February 2011 Newsletter

Myth: Getting Organized Means Staying Organized

February 2011 Newsletter Image

Get organized! How many times have you told yourself that? How many tips, tools and systems have you tried, only to find yourself back on the Internet two weeks later searching for ones that “really” work? Given that more than 21 million results come up when you Google “get organized,” surely there has to be something out there that will do the trick!  

Well, there is. In fact that’s part of the problem. Business leaders, are flooded with all kinds of organizational tips and toolsorganizational tips and tools, many of which are helpful. But we all know that getting organized is only half the battle; the most difficult part is staying organized. And finding effective strategies for that is, well, difficult. Even articles that have “staying organizedstaying organized” in their title tend to provide long lists of ways to get organized, but never really offer advice on how to stay there.

Over the years, as I’ve worked on organizational skills with my clients, I’ve developed a whole briefcase full of successful tips and tools for increasing organizational effectiveness. But after working through the tips and tools, I leave my clients with what I consider to be three essential steps they need to take in order to increase their chances of staying organized:

1) Forget the Quick Tips
Getting organized requires taking specific action steps (like using a calendar or prioritizing “to-do” lists) that can be packaged into quick tips and tools. That’s why those lists are so inviting. They make it sound so easy. And it is, at first. Unfortunately, staying organized isn’t. There are no quick tips for staying organized because staying organized isn’t an action; it’s a process — an ongoing, daily process of organizing and re-organizing. There will always be more paperwork, more phone calls, more emails and more meetings. In that sense, organization is never done.  

2) Feel the Pain
Instead of asking “How can I stay organized,” try asking yourself “What will happen if I don’t stay organized?” What would the answer be? Would you get mad at yourself? Fall behind? Let your team members down? Receive a poor evaluation?  

As Brian TracyBrian Tracy says, the mark of the superior thinker is his or her ability to accurately predict the consequences of doing or not doing. In other words, you need to emotionalize what staying organized means and feel the pain of not achieving it. Failing to walk through this step is the reason why many people stop following through on the actions they need to take every day to remain organized.  They may have emotionalized how great it would be to get organized, but never how awful it would be to not stay organized.  


3) Find the Fortitude
This is the part that no-one likes to hear. As with any new skill, mastering organizational effectiveness requires self-discipline and, unfortunately, there are no quick tips for acquiring that. Without self-discipline, organizational tips, tools and systems are null and void. Self-discipline means following-through on your commitment to stay organized. It means doing what you say you are going to do by putting the skills you’ve learned into practice every day. As we’ve all heard before, it takes 21 days to make a habit, but only 1 day to break it.

So, the next time you decide to get organized, remember that getting there and staying there are not one and the same. However, you may just find that what you need to stay organized may be the very things that will help you get organized in the first place.

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