I think we are all doing more – we have more to track and stay on top of – than in past generations. I don’t claim to know whether we’re saying ‘yes’ to more things or if there’s more to do. Whatever the reason, it can mean that it’s easier to get overwhelmed and for things to simply not get done. I could probably write a whole post about saying ‘no’ to things – even those that we put on ourselves – yet this isn’t what this entry is about. When we have what feels like endless things we need to track and accomplish, organizing can be one of those pieces that feels less important. Although if we know where things are and where they go, we can be more successful with all the other things we’re trying to handle.
When you decide organizing is important and will benefit you – it doesn’t happen magically. (If only it was that simple! :)) The way we think and process interacts with our organizing efforts – in all ways, the decisions we make in choosing what, where, why, and how we put our things and then both in creating new systems as well as in maintaining what you’ve set up. Our minds are critical to the process – and they can fool us. How so, you ask?
Have you noticed that you can set aside the time, energy, and focus for organizing and then after you’ve done all the work realized that it’s not as logical as you’d thought? I’m not sure how many people see this – that the way we think can end up creating some additional challenges to our efforts.
First, there’s more than one “logical” system we could create for ourselves considering the way we work. If you’ve ever tried to categorize things, you’ve probably encountered those items that fit in more than one place and then have to choose one – and then, most importantly, remember which place you chose – and all at some unknown future point. Filing is an example of specific example – what to call this or that file and then finding where you decided to put those specific papers. Sometimes the fact that things can be misplaced even with thoughtful and logical decisions can be upsetting for people – potentially to the point of avoiding making decisions on systems.
One way to help you track your systems is to make a list or a map – keep it relatively simple. I have a list of each file name and which drawer it’s in and then one of those files has lists of the boxes in storage and what the rough contents are so if I need to find a specific thing I can reference my file and go directly to the box it’s in. I recently made a map of a dresser for a client – where each box, labeled with a short description of the contents (mostly 1-3 words), represents a drawer in the dresser. Whatever you can do to help your mind focus on the things that really matter is what’s important.
Second, we might be impatient to find our solutions. The level of frustration at how chaotic things feel – whether that’s searching for things or how many things we’re dealing with – can tempt us into rushing into setting up something – anything. And then we change our minds – and set up something else. Maybe we do this over and over and over again – and avoid sticking with any one system long enough to find out how it does help us. Just because something doesn’t work immediately does not translate into its being useless. It’s too easy to discount the importance of our habits – that it takes time, energy, and most importantly effort to shift them. Do you remember the process of learning to ride a bike? It took time and practice. Therefore, make a decision – hopefully thought out – and stick with it for a while, working on being consistent with it.
In our search for answers – the way to make things easier – the thought of spending time thinking can be objectionable. “What, you mean, I have to not act, let the crummy system/space continue? And sit still and think?” Well, mostly yes (you don’t have to sit still ;-)) – if we avoid considering how this or that did or didn’t work, all the various pieces of it; we’re going to keep jumping randomly from one idea and system to another. Meanwhile, life isn’t going to be simplified and finding things that work for you are likely to elude you – defeating the purpose of trying to make things easier.
Although it might feel counter-productive to evaluate your systems – “a waste of time” – taking the time to do this will save you time, energy, and effort in the long run. And when it appears that a system has broken down – take the time to re-evaluate things. You might discover that something else – not the system – has changed. There are plenty of times that things can become fully functional with some tweaks here and there, whether they are new to you or established yet fluctuating systems – and not require an overhaul, i.e. more time, energy, and effort from you, unnecessarily.
The benefits of being organized are innumerable – the reduction of stress and worry (at least in the organizing area) is priceless. It would be hard to argue that it’s not valuable – though there are certainly times that it isn’t high on the priority list. It requires we spend our valuable time and energy on it – all the more reason to not rush into it. And ideally we’re going to approach our organizing efforts with our mind focused and relatively clear. It’s your best asset for discovering the systems that will enable you to simplify and focus on all those other things you’re handling. Therefore, use your mind to choose a system to try, set it up mindfully, and then stick with it for a while – and of course evaluate how it’s working or not for you.