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Productivity & Organizing Myth #8 – Getting Organized Takes Too Long

Productivity & Organizing Myth #8 – Getting Organized Takes Too Long
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    Myth: Getting organized requires so much time that you won’t be productive while getting organized. There’s too much to do to bother getting organized.
    Reality: Looks can be deceiving. The project might be substantial but you can do it! As the Question goes, “How do you eat an elephant?” Answer, “One bite at a time.”

    Here are two proven ways to tackle a substantial organizing project. One, hold daily sessions. Two, make a day of it.

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    If you choose to hold daily sessions, have ones that are relatively brief. You can do anything for 15 minutes right? You probably find this is particularly true when there is a reward at the end of the time block. This approach to getting organized will accomplish the goal over time. Taking a month or two to get organized is a good way to develop new skills, standard operating procedures, and habits. As an encouragement: clutter and disorganization occurred over time and reversing that can take time.

    I suggest you have a portable timer that you set for 15 minutes as you get started. The timer has a few great benefits:

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    • It will help you to know the limit of your block of time, that you only have 15 minutes to spend on this or that.
    • That you can do anything for 15 minutes
    • That once your 15 minutes is up you might be encouraged to do another since ‘that went so fast’.
    • It will help you stay on task. Decluttering and organizing are your only activity for the brief amount of time – 15 minutes that the timer is running.

    Daily sessions, every day, are the key to this approach. It is most successful when you do a session every day because your efforts will compound and the impact become more and more vivid. You will keep a momentum that will carry you through to completion. And, staying organized will be a natural extension of your efforts. Additionally, by approaching getting organized with daily session, you will probably not impact the typical flow of activities you are responsible to complete.

    If you choose to make a day of it (getting organized) you will see great impact in a relatively short amount of time. This approach is for those who like a big challenge and have the motivation and endurance to stay with the project. You need to be able to put everything on hold so you can give your full attention to decluttering and organizing. Think of suspending things as what would happen if you needed a sick day. Calls, returning emails, and doing the work would have to wait until tomorrow. If you seem to allow distractions to keep you from devoting a full day, revert to daily sessions or multiple partial days.

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    On your day have all the supplies you need from trash bags to file folders available at the outset. Be sure you’ve eaten well. Take a moment to picture how terrific things will look when well ordered and efficiently laid out. Invite someone to be around. The benefits of someone assisting you are:

    • His or her being there will keep you reminded of the job at hand.
    • You can share the excitement of progress.
    • You will talk through the difficult decisions together.
    • Your partner in organizing will encourage your tossing and recycling.
    • You may celebrate the accomplishments at the end of the day.
    • By explaining what you’re doing and why now & then, you are creating a reliable standard operating procedure that you’ll carry into the future.

    Then, steadily work from one area to the next. Do not put anything aside for later decisions…

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    Then, steadily work from one area to the next such as your desktop to filing drawers, to stuff on the floor. Do not put anything aside for later decision. Keep progressing and clearing.

    Take a look at this before and after photos of significant project:

    Printer Area Before
      Printer Area After

        Previous Myths:

        Susan Sabo is an intrepid traveler who has organized her life to be out of the country for months at a time. She’s visited South & Central America, Europe, Asia, ‘Down Under” and traveled across North America. Susan writes at www.productivitycafe.com, consults with professionals on improving their personal productivity and presents motivating productivity programs & tips (such as how to get ready for the busy season) to groups.

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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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