Getting organized is a goal we periodically revisit in life. It seems that achieving organization is something that slips from our grasp if we don’t stay on top of things. Professional organizers and magazines dedicated to personal organization seem to be all the rage now. Organization products — shelving units, containers, planners, filing systems — fill the shelves of stores. All of the push to organize sometimes leaves us feeling overwhelmed, and asking the key question: where do I even start?
Before leaping into a system of organization and investing time and money, we need to understand the purpose of getting organized. Having your office supplies organized, for example, means that you know what you have and don’t buy more of what’s already filling your supply room. It means you can find what you need when you need it. Being organized with your workflow and project management means that things aren’t creating roadblocks or creating excuses (whether you’re aware of it or not) to keep you from getting the work done.
Being organized, then, is a way to keep physical things or situations, from controlling or stopping you from doing what you want and need to get done.
So — how to achieve organization? Is it a matter of getting a new cupboard and filling it with labeled plastic containers? Possibly, but not necessarily. Without understanding the specific underlying need that we need to get organized and why it isn’t happening, we won’t have a plan to go about solving the problem.
Identify the Problem
Silencing the squeaky wheel means you have to find it first.
Before any steps are taken to solve the problem, we need to understand what the problem is. Look at the projects and things that we are consistently struggling to complete or work with, and ask what the reason is. If we can identify an excess of time being spent on the peripherals of the projects or chasing things down — “where are those TPS reports!?” — perhaps the solution is to either remove them from the periphery by making them unnecessary or bringing them into the core of the project before getting started.
Limits Aren’t Limiting
If you don’t know how to swim, start at the shallow end of the pool. It’s okay.
Only you know what works best for you. Are you a person who prefers a file system of multiple levels hierarchy, with folders and sub-folders and sub-sub-folders, or do you prefer fewer layers of folders and a reliance upon search functions within those general folders? Adopting someone else’s organizational program which calls for something you don’t naturally gravitate to is going to cause you unnecessary frustration and eventual failure. It’s good to make changes, but we should always take into account our natural inclinations. It’s a bit like lifting weights: find your level of comfort, and just bump it up a notch. You don’t have to lift the entire stack at once.
Knowing your limits actually gives you freedom to succeed, because you don’t set yourself up for immediate failure. It’s a great way to implement, by getting your feet wet as you wade in, some new habits that may eventually lead to that big change you were hoping for right at the beginning. You limits can quickly become your strengths.
Square Pegs and Round Holes
Fifty pens refuse to fit in a space designed for five.
As much as we’d all love to have an incredible closet of office supplies with impressive drawer and categorization systems, or a business library using the Dewey Decimal system, it just isn’t always possible. Be honest with what you have. What’s your budget? What kind of space do you have? What kind of digital systems or software can you integrate right now? What kind of work load are you under right now, and, in light of that, how big of a change can you handle in the midst of that? Perhaps switching your entire work flow organizational methods in the middle of the biggest project you’ve ever had isn’t the greatest idea. Instead, find smaller ways to make organizational change until you’re able to make a bigger change when things settle down. Buying ten plastic containers that won’t fit on your shelves will only cause frustration.
Understanding what your current limits are makes great sense.
Commit to Concluding
You’ve started the journey; get excited about the destination.
You’ve identified what is keeping you from being organized, you’ve been honest with yourself about your limits and your likes, and you’ve made an accurate assessment of what you have to work with — now what? Easy: get excited about getting organized! Get excited about being organized not for the sake of being able to tell others that you are organized or so that people will comment on your efficiency (efficiency is not the same as being organized) , but because you’ve dealt with the things that have been creating roadblocks and frustration for you. Essentially, you’ve cleared a path to free up creativity and better enjoyment of your time, making your work more enjoyable.