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Our efforts to get organized in our personal development will require work and perseverance March 22, 2012

Posted by Dennis Mellersh in Get Organized.
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The realization that perhaps we need to get organized strikes most of us sooner or later as we pursue our programs of personal growth and personal development.

The fact that you have been looking for information on getting organized shows that you are taking a systematic approach in your efforts towards self-improvement, and that’s an important foundation for making progress.

It’s important to note that to get organized is not necessarily the same thing as becoming super-tidy and having a bare household or office, with virtually everything in its proper place and absolutely no clutter. In fact you can overdue your efforts to get organized if you focus too much on methods and not enough on accomplishing things in your personal development strategy.

As Michael  LeBoeuf says in Working Smart: How to Accomplish More in Half the Time, “As you plan your life, resist the temptation of becoming overly organized – it’s an effectiveness killer…Running around with a stopwatch and keeping a totally clear desk isn’t going to accomplish what you want in life.” He makes the point that as we establish guidelines for organizing our lives, it is important to recognize them as “guidelines rather than hard and fast rules.” Inflexibility will actually work against our attempts to get organized.

I was often surprised when people at the place I used to work considered me to be an organized person. I did not have an extra-tidy office, and I did not have a completely uncluttered desk. In fact my desk usually had numerous files, papers, and other materials on it, and might be called “messy.” But looking back, I did have a systematic or organized approach to accomplishing my goals at work.

This probably stemmed from my occupation as a writer. Once of the first things in strategizing the writing of an article was to get things organized in my mind as to what research I needed and where to get it. This was before the days of the Internet, so in order to get the material I wanted meant I had to take an organized approach to information gathering. I also established priorities on what I considered to be the most important part of any project and worked on those components first. And I guess that strategic approach carried over into other aspects of my work such as following up on projects and getting them done on deadline (at least most of the time). The result was that I developed a reputation for being an “organized” person in my work.

Setting priorities and utilizing the power of focus are important components of getting organized. One of the characteristics I found fascinating About Steve Jobs in the recent biography by Walter Asaacson is that Jobs’ approach was to focus on a few key priorities, rather than using focus, as most of us would, as a means of deciding what particular tasks to get done out of the hundreds of tasks we deemed essential at the time.

Jobs’ approach to getting organized was instead to eliminate a lot of goals that were not essential for his business and focus on a few key areas; and we all know the success of his personal approach and power of focus in developing success with the Apple brand.

One of the biggest roadblocks in an attempt to get organized in our personal development is procrastination; and I can speak with authority on this because by nature, I am a procrastinator. I could try to convince myself that I am really setting priorities, but it is procrastination. Putting things off can interfere with any efforts to get organized because it is avoidance of tasks or goals, and, instead of contributing to our organizational progress, holds us back from organizing and implementing our priorities and getting things done.

Just as procrastination impedes our efforts to get organized, perseverance enables forward progress and should be an important weapon in our personal development strategy arsenal. This does not mean that we should blindly spend hour after hour, day after day, on  every problem we encounter – but by prioritizing we can get a sense of accomplishment and reduce intellectual clutter in our minds  in reaching priority goals on our “get organized” to-do list.

Perseverance therefore is very important in getting major goals organized and completed, and often the best approach with major goals is to break them down or organize them into bite-size chunks and work on them one at a time, thereby making them more do-able than it would be facing a huge goal or task all at once. This idea is certainly not new and is part of practically any program or set of guidelines designed to help people get organized. But, it is an easy principle to forget if we try to move ahead to quickly in a desire to make rapid progress in our personal growth plans.

It is also hard to become organized if we confuse efficiency with effectiveness. The two are vastly different. I can be efficient at accomplishing a vast number of tasks in my work, for example, or in managing a household, but if I have too many tasks, I am not necessarily being effective. Better to be effective in getting organized with a lesser number of goals, for example, than being efficient in handling a larger number of low priority matters.

In fact, by having too much on the go at once we run the risk of doing a maintenance job on many items rather than a quality job on fewer, but prioritized goals. If you use the 80/20 principle, 80 percent of the tasks are likely to be not all that important compared with the 20 percent that can really make a difference in improving our lives. Again, this principle is not new but it is easy to get sidetracked in trying to organize too many things at once.  I struggle with this myself, as I tend to be eclectic by nature and have to work at remaining focused on activities that can “make a difference.”

Any plan or strategy to get organized will not be easy to implement. It will take continued research and diligence in application to be successful. But if personal development were easy and intuitive we would not need all the books, blogs, and websites that are available offering us assistance.

The above article is essentially an overview with e few suggestions and observations. Additional articles planned for the future will address some specific steps and ideas within the concept of getting organized.

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