Are you really organized?

If you can reach into your wallet or purse and pull out something that doesn’t belong there permanently—a receipt, an old parking ticket, someone’s business card—you are disorganized, according to Getting Things Done author David Allen. He puts it this way:

“You are disorganized if you need something somewhere that you don’t have or have something somewhere that you don’t need.”

To be truly organized, he says, means not only having a system that allows you to know where everything is, but having a system that ensures you act on something when it needs to be acted upon.

Lots of people simply put their “stuff” in stacks, he says, and believe that this is organization. But those stacks often contain a mix of stuff to read, stuff to store for later reference and stuff to simply toss in the garbage. And the background stress generated by those stacks, he contends, generates a “psychic callous” to the point where we simply ignore—or stop noticing—them.

At the heart of the problem, he says, is our inability to take each items as it enters our lives, decide on its meaning and then, assuming it is meaningful, put it in a place where we will be able to find it and where we will be prompted to act on it at an appropriate time.

For example, if it’s something you need to act on right now, it might go on an ASAP list. If it needs to be done but has a later due date, you might put it on a calendar. It is something you may need to refer to later? Then it goes in a reference file. If it’s an item that you would like to address someday of you have time, put it on a “Someday” list that you refer to once a month. If it’s something of no value at all, there is a file for that, too: the trash can.

So, let me ask again, are you really organized?

Yes, it takes work to get things done and stay organized, but it takes a lot more work to get them done if you’re not.