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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 July 8, 2020

    3 Techniques for Setting Priorities Effectively

    3 Techniques for Setting Priorities Effectively

    It is easy, in the onrush of life, to become a reactor – to respond to everything that comes up, the moment it comes up, and give it your undivided attention until the next thing comes up.

    This is, of course, a recipe for madness. The feeling of loss of control over what you do and when is enough to drive you over the edge, and if that doesn’t get you, the wreckage of unfinished projects you leave in your wake will surely catch up with you.

    Having an inbox and processing it in a systematic way can help you gain back some of that control. But once you’ve processed out your inbox and listed all the tasks you need to get cracking on, you still have to figure out what to do the very next instant. On which of those tasks will your time best be spent, and which ones can wait?

    When we don’t set priorities, we tend to follow the path of least resistance. (And following the path of least resistance, as the late, great Utah Phillips reminded us, is what makes the river crooked!) That is, we’ll pick and sort through the things we need to do and work on the easiest ones – leaving the more difficult and less fun tasks for a “later” that, in many cases, never comes – or, worse, comes just before the action needs to be finished, throwing us into a whirlwind of activity, stress, and regret.

    This is why setting priorities is so important.

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    3 Effective Approaches to Set Priorities

    There are three basic approaches to setting priorities, each of which probably suits different kinds of personalities. The first is for procrastinators, people who put off unpleasant tasks. The second is for people who thrive on accomplishment, who need a stream of small victories to get through the day. And the third is for the more analytic types, who need to know that they’re working on the objectively most important thing possible at this moment. In order, then, they are:

    1. Eat a Frog

    There’s an old saying to the effect that if you wake up in the morning and eat a live frog, you can go through the day knowing that the worst thing that can possibly happen to you that day has already passed. In other words, the day can only get better!

    Popularized in Brian Tracy’s book Eat That Frog!, the idea here is that you tackle the biggest, hardest, and least appealing task first thing every day, so you can move through the rest of the day knowing that the worst has already passed.

    When you’ve got a fat old frog on your plate, you’ve really got to knuckle down. Another old saying says that when you’ve got to eat a frog, don’t spend too much time looking at it! It pays to keep this in mind if you’re the kind of person that procrastinates by “planning your attack” and “psyching yourself up” for half the day. Just open wide and chomp that frog, buddy! Otherwise, you’ll almost surely talk yourself out of doing anything at all.

    2. Move Big Rocks

    Maybe you’re not a procrastinator so much as a fiddler, someone who fills her or his time fussing over little tasks. You’re busy busy busy all the time, but somehow, nothing important ever seems to get done.

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    You need the wisdom of the pickle jar. Take a pickle jar and fill it up with sand. Now try to put a handful of rocks in there. You can’t, right? There’s no room.

    If it’s important to put the rocks in the jar, you’ve got to put the rocks in first. Fill the jar with rocks, now try pouring in some pebbles. See how they roll in and fill up the available space? Now throw in a couple handfuls of gravel. Again, it slides right into the cracks. Finally, pour in some sand.

    For the metaphorically impaired, the pickle jar is all the time you have in a day. You can fill it up with meaningless little busy-work tasks, leaving no room for the big stuff, or you can do the big stuff first, then the smaller stuff, and finally fill in the spare moments with the useless stuff.

    To put it into practice, sit down tonight before you go to bed and write down the three most important tasks you have to get done tomorrow. Don’t try to fit everything you need, or think you need, to do, just the three most important ones.

    In the morning, take out your list and attack the first “Big Rock”. Work on it until it’s done or you can’t make any further progress. Then move on to the second, and then the third. Once you’ve finished them all, you can start in with the little stuff, knowing you’ve made good progress on all the big stuff. And if you don’t get to the little stuff? You’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you accomplished three big things. At the end of the day, nobody’s ever wished they’d spent more time arranging their pencil drawer instead of writing their novel, or printing mailing labels instead of landing a big client.

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    3. Covey Quadrants

    If you just can’t relax unless you absolutely know you’re working on the most important thing you could be working on at every instant, Stephen Covey’s quadrant system as written in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change might be for you.

    Covey suggests you divide a piece of paper into four sections, drawing a line across and a line from top to bottom. Into each of those quadrants, you put your tasks according to whether they are:

    1. Important and Urgent
    2. Important and Not Urgent
    3. Not Important but Urgent
    4. Not Important and Not Urgent

      The quadrant III and IV stuff is where we get bogged down in the trivial: phone calls, interruptions, meetings (QIII) and busy work, shooting the breeze, and other time wasters (QIV). Although some of this stuff might have some social value, if it interferes with your ability to do the things that are important to you, they need to go.

      Quadrant I and II are the tasks that are important to us. QI are crises, impending deadlines, and other work that needs to be done right now or terrible things will happen. If you’re really on top of your time management, you can minimize Q1 tasks, but you can never eliminate them – a car accident, someone getting ill, a natural disaster, these things all demand immediate action and are rarely planned for.

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      You’d like to spend as much time as possible in Quadrant II, plugging away at tasks that are important with plenty of time to really get into them and do the best possible job. This is the stuff that the QIII and QIV stuff takes time away from, so after you’ve plotted out your tasks on the Covey quadrant grid, according to your own sense of what’s important and what isn’t, work as much as possible on items in Quadrant II (and Quadrant I tasks when they arise).

      Getting to Know You

      Spend some time trying each of these approaches on for size. It’s hard to say what might work best for any given person – what fits one like a glove will be too binding and restrictive for another, and too loose and unstructured for a third. You’ll find you also need to spend some time figuring out what makes something important to you – what goals are your actions intended to move you towards.

      In the end, setting priorities is an exercise in self-knowledge. You need to know what tasks you’ll treat as a pleasure and which ones like torture, what tasks lead to your objectives and which ones lead you astray or, at best, have you spinning your wheels and going nowhere.

      These three are the best-known and most time-tested strategies out there, but maybe you’ve got a different idea you’d like to share? Tell us how you set your priorities in the comments.

      More Tips for Effective Prioritization

      Featured photo credit: Mille Sanders via unsplash.com

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