Perfectionism vs. Organization

The ongoing myth about those folks who allow their disorganization to get out of control is that they are slothful sluggards who just can’t get their act together.  The fact of the matter is that the vast majority of my clients are perfectionists.  When we think of perfectionism, we think order and neatness, but in reality, perfectionism can often prevent people from getting and staying organized.  So how is this possible?

You see the nature of the perfectionist is to aim for perfection.  If it is to be done, it is to be done perfectly.  So what happens when perfectionists run up against life in the real world.  You know what I am talking about; kids that get up too late to make their beds, spouses that leave dishes lying around in front of the TV, co-workers who share their space, illness, final exams, deadlines, life in general.  Because perfectionists often focus on making things perfect, they soon run out of energy and chaos ensues.  Instead of creating perfect environments, they often opt to sit in the middle of the mess, paralyzed with the inability to make and keep things perfect.  

So what is the answer?  If you are a perfectionist and you see yourself in this description, start to focus on making some progress instead of absolute perfection.  You see the perfectionist will walk into a cluttered family room with an hour concentrate on creating order in the room.  Instead of picking up dishes and dirty laundry, throw away old newspapers, and gathering up kids toys or schoolwork the perfectionist will sit down and arrange the magazines in alphabetical order.   Given enough time the perfectionist would get the room organized, but often their perfectionism eats up too much time on the minor and does not allow them to focus on the minor.  

Becoming organized is not really about perfectionism, it is more about significantly improving your surroundings, using the time you have, with the resources at your disposal.  Although being perfectly organized can be something we strive toward, being organized enough to be able to find and sit down on the couch and enjoy your family is much more important.  Take the pressure off yourself, stop trying to be perfect.  Martha Stewart Living, for most people, is just a magazine.  

Check It Off!

For those of you who have a “to do list” that you check off each day, you already know how good it feels to put a check mark beside a completed item.  It feels great looking at a completed checklist at the end of the day.  It may, however, surprise you to know that even those check list people often have routine things that they forget to do each day.  Things like making the bed, putting the dishes in the dishwasher, washing dishes, feeding the dog, (unless you own a dachshund, they will never let you forget), sort the mail and so many other little jobs around the house or office.

If you already create those “to do” lists and manage to get everything done in a day but are frustrated with your lack of effectiveness in other areas why not create a “routine task” to do list.  By that I mean, in those areas that you tend to forget, or run out of time for, create a task list that can be placed in the area.  For instance, in your kitchen, if you regularly forget to put dishes in the dishwasher, sort the mail, clean a sink or take out the trash, create a task list that remains in that space and then check the items off each day.  Keep them very simple and divide them into daily, weekly, monthly and annual.  If you must physically check them off, you will want to create them to be used over and over, or they can simply be posted somewhere in the area as a reminder of what needs to be done.  

Another option is to create a master list, and incorporate these items into your daily schedule, just like you schedule work for your job or business.  However you create the list, it will definitely help you get on top of those annoying little routine tasks that often get omitted.  More importantly, it will help you feel better about yourself, and head off the inevitable clutter that will need to be dealt with at a future date.  

A Balanced Life May Mean Learning to Say “NO” Creatively

Sometimes getting organized and leading a balanced life is a lot easier said than done.  All of us have both personal and professional obligations that need to be done every day.   These obligations can get in the way of staying organized and balanced.  Something that can get in the way of leading that elusive balanced life is the inability to simply say “no”.  

I realize that we can’t say “no” to the boss, at least not too often.  But there are times in our lives that we say “yes” when we want to say “no”..   We often add to overloaded schedules jobs we just don’t have time for.  Things like chairing the PTA, coaching soccer, babysitting, pet sitting, and so on.  All of these things are worthy and useful jobs that should bring enjoyment and satisfaction.  But sadly, for many people,  just piles on more stress.  In turn, this creates an out of balance lifestyle. 

So what is the answer?  Learning to know when you are at your limit is the first step to heading off this kind of stress and imbalance.  For some that is easy, and the word “no”, just rolls off their lips.  But for many, they are well beyond the limit before they realize it and don’t know how to paddle back sanity and balance.  To learn your limits, take some time to assess what is already on your plate and really think about exactly when you started to feel out of control and out of balance.  Can you handle daily responsibilities of work and home life?  How many extra activities start to cause you to have to let things at home slide, or cut corners at work to get everything done.  

Once you determine your limits, begin to divest yourself of the extra activities that make your life so chaotic.  Be patient because sometimes it is a lot easier to take on duties than to get out of them.  If work is the problem, it may be more difficult, so your personal life may have to simplify extensively to be able to manage the stress and imbalance.  

Life balance is often discussed but rarely achieved completely.  But life is too short to live doing things just because you can’t say ‘no’.  A good way to combat this situation is to use the “good, better, best” test before we say ‘yes’  That is, measure every activity against your current goals.  Then ask, “is this activity a good, better or best activity to move me toward my goal accomplishment?” When you realize that, even though an opportunity will fit into your schedule it may not get you closer to your goals, declining an opportunity is much easier.

Since we all know there is an ‘App” for everything, I did find an application on iTunes that will help you say “no” a little easier.  I recommend this “tongue in cheek”, but I was interested to find that enough people have a problem saying no, that someone felt the need to create an app.  If you are interested it is called iNo and is probably perfect for you.  The app has over 1000 nice and not-so-nice ways to say “no” to just about anyone you can think of, even the boss.  For a mere 99 cents, you could be on the road to freedom!  

The Visual Learner…Color is Your Friend

Are you one of those people who has to see things in action to really understand how they work?  Are you imaginative and creative? Do you have many competing ideas and projects going on in your head at once? Do you find it difficult to stay organized because you find it hard to stay on one task for any length of time?  Is your workspace filled with many projects at various stages of completion?

You likely have a “visual work style” and you often ‘see’ items that stimulate new ideas and possibilities even in the middle of a completely unrelated project.  Thoughts and ideas constantly bombard your mind.  Solutions to problems or challenges come to you at random times during the day and night.  You are easily stimulated and can become frustrated and overwhelmed over time because you can get buried in clutter from your creative ideas.  

Your style does pose more challenges to getting and staying organizing, especially if you hire someone to just “get you organized”.  It is important for you to work with someone who is willing to work with you and coach you with ideas on how to manage life from day-to-day.   

One of the first things all visual people should develop is a color-coded system for staying organized.  You can start this by determining the types of categories or groupings that you work with throughout your day.  If staying on top of projects is a problem, perhaps you create a red folder for tasks due immediately, a green folder for items of less urgency and yellow for items that are good ideas, but not urgent needs.  Whatever you need to organize, if you have a visual work style, you are going to associate colors much easier than words. 

Since ideas often come to you randomly, it is a good idea to always have some way to record ideas to be accessed later.  If you have a smartphone you can just use the recording feature and record them for future reference.  That way you can reduce the distraction of those random thoughts.  

I also recommend that visuals never file their work where they can’t see it.  Utilize desktop filing systems and open filing cabinets to ensure that you don’t “lose” things.  

I have never met a visual who does not wake up in the middle of the night with solutions to problems or ideas for new projects.  To ensure that you properly record these “eureka moments”, keep a pen and paper on your nightstand and write them down before going back to sleep.