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With or Without You, Part 2

Two weeks ago, I wrote about why working side by side with an expert can take most of the overwhelm and a lot of the tediousness out of an organizing project. But sometimes budgets, privacy issues and other concerns mean that going it alone is in order. Also, highly motivated people who are naturally organized but just got behind for some reason, often choose to tackle their projects solo. Here are some tips for organizing yourself.

Schedule time on your calendar to work on the project — no phones, no email and no interruptions. Pretend you are paying someone by the hour during that time, and schedule at least three hours to really make a dent in your project.

Research ahead of time so that you have the tools you need: containers, labeler, cleaning supplies, etc. Have them ahead of time and you will make your organizing time much more pleasant with no last-minute runs to the store.

Read columns like these and sign up for online organizing blogs or subscribe to Real Simple for tips to inspire you.

Google key words from your project and scout around for “how to do it” on the Internet. There are videos on everything from how to make a bed to how to fold your underwear. They’re free, although they are not always the last word in the subject, so if it doesn’t look like your style, keep looking. I watched an online video on how to do a manicure and it looked like Sweeney Todd had painted the nails. Next.

Envision the space you would like and work backwards to achieve it. The clearer the idea of the results you want, the more easily they can be achieved, whether you go it alone or with a pro.

Make it fun; use the best materials and the coolest gadgets you can afford. Productivity guru David Allen, author of “Getting things Done” and one of my personal heroes, often mentions how a beautiful fountain pen changed his attitude toward sitting down with a tablet to brainstorm. Anything that is broken, has low batteries or is a color you hate will suck any joy out of the process.

Take the time to look at the project as a whole before you dive in so that you won’t have to repeat the process two or more times to get it right. For example, take a look at your entire file system before re-labeling. If you blindly re-label everything before doing a thorough purge, you may end up wasting a lot of label tape and time on files that are going to be recycled anyway.

Once you’ve successfully completed some of your organizing projects, share what you learn with someone else. It’s the best way to reinforce your skills.