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Mistakes Can Lead to Better Organization

Mistakes Can Lead to Better Organization
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    Not long ago I got two great chances to fly by the seat of my pants. And, I HATE flying by the seat of my pants. I’d rather go to the dentist or chew aluminum foil! Whether I’m scheduled to speak to audiences for fee or for free, I prepare very carefully. I want people to leave my speeches ready to take action and change their lives. Being prepared grounds me to be able to handle the stress of speaking and whatever else comes my way.

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    Last Thursday I was ready to speak to a study group of the American Society of Interior Designers. I was more nervous than usual because two men from a local speaker’s bureau were going to be in attendance to see if I’m the kind of speaker their company wants to represent. I thought I had my act completely together. I was going to do a slide presentation which required that I use my laptop computer. As I got ready to set up I suddenly realized that I’d left my computer on the kitchen counter, at least 40 minutes away. My first thought was, “Well, I guess you’ve got to make every mistake possible as a speaker so you can learn from them!” I’ve come a long way from the days when I would have bludgeoned myself with, “How could you be so stupid!”

    As I usually do when faced with a sudden challenge like that, I went into problem-solving mode. I’d given that speech many times without using slides. I could certainly do that again. And, that’s what I did. I spent some time calming myself down, mentally reviewing the material, and I gave a good speech. Under the circumstances I was pleased to have been able to do that. Had I not been well organized in every other way, it would have been much harder to recover and give my audience a good experience.

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    The next day I made sure I took my laptop to do a speech for employees in the Mortgage Division of Village Bank. Again, I was very organized, and I was pleased that I’d remembered the laptop. I thought to myself, “You’re really ready this time!” Wrong!!!!

    With the help of some Village Bank employees I began to set up my computer to project my slides through their system. That’s when it hit me that though I had the computer, I had left my power cord at home. I had to laugh at myself. Another lesson! You need both the computer and the power cord to run a slide presentation.

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    Fortunately, the Village Bank people were so nice, helpful and understanding. One man had a flash drive I was able to load my speech onto and I was able to project it through their system. There’s more than one way to skin a cat! Or rather, there’s more than one way to project a slide program!

    Having made those two amazing mistakes back to back gave me the impetus to get more systematic about loading my AV bag. Most items in my AV bag never leave it between speeches. My computer and power cord do. My current solution to make sure I’m never without my computer and power cord again is to have two red cords with tags attached to them that read “Computer” and “Power Cord” tied to my bag handles when those items are not in the bag. They are my cues to check to make sure the computer and power cord are in the bag. When I put the computer in the bag, I take the tag off and put it in the bag. When I pull the computer out of the bag I tie the tag to the handle. I’ll do the same thing with the power cord tag. And, for good measure, I’m putting a flash drive with my speeches on it in the bag.

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    Making mistakes can lead to good organizing solutions! I’ll bet I’m not likely to forget my computer or power cord again, or at least not any time soon!

    What mistakes have you made that caused you to reorganize and improve a process?

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    Last Updated on July 21, 2021

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

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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    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.”[1]

    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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    From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

    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 6 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.

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    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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    Reference

    [1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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