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Organize Your Work in 2009

Organize Your Work in 2009

reginaleeds

    Regina Leeds, the best-selling author of One Year to an Organized Life: From Your Desk to Your Deadlines, the Week-by-Week Guide to Eliminating Office Stress for Good, has a brand new book out that might come in handy as you work on getting your work organized for 2009. It’s called One Year to An Organized Work Life — and it’s different from a lot of the self-help, get-yourself-organized books that are out there.

    There are two factors in this book that convinced me it would be useful to just about anyone. Most important is Regina’s approach: she’s known as the Zen Organizer, and her books are all about getting organized with a Zen approach. Don’t worry — that doesn’t mean that she expects readers to get touchy-feely about which drawer their paperclips go into. Instead, Regina’s references to Zen are a matter of focusing on eliminating stress. The philosophy of Zen is about creating calm — an impossibility when you’re stressed out over a messy desk or a disorganized calendar. To reach a more Zen-like state, Regina walks readers through getting rid of some of that stress.

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    The second factor that makes Regina’s book stand out is the fact that while the book has the word ‘work’ in the title, it takes a holistic approach. Regina makes it clear that a person can’t get his or her work life organized but still be unproductive at home. She quotes a Zen proverb:

    …the way a man does one thing is the way he does everything.

    Throughout the book, Regina makes a point of giving readers the tools to organize their entire lives, even if their current focus is work. After all, you can’t just stop being organized when you leave the office each evening.

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    The Twelve Month Guide

    One Year to an Organized Work Life is organized in twelve chapters, one for each month. Each chapter is broken down even further into individual weeks. For each month, Regina sets out a work habit and a home habit for readers to work on developing. For January, for example, readers are asked to leave their desks every day for at least five minutes and to make their beds at home.

    At first glance, these habits may seem to have little to do with getting yourself organized. Even the work habit is counter-intuitive: you’d think that doing something at your desk is more likely to get your stuff organized faster. But there is a reason behind Regina’s approach. Moving around for five minutes refreshes both your mind and body after hours of staring at paperwork — and knowing that you can step away from your desk for even a few minutes can reduce your stress over trying to deal with everything that has built up.

    But why a home habit? The book is about work, right? Regina includes home habits as a part of that holistic approach I mentioned. If your home is more organized and less stressful, making the transition between home and work is that much easier. In both cases, Regina sets forth relatively simple habits. She also provides some simple advice on developing a new habit, including the advice to repeat the same action every day for 21 days to make it habitual.

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    The Weekly Tasks

    In addition to monthly habits, Regina offers small tasks for readers to complete each week. These tasks range from something you can knock out in thirty minutes to something you may need to dedicate two hours to. The tasks vary: some involve setting goals, others cover reviewing your filing system. Regina devotes several pages to each task, making sure to provide readers with all the tools necessary to complete each task as well as explaining why the task will be useful.

    We are talking about 52 individual tasks here, as well as 24 habits. It seems like a lot of work. I bet some prospective readers are already wondering whether it’s worth their while to spend the next year with One Year to an Organized Life. I think it can be worth the effort, though: setting out to get organized is very difficult without any kind of roadmap. You have to organize your organizational plans and it’s easy to get discouraged in the process. But Regina’s book lays out a clear approach. It might not be the approach you would have planned for yourself, but eliminating the planning phase can get you on the road to organization a lot faster.

    I think Regina’s background has allowed her to create a logical approach to organizing work: she started working as a professional organizer in 1988. While Regina has done a lot of organizing homes, she’s also helped a long list of business professionals get their work under control. While organizing might not be an exact science, Regina has had the opportunity to see what actually works in the real world — and to find out where the pitfalls are. Her book acts as a roadmap around those problems.

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    Finding the Book

    You can find One Year to an Organized Work Life on Amazon, as well as at many brick-and-mortar book stores. It is published by Da Capo Press and weighs in at 304 pages. You can find more information about Regina at her personal website.

    While I might not recommend Regina’s book for every reader, I do think it’s a good basic route to getting your work organized. If that’s one of your goals for 2009, One Year to an Organized Work Life will get you going.

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    Last Updated on October 15, 2019

    Is Procrastination Bad? The Truth About Procrastination Revealed

    Is Procrastination Bad? The Truth About Procrastination Revealed

    Procrastination is very literally the opposite of productivity. To produce something is to pull it forward, while to procrastinate is to push it forward — to tomorrow, to next week, or ultimately to never.

    Procrastination fills us with shame — we curse ourselves for our laziness, our inability to focus on the task at hand, our tendency to be easily led into easier and more immediate gratifications. And with good reason: for the most part, time spent procrastinating is time spent not doing things that are, in some way or other, important to us.

