One of my big failures is my organizational skills. Back when I started my sabbatical (and all during it) it was something mentioned a lot: how I wanted to improve that aspect of my life. For the entire year, I would read every blog post I could find on how to get organized; how to become zen-like in the organizational system, how good it was if I were, ways to manage and/or accomplish it, even tutorials on how to write things down. I read books and magazine articles, and even little blurbs on daytime TV shows. When I went to Staples for supplies, I’d lovingly fondle the organizational tools in the aisles – the calendars, the whiteboards, the books – and dream of a day when I would dance happily through a field of organizational bliss in the sunshine, like some kind of geek-centered Estée Lauder perfume ad.
All of this information seemed to have one thing in common: it assumed you had a “perfect world” that you lived in, but just couldn’t see it. It was there, all you had to do was open your eyes, assert the Force within you, and do what you needed to do. (For example, one of my favorites is “If you work at home, get an office with a door, and train your family so when the door is shut, you’re left alone.” Obviously, that much-touted tidbit is spewed by people who don’t work at home while caring for very young children at the same time. My bet is that it was originally written by one of those 20-something developers who eat like a college student and invent stuff like WordPress or Facebook. )
So when I read all of this stuff, I couldn’t help but feel like I would never, never get out of this hole. There was soooo much stuff I needed to do just to get organized enough so I could do normal day-to-day stuff. Then there was all the day-to-day stuff that couldn’t get done because the root of the issue was such a mess. So all I was left with was constantly wishing I could somehow take a few minutes – somewhere – and pull off something that would help – maybe chip away at it bit-by-bit while I was putting out fires for the rest of my life.
But the issue with that scenario is that you can’t live in the house while trying to rebuild the foundation. It just doesn’t work.
So here’s what I did about it.
Understand – and accept – that it’s not gonna happen.
Ha! That was a teaser of a header, wasn’t it? You’re all a like “WTF?” That makes me giggle.
What I mean is, you will never attain that zen-like Estée Lauder ad. Life isn’t a commercial. (Even if you weren’t trying to get organized, you should accept the fact that unless you’re Angelina Jolie, you’re not getting Brad Pitt. Or vice versa.) What those commercials and books and tutorials tell you is that some semblance of it is possible. You won’t get exactly what is promised (or even said) – the “perfect world” scenario is a wish. And like all wishes, they won’t even come close to becoming true unless you start doing something to make it happen.
The good thing about the “perfect world” scenario is that it’s the best example of what could happen. But you need to accept that it’ll never be perfect – nothing ever is, no matter how much you want it to be.
But it can get close. Really close. And that, my dear friends, is what makes it worth it to try.
Understanding Simple Truths.
Now, what I mean by this one is that all of this stuff I read, and tried, and sobbed over – at some point a dim light bulb went off over my head. There’s no way I could do all of this stuff – but all of this stuff seemed to be saying relatively the same thing. What I came away with were these fundamental “simple truths” that had been so elaborated on that these “truths” became lost in the jungle of explanation. When I realized these “truths”, I began to get some of the other stuff – and I started picking apart each thing, piece by piece and just using the bits that I knew I could handle.
For example – from “Getting Things Done,” – now if any of you have read the book and tried the system – Oh. My. God. It’s so daunting. And confusing. They say that once you get into it, it’s a breeze – but you know what? I don’t want to organize how I get organized. I want soemthing quick, simple, and functional. And “FlyLady” is way too simple an idea, with a way too complicated (and overwhelming) a process.
However, both of these (and others) had a few “truths” in common (other than the fact that the whole process of getting organized before you can even start getting organized was a nightmare) – and the ones that really hit home with me were these:
- Make lists. I think GTD said it the best way (and I’m paraphrasing) – you can’t keep all that crap in your head. You forget things too easily, and you just can’t properly prioritize. And if you’ve ever noticed, if you keep things in your head, it seems a LOT worse than it does when it’s out of there.
- You cannot do it all NOW. I know when I have a project that must be done, I feel like I have to start it in the morning, work on it all day, and finish it before I go to bed. It’s crazy, right? But if I go to sleep at night with stuff still to do on a project, I feel like I’m failing everyone. But it doesn’t have to be like that. (No, really, it doesn’t.)
- If you weren’t afraid, what would you be doing? fear plays a lot into our decisions. Like hope, it’s very hard to kill. We always have reasons why we “can’t” do something – and if you really look at these reasons, you’ll find the underlying answer is that we’re afraid to. Fear rears its ugly head in many forms – and it settles in with friends like Distraction and Procrastination.
See? Three Simple Truths. That’s the basis for organization. (Heck, it’s the basis for anything in your life, really.)
This post has gotten to be huge – so I’m going to save the rest for another post. (Please, don’t groan. I swear, I’ll post it tomorrow, not three months from now.) And that one will tell you how I took these truths and applied them to myself – and you can apply them to you, too.