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Productivity & Organizing Myth #7 – A person’s office or home can get decluttered and organized in hours or weekend (or 30 minute t.v. show).

Productivity & Organizing Myth #7 – A person’s office or home can get decluttered and organized in hours or weekend (or 30 minute t.v. show).
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    Myth: Decluttering or getting organized takes a brief time.
    Reality: A major decluttering effort takes a lot of hours – most likely days.

    We don’t collect piles of mail, stacks of magazines, wads of receipts, a variety of files folder, heaps of papers, towers of reports, and other clutter in just a few days. In most spaces it is years of accumulation that pile up resulting in clutter that is unsightly, distracting, a hazard, an obstacle or guilt-generating. Thus, undoing the jumble will probably be more than a few hours.

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    Let’s dwell on the decluttering and organizing rather than rehash the downside of clutter. If your space is cluttered or if you are around others who are cluttered, you know the downside vividly.

    Decluttering then organizing takes time because many decisions have to be made about what’s worth keeping and how to dispose of the things ‘going away’. The good news is that you will create a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for maintaining a clutter-free and organized environment as you declutter in a mass effort. This SOP will help you maintain a streamlined handling habit for the long term.

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    Some of the time devoted to decluttering then organizing is rooted in handling most of the things in the room. Simply picking every item up and moving it to its appropriate place takes a lot of time when there are masses of stuff.

    Prepare for your decluttering project by having:

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    • A large trash can lined with a carpenter clean-up (ultra heavy) plastic bag
    • A box for all important papers to be kept then organized
    • Some paper grocery bags if there are lots of newspapers and magazines to recycle
    • A container near the door for items to keep and relocate somewhere else

    Here are some guidelines to help you develop your own SOP toward decluttering.

    • Ask yourself “Is there is a tax or legal consequence tied to this paper?” If there is, deliver it to the person who handles that priority or store it somewhere out of your prime area.
    • Evaluate whether this helps you do your job now. [If it might or did in the past but not now, get rid of it.]
    • If you get rid of something, could you get it somewhere else if you needed to? For example, will the originator have a copy if you’re desperate to have it in the future?
    • Do you love this thing? If you do love it – not like it or have an appreciation for or know that it cost a lot, put it in the keep pile.
    • Ask yourself: “What is the worst that would happen if I get rid of this?

    The process is:

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    • Pick up a paper or item and ask yourself the questions above.
    • Things you decide to keep put in the bin for later organization into files, groups, and useful arrangements.
    • Put things that belong somewhere else in the container by the door for later distribution.
    • Keep moving, do not linger in the folders, examining the report, or reminiscing with notes received.
    • Decide quickly, move quickly, and move on quickly.
    • Keep only the most recent copy of journals, magazines, reports (remember, most of this stuff can be easily found online now).

    Note: I have worked on some of the t.v. organizing shows (HGTV Mission: Organization), talked to others who have done episodes, participated in t.v. specials locally and can accurately report there is a large team of people or long time dedicated to making the transformations that take 30-60 minutes on the shows. Furthermore, often the homeowners are cleaning up, not creating SOPs that will allow them to handle stuff in a streamlined way resulting in a clutter-free space for the future.

    Finally, organizing and decluttering is a continual action. Like eating healthfully to maintain your weight and exercising regularly to keep fitness, organizing is a part of every day. Every time you check your email, buy things, and receive paper mail you will benefit by keeping only what is vital.

    Previous Myths:

    Susan Sabo is an intrepid traveler who has organized her life to be out of the country for months at a time. Antarctica is the only unvisited continent (so far). She’s the author at www.productivitycafe.com, consults with professionals on improving their personal productivity and presents motivating productivity and organizing programs such as ‘Preparing for the busy season’ at corporate events. .

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    Last Updated on January 21, 2020

    Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

    Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

    Most of the skills I use to make a living are skills I’ve learned on my own: Web design, desktop publishing, marketing, personal productivity skills, even teaching! And most of what I know about science, politics, computers, art, guitar-playing, world history, writing, and a dozen other topics, I’ve picked up outside of any formal education.

    This is not to toot my own horn at all; if you stop to think about it, much of what you know how to do you’ve picked up on your own. But we rarely think about the process of becoming self-taught. This is too bad, because often, we shy away from things we don’t know how to do without stopping to think about how we might learn it — in many cases, fairly easily.

    The way you approach the world around you dictates to a great degree whether you will find learning something new easy or hard.

    The Keys to Learning Anything Easily

    Learning comes easily to people who have developed:

    Curiosity

    Being curious means you look forward to learning new things and are troubled by gaps in your understanding of the world. New words and ideas are received as challenges and the work of understanding them is embraced.

    People who lack curiosity see learning new things as a chore — or worse, as beyond their capacities.

