. Thou shalt delegate
Here’s an ingenious organization tip if ever we’ve heard one – if you’re swamped with tasks, pass some on to someone else. If you’re struggling to find time to check your positions at the end of the day, ask your partner to make dinner (and return the favour later in the week!) If a colleague offers you help, take them up on it. It can be scary passing on responsibility to others, but in a lot of cases they’ll do just as good a job as you would have, whether you like to think so or not. As Mario Draghi says: “Trust the people who are working with you. Delegate.”
5. Thou shalt not put all their eggs in one basket
This can take a number of forms, but it all comes down to planning ahead so you’re not relying on one thing to go perfectly – because guess what? Chances are it won’t. So don’t blow your whole trading capital on one position, don’t only take one pen to a trading seminar you want to make notes from, and always keep a little bit of change in your wallet in case the card machine decides it doesn’t want to work. It’s a great feeling when one thing goes wrong and you know you’ve got a back-up – and it’s a little way to help you feel a lot more on top of things.
6. Thou shalt invest in the right tools
From apps and digital calendars to old-school diaries and Filofaxes, there’s a lot of gear out there to help you keep things in check. We like Remember the Milk, the task manager than syncs with Siri and Evernote to remind you to get things done, and Strides for tracking goals and breaking bad habits.
And for those of you who prefer a good old pen and paper, you really can’t beat a Filofax – with diary refills to suit your daily schedule including business and appointment diaries, year planners, maps, contact pages, to do lists, dividers and note paper, you can’t go wrong. And all your scribbled notes will be kept in one place – though you’ll still have to try to decipher them.
7. Thou shalt tidy up
You’ll never have an organised mind in a disorganised space, so stop putting off tackling your paperwork or clearing out the junk drawer and make sure your desk, your bag and your home are all organised. Once everything has its own space, you’ll save time searching for lost keys and that phone number you know you wrote down (somewhere).
A good tip to help organize your home is to allocate a space where you put your wallet, keys, gadgets, bag and any other day-to-day essentials when you get home, so you know exactly where they’ll be when it’s time to leave. And to help get your trading office looking ship-shape, check out our favourite office gadgets. Then start by tackling the paperwork mountain – promise?
8. Thou shalt not be a hoarder
Clutter is your organizing nemesis, and the reason for the paperwork mountain. So set aside a day when you can sort through the clutter. We know it’s not how you want to spend your day off, but suck it up and do it – you’ll be glad you did.
Get rid of anything you can’t see an immediate use for or a reason for keeping – and start clearing out your bag, desk drawers, computer files and anything else that accumulates rubbish on a daily basis. If you get used to having a regular clear out instead of hoarding clutter until it gets out of hand, it’ll be much more manageable.
9. Thou shalt develop good habits
Once you get the hang of being organized, you won’t even really need to think about it much. But the trouble is, you have to do something 21 times on average before it becomes “a habit” – i.e., something you know you’ll do at a certain time without consciously planning it. That means you really need to stick to the things that will help you be more organized overall, whether it’s taking ten minutes at the end of the day to write tomorrow’s to-do list, tidy away any paperwork and wash up your coffee cup, or setting aside time for emails so you’re not distracted while you’re setting trades. Mark the things you’re trying to build into your routine on your calendar (digital or paper) – and don’t give up on anything you haven’t done for 21 days straight. There’s still time for it to become a natural habit instead of a chore.
10. Thou shalt not aim too high
All of the above being said, nothing will make you feel disorganized faster than trying to organize every aspect of your life, particularly if you’re not a naturally organized soul. You probably didn’t make £1,000,000 profit on your very first day of trading (if you did, we want to know about it…) so don’t expect to become like that ridiculously organized friend who’s never been late a day in their life overnight. Instead of panicking about what you need to do to get everything in check, set yourself realistic goals and you’ll be much more likely to feel like you’re getting somewhere. Baby steps!