One of the things I hear just about every time I publish an article on organization is “why bother?” Today we will look at why organization and productivity go hand in hand.
I have not always been organized. In fact, even though I have been long practicing the principles to boost my productivity, I considered organization to be something unrelated. But a single idea changed that perception, and allowed me to boost my productivity.
My Breakthrough: The Tickler
When I first started seriously “doing” productivity, I focused on the calendar, task list and phone book (this was waaaaay before cell phones). While this covers most of the basics of productivity, such as getting me where I need to be, allowing me to not have to remember phone numbers, and reminding me of what I need to do, it has gaps. Such a the piles of papers that seemed to follow me around and swamp me.
I realized along the way that there had to be a way of managing paper. And so I watched, and asked, and listened. And That was when I found the tickler file.
The tickler is a series of file folders in which you place papers. The system was made popular by Merlin Mann’s 43 Folders. There are 31 files for the days of the current month (labeled 1 through 31) and 12 files labeled for the months (with the month names). You placed papers in the folder when you needed to deal with it. If the bill was due on the 15th, you would put the bill in the 10th. If you needed to have the work schedule available on the first of the next month, you put it in the folder for that month. On the first of the month, you emptied out the folder corresponding to that month and filed the papers inside in the appropriate day folder.
And suddenly all the papers were organized.
I was in college at the time, and not only did I use the tickler for the bills and such, I also used it for my assignments. If I had a paper due on the 10th, the completed paper went into the folder for the 10th. If the math homework was due on the 5th, the paper went into the 5 folder. I even dropped my notebooks for the classes I had into the folders. At the beginning of the day I took everything from the corresponding folder and put it in my backpack. And I stopped having late work, missed assignments. Most of all, I stopped having to frantically look for my work and my notebooks.
My productivity soared because I didn’t have to search for anything.
So Why Organize?
As I talked about in my article on [Insert Link], we spend far too much time looking for things. When you are organized, you reclaim all that time.
Wouldn’t it be great to be able to reclaim hours every month to work on something more worthwhile than looking for your keys.
Getting Rid of the Noise
I would also argue that if you are organized, you are also less likely to hang onto stuff that is just noise.
I am defining noise here in the engineering way – input that is confusing to the main signal. When you have stuff everywhere, all that stuff is getting in the way of what you are trying to do.
If you are trying to cook dinner, you can’t do it if your stove is covered in dirty pans from previous meals. You might be able to move them out of the way, but at the same time, you are going to put them in a place where they are going to deal with them when you try to use that area. By taking care of them, getting rid of the noise, you can accomplish your task of cooking much faster.
”But I Work Better With Piles”
Some people will claim that they work better with disorganization. I would say that they really are organized, because organization is as individual as productivity systems. If you can get to what you need to do without having to waste time and effort, then you are organized.
And if that means piles on your desk rather than files, that is fine.
The point is to avoid lost time. And if you can avoid lost time by having piles, then that works.
Why organize? To save time. A bit of time up front can save a lot of searching.
And would you rather spend time looking for a piece of paper, or working on a project near to your heart?