    Patience

    Depending on the complexity of a topic, learning something new can take a long time. And it’s bound to be frustrating as you grapple with new terminologies, new models, and apparently irrelevant information.

    When you are learning something by yourself, there is nobody to control the flow of information, to make sure you move from basic knowledge to intermediate and finally advanced concepts.

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    Patience with your topic, and more importantly with yourself is crucial — there’s no field of knowledge that someone in the world hasn’t managed to learn, starting from exactly where you are.

    A Feeling for Connectedness

    This is the hardest talent to cultivate, and is where most people flounder when approaching a new topic.

    A new body of knowledge is always easiest to learn if you can figure out the way it connects to what you already know. For years, I struggled with calculus in college until one day, my chemistry professor demonstrated how to do half-life calculations using integrals. From then on, calculus came much easier, because I had made a connection between a concept I understood well (the chemistry of half-lifes) and a field I had always struggled in (higher maths).

    The more you look for and pay attention to the connections between different fields, the more readily your mind will be able to latch onto new concepts.

    How to Self-Taught Effectively

    With a learning attitude in place, working your way into a new topic is simply a matter of research, practice, networking, and scheduling:

    1. Research

    Of course, the most important step in learning something new is actually finding out stuff about it. I tend to go through three distinct phases when I’m teaching myself a new topic:

    Learning the Basics

    Start as all things start today: Google it! Somehow people managed to learn before Google ( I learned HTML when Altavista was the best we got!) but nowadays a well-formed search on Google will get you a wealth of information on any topic in seconds.

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    Surfing Wikipedia articles is a great way to get a basic grounding in a new field, too — and usually the Wikipedia entry for your search term will be on the first page of your Google search.

    What I look for is basic information and then the work of experts — blogs by researchers in a field, forums about a topic, organizational websites, magazines. I subscribe to a bunch of RSS feeds to keep up with new material as it’s posted, I print out articles to read in-depth later, and I look for the names of top authors or top books in the field.

    Hitting the Books

    Once I have a good outline of a field of knowledge, I hit the library. I look up the key names and titles I came across online, and then scan the shelves around those titles for other books that look interesting.

    Then, I go to the children’s section of the library and look up the same call numbers — a good overview for teens is probably going to be clearer, more concise, and more geared towards learning than many adult books.

    Long-Term Reference

    While I’m reading my stack of books from the library, I start keeping my eyes out for books I will want to give a permanent place on my shelves. I check online and brick-and-mortar bookstores, but also search thrift stores, used bookstores, library book sales, garage sales, wherever I happen to find myself in the presence of books.

    My goal is a collection of reference manuals and top books that I will come back to either to answer thorny questions or to refresh my knowledge as I put new skills into practice. And to do this cheaply and quickly.

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    2. Practice

    Putting new knowledges into practice helps us develop better understandings now and remember more later. Although a lot of books offer exercises and self-tests, I prefer to jump right in and build something: a website, an essay, a desk, whatever.

    A great way to put any new body of knowledge into action is to start a blog on it — put it out there for the world to see and comment on.

    Just don’t lock your learning up in your head where nobody ever sees how much you know about something, and you never see how much you still don’t know.

    Check out this guide for useful techniques to help you practice efficiently: The Beginner’s Guide to Deliberate Practice

    3. Network

    One of the most powerful sources of knowledge and understanding in my life have been the social networks I have become embedded in over the years — the websites I write on, the LISTSERV I belong to, the people I talk with and present alongside at conferences, my colleagues in the department where I studied and the department where I now teach, and so on.

    These networks are crucial to extending my knowledge in areas I am already involved, and for referring me to contacts in areas where I have no prior experience. Joining an email list, emailing someone working in the field, asking colleagues for recommendations, all are useful ways of getting a foothold in a new field.

    Networking also allows you to test your newly-acquired knowledge against others’ understandings, giving you a chance to grow and further develop.

    Here find out How to Network So You’ll Get Way Ahead in Your Professional Life.

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    4. Schedule

    For anything more complex than a simple overview, it pays to schedule time to commit to learning. Having the books on the shelf, the top websites bookmarked, and a string of contacts does no good if you don’t give yourself time to focus on reading, digesting, and implementing your knowledge.

    Give yourself a deadline, even if there is no externally imposed time limit, and work out a schedule to reach that deadline.

    Final Thoughts

    In a sense, even formal education is a form of self-guided learning — in the end, a teacher can only suggest and encourage a path to learning, at best cutting out some of the work of finding reliable sources to learn from.

    If you’re already working, or have a range of interests beside the purely academic, formal instruction may be too inconvenient or too expensive to undertake. That doesn’t mean you have to set aside the possibility of learning, though; history is full of self-taught successes.

    At its best, even a formal education is meant to prepare you for a life of self-guided learning; with the power of the Internet and the mass media at our disposal, there’s really no reason not to follow your muse wherever it may lead.

    More About Self-Learning

    Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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