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Time for Organization

Who has time for organization?

Getting organized is hard. Staying organized is harder.

What if organization could give us time?

I need to reiterate that this Monthly Experiment on organization is about getting started and not a one time fix.

I don’t want to be part of that growing mass of authors who promise unreachable goals in unbelievable time frames.

Clayton Christensen put it best in How Will You Measure Your Life?:

There are no easy answers to life’s challenges. The quest to find happiness and meaning in life is not new. Humans have been pondering the reason for our existence for thousands of years. What is new, however, is how some modern thinkers address the problem. A bevy of so-called experts simply offer the answers. It’s not a surprise that these answers are very appealing to some. They take hard problems—ones that people can go through an entire life without ever resolving—and offer a quick fix. That is not what I intend with this book. There are no quick fixes for the fundamental problems of life. But I can offer you tools that I’ll call theories in this book, which will help you make good choices, appropriate to the circumstances of your life.

He is talking about happiness and meaning, but it can just as easily apply to other forms of personal development like organization.

These are hard problems and there is no quick fix. That is not to say though that we can’t have quick starts to how we go about solving these problems.

How to be a Scientist

My first quick start was figuring out what the first experiment of the month was going to be. As I wrote in yesterday’s post I had to figure out how to transfer my feelings around one area of my organization – where I was succeeding – and apply it to the multiple other areas where I was failing.

First though I had to figure out how would I conduct these experiments. Luckily I had my friend (disclaimer: we are not friends, I just bought his book, so we are friendly that way), Chad Orzel.

In Eureka: Discovering Your Inner Scientist, Chad Orzel lays out four steps in the scientific process. With apologies to real scientists who may be reading this, it served as a nice framework to begin my organization experiment:

The process of science consists of four steps:

•Look at the world around you, and identify some phenomenon you would like to understand.

•Think of a model that might explain how and why that phenomenon occurs in terms of general rules about how the universe operates.

•Test your theory with further observations, and carry out experiments to see if the predictions of your model agree with reality.

•Tell everybody you know your proposed explanation and the results of your tests.

Books and Everything Else

So I started by looking at the world around me. What is it I’m trying to understand? How can I take how I feel about something (books) and transfer that and apply that to something else, for instance credit card receipts.

That is the goal of this experiment and that is what I’m trying to understand. Is it as simple as changing the way I think? Or is it so complicated that it is virtually impossible?

So what is the model. The model needs to explain how and why this occurs in general rules.

I obviously love my books and want to be able keep them organized for my own benefit. I could care less about my closet, my receipts, or the hundreds of files on my laptop.

The books have a place in my heart and everything else is just stuff I have to deal with.

There are always going to be things we care about and other things that maybe we don’t care about as much, but are still important.

How do we make them all equals when it comes to organization?

Bucket, Buckets Everywhere

I think the model has to be not about caring for books less, but seeing how everything else can be thought of as important as books.

So the theory is two buckets. In one bucket is the stuff that we love and in the other bucket is the stuff that we can care less about, but have to keep organized for various reasons.

How do we make Bucket B as important as Bucket A? What do they have in common?

Chip and Dan Heath would say instead of thinking only about Bucket A or Bucket B, we need to widen our scope and start thinking about Buckets C, D, E, etc.

Michael Michalko, author of Thinkertoys would say to think of the total opposite. What if I cared nothing for books and only cared about everything else in bucket B?

Like Sand Through the Hourglass

I think the key is what do they have in common?

I finally realized the most important thing they have in common is time.

The time I waste looking for things that are unorganized have a cost associated with them.

It has to all come down to time.

What if I took a week and measured how long it takes me to find things when I’m not organized.

If I need to find a book I know I can go find it and not waste any time.

If I need to find something else in Bucket B or if I’m working and I need something from Bucket B there is time associated with looking for it.

Should my first experiment be as simple as a time use survey?

Measure Every Minute

So the experiment will be for one week I will measure the amount of time it takes me to find lost stuff or anything I choose to put in Bucket B. That way I’ll be able to see where I’m losing time and where I could potentially get time back.

All I need is a simple system to measure this time and a way to keep track of it. A week from today I will do a post of what I found and of any eureka moments I stumble upon.

In the end this is a Golf Problem

I’ll get up at any time, basically go through any hassle, just to play golf.

What if I felt that way about everything I did in my life? How much more productive and organized would I be if I could make this the case in every bucket, not just a bucket of golf balls.

Published in Monthly Experiment Organization

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