A very long time ago while I was earning a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, I used to have to break multiple sets of #2 3/4 of an inch thick pine boards. With my feet. My hands. Once, even with my forehead (don’t try that at home).

Once in class, in the rush to get two classmates set up to hold a couple of boards for a jump sidekick, I made a mistake. A big one. In the rush to break the boards, I handed my boardholders two boards at once – but the one board’s grain was vertical while the other board’s grain was horizontal. When I kicked those boards – they didn’t move. At all. It was like kicking a brick wall two feet thick – the boards didn’t break, but I thought my foot had.

As I limped around in circles wondering what I’d done wrong, the instructor came over and said, “You can’t break through if you don’t have alignment.”

That was true then, and it’s true now, although instead of kicking pine boards, I spend most of my time emailing, writing, coding and blogging. Whatever you get paid to do, are the things you work on and the apps you work in aligned?

Here’s a checklist of some of the places in your life where not having alignment is going to feel like kicking a brick wall:

  • Odds are good if your gainfully employed you’ve got a list of projects. In your email app, do you have a folder for each project with exactly the name of each project?
  • As much as you don’t want paper in you life, some of these projects will involve bits of dead trees. Does each paper project folder’s title align with its project?
  • How about the billion or so files on your computer? Is there a folder for each project – whether it has files yet or not? Are all the files for each project in that project’s folder?
  • Let’s not forget bookmarks and favorites – granted we all have to use search to re-find the sites we marked because the whole bookmark concept died of a heart attack a few thousand bookmarks back – but do you have a folder for each project in Firefox and IE that at least is supposed to be where you put URLs?

The more of these “information boards” you can align, the easier it gets to go through them. You’ve got enough cognitive dissonance without having to figure out where things belong as you move through different slices of your digital life.

Bob Walsh writes, codes and blogs about different aspects of the digital lifestyle at ToDoOrElse, MyMicroISV and Clear Blogging. His second book, Clear Blogging, will be out Feb. 12th.

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