It’s not because things are difficult that we don’t dare. It’s because we don’t dare that things are difficult.
The Butterfly Effect & My Organization Experiment
The Butterfly Effect says small changes can have large effects. A butterfly flaps its wings and thousands of miles away it causes a hurricane.
Picture Blockbuster charging Reed Hastings $40 in late fees. He went on to found Netflix. Blockbuster went on to file for bankruptcy in 2013.
Johnny Carson demanding NBC replace his reruns on Saturday nights with something else. That chain of events led to Saturday Night Live.
I think of the letter in the mail from the IRS saying my wife and I owed thousands of dollars in unpaid taxes.
That is one of the many reasons I started my Organization Experiment.
No, I’m not writing this from debtor’s prison. I did however fall down the rabbit hole looking for some cancelled checks and a year-old pay stub and after days of searching and coming up empty, I knew it was time to get my house (and garage and computer and life) in order.
I had to get organized.
From Analog to Digital
What I’ve realized is that that how to get organized, declutter and more importantly stay organized and decluttered means two different things based on what you are organizing.
On the physical side most of us have way too much stuff staring at us every day. From Joshua Becker in The More of Less:
In America, we consume twice as many material goods as we did fifty years ago. Over the same period, the size of the average American home has nearly tripled, and today that average home contains about three hundred thousand items. On average, our homes contain more televisions than people. And the US Department of Energy reports that, due to clutter, 25 percent of people with two-car garages don’t have room to park cars inside and another 32 percent have room for only one vehicle. Home organization, the service that’s trying to find places for all our clutter, is now an $8 billion industry, growing at a rate of 10 percent each year. And still one out of every ten American households rents off-site storage —the fastest-growing segment of the commercial real-estate industry over the past four decades.
The sad thing is up until about a year ago I was that one out of ten who had off-site storage. We wanted to save some money so we got rid of it. So now everything is stuffed in our garage.
Yay, we saved $96 a month. Boo, I can’t walk through the garage to get the kid’s bikes…
Give me some files, a sharpie and some boxes and I feel like eventually I can get on top of my physical clutter.
On the digital side though is where my true organization problem lies.
Daily Digital Tsunami
Getting my physical stuff organized, while difficult in its own right, is nothing compared to getting my digital life in order.
The problem with digital anything is it just doesn’t stop.
According to Eric Schmidt from Google every 2 days we create the same amount of information that was created from the dawn of civilization to the year 2003.
Now I’m not trying to organize all that information, but I have a nasty habit of wanting to read everything, keep good notes, learn everything I can and just consume massive amounts of information and see what comes out the other end.
Oh, it gets worse.
Let’s look at how we spend (waste?) time on the internet. From John H. Johson in Everydata:
In fact, the average American consumes roughly 34 gigabytes of data every day, according to the “How Much Information?” program at the Global Information Industry Center (part of the University of California, San Diego). Thirty-four gigabytes is a lot. One gigabyte—or GB, as it’s commonly abbreviated—is just over 1 billion bytes (a byte is typically equal to one letter or number). If you printed out 34 GB worth of data, it would fill dozens of pickup trucks, said a source cited by the BBC.
And it looks like the time we spend consuming this data is not letting up. From Damon Zahariades in Digital Detox:
Researchers report that our consumption of online media doubled between 2010 and 2015.
We have more stuff. We have more stuff screaming for our attention online and yet we still only have 24 hours in a day.
As neuroscientist Adam Gazzaley and psychologist Larry D. Rosen put it in The Distracted Mind:
We are most certainly ancient brains in a high-tech world.
So what do we do? How do you and I fight back and take control of our lives and get organized, in both the physical and digital worlds?
Gertrude Stein said once, “Everybody gets so much information all day long that they lose their common sense.”
Once I read this quote I knew whatever I had to do to get organized had to follow one basic rule: it had to be simple.
I didn’t need another app to organize my apps. What use is a complex task management system to get the right things done. I didn’t need to clutter myself to get decluttered.
What this system is going to look like is the goal of this experiment and I have 26 more days to figure it out.
Another pillar of my system has to be building in some type of measurement component. What gets measured gets managed.
For me though the measurement is more about being able to see if I’m getting better. This idea was reinforced by a recent article by James Clear on deliberate practice. I recommend anyone looking to get better at pretty much anything read it.
The point that stuck with me was how doing the same thing over and over again doesn’t make it better. The key is to practice with the intent of reaching beyond your current skill level and pushing yourself to grow.
Not sure how I can incorporate deliberate practice into getting better organized, but I’ll save that for tomorrow.