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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 August 16, 2018

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder That Works)

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder That Works)

    No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

    Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

    Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system”.

    A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

    Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

    In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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    The power of habit

    A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

    For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

    This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

    The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

    That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being six hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

    Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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    The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

    Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

    But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

    The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

    The wonderful thing about triggers (reminders)

    A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

    For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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    But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

    If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

    For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

    These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

    For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

    How to make a reminder works for you

    Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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    Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

    Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

    My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

    Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

    I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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