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Do you ever feel like being productive and organized sounds great for all of those Type A people, but won’t really work for you?
Want to know a secret? You do not have to be Type A person to take advantage of a productivity system.
In fact, productivity systems are best for people who don’t want to spend lots of time thinking about being organized. They are great for people that would rather spend their time and energy on meaningful work and living a good life. In my philosophy, systems should be working FOR you. If they are causing more work overall, it’s 100% acceptable to reevaluate what you’re doing and ditch anything that doesn’t work for you.
So today let’s talk about how to feel more organized even If you don’t like to plan in advance, don’t want to be confined by structure, and want to be able to just be in the moment.
If you are a Type B person, you might feel frustrated when you think about getting organized. You have goals but you can never seem to make progress on them. At work, you find it hard to keep up with the pace of things and frequently feel behind. You tell yourself, “if I could just be an organized person, everything would be better”.
I’m here to say – stop trying to change yourself. It doesn’t work. There’s a reason why somewhere around 80% of New Year’s Resolutions are abandoned. They focus on your aspirational identity and conveniently ignore your innate identity. I want you to embrace your innate identity, so I’ve developed a simple foolproof plan that you can follow, even if you’re not organized. Here are the steps:
1. Centralize all incoming information into one place
You’re likely taking in information in a variety of places. You have notes on your phone, in your journal, on scraps of paper, and you have random email reminders that you send to yourself. Or you may just go through your day assuming you’ll remember everything so you never write anything down. Start feeding all of this incoming information into one centralized place.
I recommend that you go super low tech with this. Literally you can put a big box labeled “Inbox” on your desk. Or you could create a file named “Inbox” that is saved on your desktop and super easy to find. Then, as you go through your day, make sure every time that you walk into the room with your “Inbox”, you put any new notes or documents into it. Similarly, every time you open your computer, save any new files or important information from emails into the “Inbox” folder.
2. Set intentions instead of goals
SMART goals get a lot of airplay, but honestly, they don’t work for me. Picking a super-specific outcome to be achieved at a defined point in the future and mindlessly working towards it ignores the reality that is unfolding and changing every minute. Instead, I recommend you set intentions. These are short phrases that help guide you towards action that is aligned with your values and goals. They can also motivate you when you hit a rough patch. I love intentions because they can be flexible and fluid to whatever situation might arise in your life.
3. Release the guilt
Feeling guilty about how you should feel more organized or productive is rarely helpful. Instead, it creates a thought cycle that often stops many of us from taking action. Your level of organization and productivity will fluctuate each day and that’s okay. Approach your work with joy and curiosity, and you’ll be more likely to actually get things done. “Shoulds” and “musts” are a flawed premise. They are meant to compel us into action, but instead, they compel us into anxiety. Replace them with “it would be nice to” or “I’d prefer it if I could” statements. Sometimes I title my to-do lists “things I could possibly do” in order to help release the pressure on myself.
“Shoulds” and “musts” are a flawed premise. They are meant to compel us into action, but instead, they compel us into anxiety.
4. Set aside one hour per week for organization activities
All right, I couldn’t completely let you off the hook from organization time. But I’m certain that you can spare one hour a week and once you get going, this will be the only time during the week that you have to think about productivity and organization. The goal of this time is to process all incoming information (this is where the inbox comes in handy!) and to map out some intentions for the upcoming week. You can schedule specific tasks at this time, but it is not essential.
Make this hour a non-negotiable time. Also, make it fun! This can become a special ritual for you. Grab your drink of choice and put on some tunes to get into the zone. The beauty of this time is that it lets you off the hook for the rest of the week. Since you’ll be reviewing everything at least once a week, you can go with the flow in your work the rest of the week and know that you’ll always have this session to catch anything you missed.
So many people think they have to look like everyone else in their work and they get excited about trying to find “the perfect system”. They get all the right gear in place, swear to live by it, and then give up a couple of weeks later.
By using systems that actually support you and your style of work, you don’t have to fundamentally change yourself to feel more organized and productive. Instead, you are leveraging the system to do the work for you. By following these building blocks, you can use your Type B creativity and go-with-the-flow mindset to create value in your work and life. That’s where you shine, so don’t try to shut that off just so you can be someone else’s idea of organized.
By the way, if you want to learn more, I have an in-depth guide where I walk you through the steps of creating your own organization system from scratch. Get your free guide here.
Take Action! Set up your “Inbox” today. Make it pretty and incredibly obvious so it quickly becomes second nature for you to direct all of your paperwork to it.