You've downloaded every new app that promises to keep you organized, read books that vow to make you more efficient — and yet you still feel stressed out and overwhelmed with the clutter on your desk and in your mind.
To make matters worse, you're working harder than ever, putting in late nights and feeling overwhelmed at what you need to get done.
Tamara Myles, a certified professional organizer, often hears this common story.
"Most clients call me because something bad has happened, such as missing a deadline, and there is a moment of desperation that causes them to call," she says.
The majority of callers are seeking help with overwhelming stacks of paper that hide missing key documents. But such disorganization is just a symptom of a bigger problem, Myles says.
"It's really a time-management problem," she says. "Most of my clients are Type A personalities and very hard working. But that doesn't mean they work smart."
In a new book, The Secret to Peak Productivity: A Simple Guide to Reaching Your Personal Best, Myles outlines her strategy to better organization and productivity using a what she calls a "personal productivity system."
"There is no single solution that will work for everyone," she says. "But we can make the most of the time we have by making choices."
She suggests beginning with a "brain dump," writing down everything on your plate to get a clear idea of what needs to get done. While you may find you have more tasks than time, you will learn to make choices and do the right things with the time you have.
By beginning with physical organization, you can start decluttering your piles of paper into toss, to-do and keep stacks. When considering electronic options, Myles cautions not to employ anything before you carefully considered its advantages and disadvantages.
"Some people don't use apps efficiently or correctly, and they just have to have the latest and greatest," she says. "That just becomes more clutter."
You have an electronic-clutter problem when you feel anxious about deleting something, forget what you say or spend a lot of time searching for files, she says.
Some other tips she provides in her book:
1. Prioritize your tasks and activities by looking at each one to determine its urgency and importance. Become more aware of how much time you spend on activities that distract you from what's important.
2. Learn to avoid the traps that can distract you from your goals. If you are interrupted continually at work for things that are not important, try posting a sign that says, "Please don't interrupt me now."
3. Make smart choices. Once you make progress on clutter, you will find more time opening up.
What will you fill it with? Make choices that will fulfill you and give you even more incentives to continue organizing your time.
"In my workshops, people hope to uncover a big secret about being more productive and getting organized. But this is not rocket science. Many of the things I tell them they probably heard before," Myles says. "But there is no one thing that can address any one need. What you need is a road map that will work best for you."