10 March 2006

The K.I.S.S. Principle of personal organization.

While I'm on a roll from the previous post, let me talk about the simplifed approach to personal organization. This is one that doesn't work for the distracted consumer who's looking for the easy way out; this one works for gung-ho change-o-philiacs like me. Ready?

Step 1: Decide what's most important.
Step 2: Do that first.

This, I hear you saying, hardly seems groundbreaking. But consider: How often do you find yourself "meaning to" do something, but allowing everything else in the world intervene? At times this is the conscious process of procrastination, complete with nagging feelings of guilt. But at other times, it is simply the well-known phenomenon of putting out fires. We all do it, whether in business or housekeeping or family relations.

Let me ask you another question: How often do you find yourself "meaning to" save or invest money, but finding that your nickel-and-dime expenses somehow prevent you? Many financial advisors will tell you that the prime solution for this is to set aside your savings first, and to put them in some repository where they can't be quite so easily tapped as your checking account.

Well, the past is the ultimate repository: once time has slipped by us and into the past, it's locked away forever. By definition. The question is, do you want the past to contain all the "savings" you've accumulated toward your big, life-changing--or even civilizational--BHAGs? Or the nickel-and-diming of errands, tidbits, this-'n'-that?

Pause there for a second: I'm not talking about what you do do, but what you want to do. I'd rather do something major. Yes?

You know the old joke "Life is uncertain--eat dessert first." But how often do we treat ourselves to the accomplishments we really want--and do it first, before we let anything else crowd in on us? Life is uncertain. You might not make it to thirty. You might not make it to forty. Or fifty. You might get just one shot at immortality. So why not take it first?

What applies on the grand scale applies in the daily schedule. Yes, sometimes you must clear the decks, but often our deck-clearing serves as no more than psychological throat-clearing. We're warming up for an aria that may never begin.

So yes, prepare. Take care of your day-to-day obligations. But figure out the big stuff and do it before you get bogged down in the little stuff, or else the little stuff, kudzu-like, will always grow to overwhelm your mental landscape.

Next time I'll talk more about how to decide what's "most important" on your list. For now, I'll leave you with a serendipitous thought: While I was writing this post, my buddy Jim called me up to talk. He said nice things about a couple of the posts here, but repeated a caution he's given me before--namely, not to give attention to this blog that might go into a book manuscript instead. He has a point, not because I don't derive satisfaction from writing the blog, but because I do derive satisfaction from it. It's all too tempting to write more and more here, especially as my audience continues to grow,* and neglect to work on the books that I've always assumed will make my reputation.

So, I'm going to compromise by spending more time here talking about the books I intend to write. One major topic, upon which I'll be posting much more: Decisions--how we make them and what we can do to take charge of them. You can expect me to start posting on that topic first.


* This might be an opportune moment to ask yourself whether you're really giving it that extra effort to make this blog the one most widely read by savvy people like yourself. I'd certainly appreciate it, and don't you think it would make you feel better, too? ;)


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