Order from Chaos : A Six-Step Plan for Organizing Yourself, Your Office, and Your Life
By Liz Davenport
Got that physical environment under control? Now comes the REALLY hard part-changing your behavior. Now, more than ever, it is critical that you spend at least one full week practicing what comes in the next two steps. Let as many people know what you are doing as possible, so they can try to support you in your effort. Remember, when you are under stress you will automatically revert to your old behaviors. All the more reason to ask others to mention if they see you acting inconsistent with your new plan. Be patient. Don't give up. There are some suggestions in this chapter to help you remind yourself and stay on track.
How many times have you picked up a piece of paper, looked at it, said to yourself "I don't know what to do with this," and laid it hack down? Later, you pick up that same piece of paper, still don't know what to do with it, and lay it back down again. This is both typical and intriguing behavior. What are we expecting? That the next time we pick that piece of paper up something will be different? We will suddenly know exactly what to do with it? Unfortunately, what to do with it will not become more obvious if the paper is allowed to "age." There is no "decision fairy" who will come along and prang you on the head so that the next time you pick up that piece of paper you will miraculously know what to do with it! It is plainly and simply an unmade decision.
Prior to reading this book, one of the reasons you did not know what to do with the paper was because you did not have one, all-encompassing system. There was no obvious place for that particular piece of paper to live, so you had to invent a place for it. That process of creating some system for each and every piece of paper is physically and emotionally exhausting. That is where the feelings of depression, exhaustion, and defeat come from. No wonder the piles just kept getting higher. But now you have a system, yes? Now there is a perfectly obvious place for that piece of paper-no decision, no stress, no exhaustion. Unless, of course, it is something you just don't have the time to do but have not admitted that you don't have time to do it.
Gather Real Data
Let's perform an experiment. This is the beginning of week four. You have been engaged in this organizing stuff for at least three weeks and using Air Traffic Control for at least two weeks; therefore, you should have some fairly reliable data. Look on your task list for the past two weeks. How many of the tasks on your list have you gotten done each clay? Include both tasks and appointments. Divide the total number of completed tasks by the number of days you counted and what is that number? Five? Ten? Twenty? Let's say you are Super-Carbon' Unit and you have gotten thirty done each and every day.
Do the Math
How many pieces of information did we say were coming in to the average businessperson each day? Wasn't that number 190? If you are taking care of 30 each day, that means you are not doing the other 160 each day, correct? Therefore, you must be saying "no" 160 times each and every day. Or are you really saying "no" only five or six times and "maybe," "later," and "when I get around to it" 155 times each day?
A big part of "decide now" is figuring out how many times you have to say no every day, then practice saying it.
Find a Home for the Paper
If there is not a place for the piece of paper to go, ask yourself "Why not?" You may he thinking too specifically, not in big enough categories. For example, one client has three piles: receipts to enter in bookkeeping system, e-mail addresses to add to contact manager, and updates to the mailing list. We simplified it by creating one file called "Enter in Computer."
Perhaps it really is a new category-that does happen, you know. If that is the case, ask yourself if you need a new file in your hot file or in your file cabinet, or do you need a new stacking tray? New categories do occur, but make sure you are not just being too specific-remember, every file should have at least 20 pieces of paper in it at some point in time, or the title is too narrow.
It is even more important now that you empty every source of incoming information every day, once every 24 hours. That means your In Box, your e-mail account(s), your faxes, your voice mail(s), your briefcase, your car, anyplace where you put or receive new information/paper. You can't "Decide NOW!" if you haven't even looked!
Remember, spend at least one entire week on perfecting your skills at "Decide NOW!" It is not as simple as it sounds to practice it constantly, consistently, and well. Give it time to become a part of how you think, how you act, and how you do business.