    There is a positive side to procrastination, but it’s important not to confuse procrastination at its best with everyday garden-variety procrastination.

    Sometimes — sometimes! — procrastination gives us the time we need to sort through a thorny issue or to generate ideas. In those rare instances, we should embrace procrastination — even as we push it away the rest of the time.

    Why we procrastinate after all

    We procrastinate for a number of reasons, some better than others. One reason we procrastinate is that, while we know what we want to do, we need time to let the ideas “ferment” before we are ready to sit down and put them into action.

    Some might call this “creative faffing”; I call it, following copywriter Ray Del Savio’s lead, “concepting”.[1]

    Whatever you choose to call it, it’s the time spent dreaming up what you want to say or do, weighing ideas in your mind, following false leads and tearing off on mental wild goose chases, and generally thinking things through.

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    To the outside observer, concepting looks like… well, like nothing much at all. Maybe you’re leaning back in your chair, feet up, staring at the wall or ceiling, or laying in bed apparently dozing, or looking out over the skyline or feeding pigeons in the park or fiddling with the Japanese vinyl toys that stand watch over your desk.

    If ideas are the lifeblood of your work, you have to make time for concepting, and you have to overcome the sensation— often overpowering in our work-obsessed culture — that faffing, however creative, is not work.

    So, is procrastination bad?

    Yes it is.

    Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you’re “concepting” when in fact you’re just not sure what you’re supposed to be doing.

    Spending an hour staring at the wall while thinking up the perfect tagline for a marketing campaign is creative faffing; staring at the wall for an hour because you don’t know how to come up with a tagline, or don’t know the product you’re marketing well enough to come up with one, is just wasting time.

    Lack of definition is perhaps the biggest friend of your procrastination demons. When we’re not sure what to do — whether because we haven’t planned thoroughly enough, we haven’t specified the scope of what we hope to accomplish in the immediate present, or we lack important information, skills, or resources to get the job done.

    It’s easy to get distracted or to trick ourselves into spinning our wheels doing nothing. It takes our mind off the uncomfortable sensation of failing to make progress on something important.

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    The answer to this is in planning and scheduling. Rather than giving yourself an unspecified length of time to perform an unspecified task (“Let’s see, I guess I’ll work on that spreadsheet for a while”) give yourself a limited amount of time to work on a clearly defined task (“Now I’ll enter the figures from last months sales report into the spreadsheet for an hour”).

    Giving yourself a deadline, even an artificial one, helps build a sense of urgency and also offers the promise of time to “screw around” later, once more important things are done.

    For larger projects, planning plays a huge role in whether or not you’ll spend too much time procrastinating to reach the end reasonably quickly.

    A good plan not only lists the steps you have to take to reach the end, but takes into account the resources, knowledge and inputs from other people you’re going to need to perform those steps.

    Instead of futzing around doing nothing because you don’t have last month’s sales report, getting the report should be a step in the project.

    Otherwise, you’ll spend time cooling your heels, justifying your lack of action as necessary: you aren’t wasting time because you want to, but because you have to.

    How bad procrastination can be

    Our mind can often trick us into procrastinating, often to the point that we don’t realize we’re procrastinating at all.

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    After all, we have lots and lots of things to do; if we’re working on something, aren’t we being productive – even if the one big thing we need to work on doesn’t get done?

    One way this plays out is that we scan our to-do list, skipping over the big challenging projects in favor of the short, easy projects. At the end of the day, we feel very productive: we’ve crossed twelve things off our list!

    That big project we didn’t work on gets put onto the next day’s list, and when the same thing happens, it gets moved forward again. And again.

    Big tasks often present us with the problem above – we aren’t sure what to do exactly, so we look for other ways to occupy ourselves.

    In many cases too, big tasks aren’t really tasks at all; they’re aggregates of many smaller tasks. If something’s sitting on your list for a long time, each day getting skipped over in favor of more immediately doable tasks, it’s probably not very well thought out.

    You’re actively resisting it because you don’t really know what it is. Try to break it down into a set of small tasks, something more like the tasks you are doing in place of the one big task you aren’t doing.

    More consequences of procrastination can be found in this article:

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    8 Dreadful Effects of Procrastination That Can Destroy Your Life

    Procrastination, a technical failure

    Procrastination is, more often than not, a sign of a technical failure, not a moral failure.

    It’s not because we’re bad people that we procrastinate. Most times, procrastination serves as a symptom of something more fundamentally wrong with the tasks we’ve set ourselves.

    It’s important to keep an eye on our procrastinating tendencies, to ask ourselves whenever we notice ourselves pushing things forward what it is about the task we’ve set ourselves that simply isn’t working for us.

    Featured photo credit: chuttersnap via unsplash.com

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