How to Overcome the Barriers to Getting Organized

Apr 10th 2017
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You will only be able to work for so many years at a certain pace, and one day it will end: your productive work life is finite. It is guaranteed that how you used to do things will decrease in value each passing day. One thing that will remain constant is the value of staying organized.

Accountants are wonderful at helping others to get and stay organized. What if, however, it is personally challenging?

Barriers to getting organized are many. One is to pick a poor time frame that doesn’t provide enough time for you to achieve your goal. Another is ritual behavior, such as needing two cups of coffee to get started in the morning or waiting until the time is on the hour rather than starting a few minutes before. Ritual behavior is insidious – it chips away at your time and your ability to achieve real progress.

Another barrier is lack of commitment. You say that you want to get organized, but at every opportunity, you turn your attention toward something else. Other barriers include lacking in resources, having too many noises and distractions, or losing sight of your quest en route to its completion.

To Manage the Beforehand
I use the term “managing the beforehand” to talk about preparing for something in advance of a need, such as arranging your file drawers in anticipation of new items. So, rather than having files and cabinets filled to their brims with information, strip them of all excess materials so that at least 20 percent of your space is vacant.

With 20 percent vacant space, you have now created room for the things that you’ll receive. These include new insurance policies, articles, and seminars or courses that you want to review at a later date. These items may be different for each person. The important point is to take control in advance – manage the beforehand – as opposed to dealing with the aftermath of too much information. 

When you develop the habit of clearing space in all the compartments of your life – your car, closets, medicine cabinets, etc. – you accomplish many things. You demonstrate to yourself that you do have enough space to manage your affairs and conduct your life, and you remain in a ready state to handle what is next rather than trying to figure out where to store things or how to create ad hoc piles.

Have Holding Bins?
To keep yourself from being deluged, create what I call a holding bin. A holding bin is a temporary station – but not ad hoc – where you have decided to park new materials that enter your office or your life, including mail reports, memos, etc.

This holding bin is not to be confused with an inbox. A holding bin is the area set aside where it is recognized at your own time and pace you will return to these rather nonessential or nonurgent materials and review them.

Not everything that comes across your desk goes into the holding bin – you be the judge. It is important to establish a holding bin so that you don’t mix that which you must deal with immediately with that which can be dealt with at your discretion.

Way Too Many Choices
Too many choices – personally or professionally – is an impediment to staying organized. Today, we are surrounded by too many choices. For example, in supermarkets there are double the items now as opposed to 20 years ago. In a few more years there will be even more items, so how can we effectively handle such an onslaught?

Remember that no matter how many items the supermarket stocks, you can continue to buy what you have always bought and tune out much of the distraction.

However, even that could get a little tedious because everyone likes to try new things. I recommend exploring one new area – in the meats, fruits, cheeses, frozen foods, whatever – each trip to the supermarket. If you shop once a week, in the course of the year you will have tried at least 50 new products without expending mental effort or consternation in the process.

If you are really up for adventure, load your entire supermarket shopping cart with all new products that you’ve yet to try. Either way, whether you choose to take on a selective number of new items per week or load up your whole shopping cart with new items, you are not investing time or mental effort on the onslaught of thousands of products competing for your attention.

You remain organized and stay in control.