I understand that this will not resonate with some people. Some of us are organised and some aren’t. You can’t fight against who you are, right? I am a highly organised person but in recent years, I have found that I’ve dropped the ball a number of times. Strangely, with so many things on my plate – work priorities, personal commitment, social gatherings and then, the very things I want to get done/want to prioritise/yet fall to the bottom of the priority list – it has become less of an issue when my system fails me. Actually, it’s not so much that it doesn’t bother me – it does. It is the fact that with so many things coming at me, I am at a loss as to what to do. And so I do nothing.
It’s something like spending money when you don’t have any. Ever notice that when you come upon a windfall, it’s hard to decide that you’ll spend it all – legitimately or on a whim. The sum is too big so the decision making gets stalled. But if you were looking at a paltry sum, the kind of sum that really is not worth considering on a day to day basis, you’d make far quicker snap judgements? It seems to go against the grain, but there you have it.
Which brings me back to my failed system. I have been relying on a paper based system for the longest time. I am checklist oriented and I need to see things and be able to refer to them constantly. Key to my feeling on top of my work is adjusting my priorities daily. It’s the first thing I do in the morning and the last thing I do at night.
The online thing doesnt work for me, despite having my computer on 24/7. Yet, my system was very basic, redundant and not very effective in the long run. I stuck to it because it worked (partially) and nothing better seemed to come my way.
Although I had seen a few different online systems, none seemed to speak to me. Some were too clunky, features screaming from every corner, begging to be used. Some too sparse and not giving me enough room to manuevre around. I am not saying they are no good – all of these systems are great. For example, Mission Control is perfect if you want to keep it short and simple, yet collaborative. Zoho too is superb and completely extensible.
But it was not for me.
Today, I got into Trello and now, I am hooked. (Apparently, I had a Trello account but forgot about it). It’s visual, colourful, has clean lines, is very organised in its layout (surprise!), extensible, free and easy to use from the word go.
I’ve just started using it and already am feeling more in control of what I need to get accomplished. I have a better sense of where things are at, what I need to keep in view (yet not attack just yet) and things I want to accomplish right now. Leo Babauta did a great post on getting organised – The Key Habits of Organisation – which helped get me back on track with this. Leo too uses Trello but the main takeaway here is how : he used a system designed by Ryan Carson of Treehouse. You create a tasks board with lists such as Today, Waiting On, Later, Done. You create your lists of stuff to do and you can move them around between these categories as you progress. For example, something from your Waiting On list may get moved to Today and once completed, moved again to your Done pile.
So why get organised? If I had to come up with three great reasons why this is critical to a person who considers himself not organised, it would be this :
1. Clear some mental space.
There’s so much churning around in your head. Things to do, goals, appointments, work commitments, personal chores to attend to, subscriptions or memberships that may expire in a year from now. There’s no way we can retain all of this information without some form of system or external help. The organised person understands this and relies on external support – whether its having a diary, scheduling reminders, creating checklists etc.
The person who is not organised – let’s call him Joe – believes he will remember when the time comes, realises he does not when the meeting is blown and then continues on the same road, not changing anything in his process, hoping next time, that he will indeed remember. I have seen this played out so many times. Mentally, it’s exhausting for me to watch and just as exhausting for Joe. He knows what he needs to do, but its not in his nature and truthfully, he can’t be bothered to change. Joe believes the pain from the one failed attempt or burnt meeting will be enough to ensure that the next appointment is met. But the pain of one experience is not what ensures you meet your goals – it is in the system you build for yourself. If you do that, you’ve cleared a lot of mental white space for yourself which you can fill to good measure.
2. Achieve success.
If most of what you need to get done is not getting done, you are not successful. Not in the financial or outward sense but in the literal sense that you are not able to do what you set out to do. Because Joe does not set out to forget that sales appointment. He wants to close that deal. Yet, not having a system prevents him from doing so and not tackling the root cause ensures that it keeps happening.
3. Protect your reputation
Let’s face it – if you fail to meet targets, are a no-show at a scheduled appointment, keep forgetting where you leave your keys or folders, you’re not the only one watching. Over time, you will build a reputation and it won’t be the one you set out to create.
I am not saying it is easy to get organised. It’s hard and I believe building a habit is best done daily. Getting organised starts with identifying what the problem is and then working on it by establishing some habits. I am saying it is critical for your own sanity and to ensure you get done what you’d like to get done.