The goal of getting organized and improving productivity is not to be perfect. It is to make life easier and more enjoyable and fulfilling. Complex systems are rarely the answer. The best solutions are often the simplest. Over complicated systems most often cannot be maintained. More often than not, well done is good enough.
There are times that being “perfect” is important; in a client proposal, or on a resume, or in a white paper for your boss. But equally, there are times that you don’t have to be so perfect – I’m not talking about spelling errors, or typos – I’m talking about thoroughness and precision.
When you strive for perfection your time investment is maxed out. Where can you step back and save a bit of time and energy? Here are my favorites:
Email – ask yourself, do I have to include that piece of information. The briefer and more to the point your email is the faster it takes to write it and the easier it will be for the person receiving it to send you a prompt response
Planning your day – write out the top 5 things (or 3, or 7) you wish to accomplish. Prioritize them by writing numbers next to each task – 1 for the most important, etc. Just do it – but don’t spend a lot of time on this task – it will change anyway because you’ll never be able to anticipate the nuances of each day. It’s the act of planning that keeps you focused, not the exact plan itself
Drop the Penny – round up, it always balances out and it saves such silliness. Imagine how many payroll dollars would be saved if employees didn’t have to count pennies. Their impact is insignificant (unless of course you have a million of them – but that’s not the point!)
If you’re a perfectionist, try an experiment. Pick one thing today and try to be a little less perfect.
The only reason to get organized is to get something you want but don’t have. I’m sure you’re familiar with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, but have you ever thought about this from an organizational perspective. Getting organized and being more productive is a direct way to satisfy a basic human need.
But how do you motivate yourself to GET ORGANIZED?
Focus on what you want, not what you don’t want:
Don’t say: I can never find anything
Do say: I want to be able to find what I need it when I need it
Understand the benefits of getting organized:
Your most important work gets done
You waste less time looking for things you know you have but can’t find
You spend less money buying things you know you already have
You have peace of mind and are able to enjoy life more
Define “organized” on your own terms:
Organized doesn’t mean pristine or perfect
Organized means you can find what you need when you need it
Let go of perfection and go for “organized enough”
My motivation to be organized is Peace of Mind What’s yours?
“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” Albert Einstein
This great quote pretty well sums up why I’m in business. If you judge yourself by your ability to organize when that is not what you’re good at, you are not being fair to yourself. If you can value yourself for what you are good at, and find work-arounds for what isn’t so easy, then you’ve found a better route to productivity AND peace.
When I was in college and had a term paper to write I would go to the Library and check out as many books and periodicals as I could find. I would read them, then write the paper. The amount of information available was finite.
It is not this way for today’s students. With the advent of computers there is no end to the amount of research that can be done. The amount of information available is infinite. But somehow, kids today have learned when enough is enough and are able to stop researching and start writing.
If your formative years were like mine, learning when to stop presents a challenge. We were taught to research a topic until all sources were exhausted. Could this be part of the reason why our work never seems to end? We were taught to research until we could research no more. Trying to do this in today’s day and age does nothing but over-stress us, over-work us, and cause us to run continually behind. We simply have access to too much information.
When working in today’s climate consider creating self-imposed limits:
I will research the topic for 1 hour and then act
I will read 4 books and 4 articles and then act
I will give myself one week to gather information and then act
The concept of stopping research before exhausting all options is uncomfortable for many detailed and perfectionist professionals. But when you consider the minimal incremental learning you gain from the 5th, 6th, and 7th books you will be more empowered to stop gathering and start producing. As my favorite Disney character Mary Poppins says, Enough is as Good as a Feast.