From now on, there will be no missed appointments, no lost emails, and no mislaid pieces of paper. My office room will be clean and orderly. I will always have my keys when I need them. Every scrap of information will be classified according to a complex code so that I can find my receipts at tax time, have my travel information in hand before I leave for the airport, and have the address of every facility that I need to visit in my cell phone (no lost papers for me).”
This is the New Year’s resolution for 2014 of a senior business executive known to me personally. But somehow it never worked that way. What happened instead was that he lost time reading the productivity blogs and organising and labelling everything in his office.
He estimated that he would have lost at least eight hours of work every month during the first three months of the year as he went on with the indexing and organising binge. “There has to be a middle ground,” he used to tell me.
Imagine you are running a marathon and, within the first mile, you suddenly get that feeling that a small stone has got inside your running shoe. Do you continue to run, with that small jagged pain hampering your every step? Or do you stop, take off the shoe, shake out the pebble, put the shoe back on and continue running at full capacity? Of course, you do the latter. Otherwise you end up running the remaining 10 miles in pain, and at a lower level of performance. It takes only a matter of moments to remove the pebble. And yet, in their lives in general, I see so many people who think they are ‘too busy’ to do the equivalent in terms of getting organised, of setting up enabling structures.
This is not about being organised for the sake of it. It’s about being in control, free to function effortlessly and effectively, maintaining focus on the actions that create the results.
It is easy for anyone to take a self-inventory. Watch your habits and routines carefully for a day or two - at home with your personal belongings, at your desk, in your kitchen. Do systems and routines lubricate the workings of your day? Do they keep you going – or merely going in circles?
On the other hand, do you find that a lack of system makes each simple job a new ordeal? Could you get more mileage by organising your time and talents? If you think that your routines could be improved, here are some suggestions to speed you on your way:
Make tidiness a continuous process - (not an Olympian campaign every few months when disorder flood you). You’ll save more time that way. Put things back in their places, for example. The seconds you save tossing some item haphazardly into a drawer may cost you hours of rummaging later.
Plan efficient routines. Most people yearn for that extra hour in the day, yet many lose it simply by failing to plan their moves. For any busy person, a little time devoted to planning jobs can pay back hours.
Do not be rigid. Leave room for your inspiration. Your systems and routines are not the job. They only help you do the job. When you are going well, forget the systems. Let inspiration take over. You can straighten up those papers later.
Leave it neat. Don’t conclude one day’s job until the groundwork is laid for the next. Look at your desk, your kitchen, your workshop, and ask yourself, “How am I going to like this staring me in the face tomorrow?” if your response is a shudder, you know the cure, tidy up.
Use Appropriate Tools. Whether you’re hi-tech or old-school, there are an abundance of tools out there to help you stay organised. Day planners, diaries, digital personal assistants, and calendars- the choice can be overwhelming. For me, I like to keep it relatively simple, sticking to Google Calendar for appointments and deadlines, the ever-popular Evernote for all manner of lists and note-taking, and as iPad for on-the-go jotting. Any more than that and my tools start to manage me, instead of the other way around. The trick is, find the tools that work for you, and leave the rest.
If your life is in chaos, I don’t recommend trying to get organised all in one shot. Instead, start with the first habit, and work your way down. Do it a little at a time, one area of your life at a time, one area of your home or office at a time. Work on a habit for a month or so, then move on to the next one. Or adopt two or three if you think you can handle it, but don’t do them all at once. I also recommend you set aside some time each day (about 30 minutes) for organising, at least in the beginning, until you are fairly organised and have your system down. Then, you might need 10 minutes a day, just to keep things running smoothly, and every now and then you might need to have a purge session (every six months or so) to get rid of accumulated buildup.
So what’s the secret in getting organised? In truth, there aren’t any secrets. There are simple habits, systems and routines that you can develop over time that will get you to where you want to be. These are what you can apply to your work, your home, in your children, your hobbies, and your life.
When you become organised and productive, you reduce needless overworking. You will have more time for your family. You will be able maintain happy, healthy and deeply fulfilling relationships. Because you will have enough energy left and be able to spend high-quality time with your spouse, your intimate relationship will flourish. If you have kids, you will be able to spend more high-quality time with them as well.
A musician should certainly strive towards perfection in his music. But if he wants to be an equally perfectionist about polishing his shoes, he is simply dissipating his energies.
Likewise, your systems and plans are designed to keep the routine chores of life moving. But when the distant whistle of the express train is heard, be ready to get those goods trains off the track. Always keep the main line open for opportunity - the new job, the business advancement, the fresh idea. Remember, successful living - not the system - is your goal.
By Lionel Wijesiri - Sunday Observer