SOS-organized-toolsAre you an organized person? How do you know?

Do you love labeling and alphabetizing things? Is that all there is to it? Is there no clutter around? If you’re a pile maker, can you find what you’re looking for in the pile? That’s getting closer.

If you were out at sea and a situation arose – a change in the wind, the sudden appearance of unwelcome weather, whatever. You would need to change tactics, you might need a tool, a rope, or some certain thing. The questions is: is that certain something at hand at the time that you need it? If it’s there, you were prepared … and organized!

Get it?

It’s not about clutter, it’s about being effective when you need to be. There are a lot of industries and projects where you need things to be at hand. I think about cooking (although I’m more of an eater than a cooker). When you get a recipe, it starts out with a list of ingredients and possibly measuring and processing devices you will need to complete the dish. You collect these things and have them at hand. If you are missing ingredients you might need to go to the grocery store and pick them up before you are ready. You then have everything at hand at the time you need it. You are organized.

There are two tools that you may not give much thought to, but if you have these two tools organized you will find many small difficulties managed.  I am borrowing this concept from David Allen’s Getting Things Done (GTD).  In his book with that catchy title he mentions these two tools: A “to do” list, and a calendar.  Simple enough.  But the impact he makes is by saying you need these two parts of your personal organizational system to be trusted.

Trusted?  What does that mean trusted?  One part of this is that they are organized.  And by organized I mean, they are available and at hand when you need them.  They need to be available, but they also need to be so easy to enter data in that the process is almost frictionless or you won’t do it.

This has been my experience.  I’ve been experimenting for years with different ways to create and use a ToDo list (I’m sure you’ll hear more about this than you’ll ever want to, later), I’ve found things that work good and things that create too much resistance to be practical.  Now a trusted calendar is another issue.  I’m still searching.

If you can easily put information about the things you need to do and when you need to do them in the right place and they’re all available – great.  But you need an easy and trusted way to review and check in – Or, hey, it’s the 21st century, have them tell you that they are there.  But without this checking you miss things, tasks or appointments fall through the cracks.

When this happens, you stop trusting your system.  You stop entering in items you need to have available – organization slips away and when you need something at hand at the right time, it’s not there.

Are you looking for me to have a solution?  Sometimes the best I can do is define the problem.  Oh, I know.  You just keep it all in your head.  Fine.  I’ll blog about that next time.  I’ve tried this and we’ll talk about how it works – or how it doesn’t.  I’ll shamelessly advertise for GTD one more time.

Stay tuned.