It takes time to make time

It takes money to make money.

Bad organization kills. It kills your performance. It kills the joy of working (yes, work can be joy!). It kills your future. It kills your energy, your resources, your reserves. And bad organization usually goes on a killing spree, making the life of those who depend on you a living hell.

I have met people who say about themselves that they are disorganized (negative, or accurate, wording) or creative-spontaneous (positive, or euphemistically wrong, wording).

I think the problem is not that the worst organizers do not want to change, or that they do not see the problem, but rather that they think they cannot change anything about it. Probably due to two reasons:

Bad Organizers often think that organization is something one either has or has not

Sure, they are not organized — now. But (dis-)organization is not a limb, it is not an unchangeable part of you, it’s simply your behavior. And you, and no one else, can change your behavior. This takes effort, some research in how one can organize oneself, and the second reason — time.

It takes time to make time

When you change your organization, even for the better, and even from “no organization” to “some organization”, you need time to make these changes and the time you will save will not come first.

Unfortunately, some people think that they did something wrong or “it does not work for me”, because organization is supposed to save time, not cost time. Yep, that’s true, but only for future endeavors, and for dealing with problems that require organization to solve them quickly. But organization itself costs time.

An example: I religiously make a page in my Wiki for every project (e.g., a presentation for a conference). I use the page to plan the conference (traveling, place to put my presentation, notes regarding what I want to do). After the presentation I move the whole page into my archive (part of the wiki) and add this conference to a long list of things I did regarding my work in that year.

This all costs time and is aversive (I’d rather do something else) but it saves a lot of time when, for example, I have to write a report what I did that year, or when someone who also was on the conference wants to have my presentation, or when I want to use the presentation as input for future work.

Given that all the information is in my wiki and readily available, saves me a lot of time in the future, although it costs me some time now (and I’m not even talking about the amount of time it took me to find a way to organize my work-life).

Point being: You have to invest in your organization

Look at the investments: I had to develop this kind of organization system (hard), I had to become fluent in using it (difficult), I have to use it continuously (tedious) — all this was an investment in time. But since I use it, it has helped me a great deal and paid me with time: I find stuff I need more quickly, nothing gets ever lost, because when I select a file it gets downloaded from my wiki while the original file remains unchanged, and I feel much more organized. These time delayed benefits now keep me working continuously to organize my Wiki, my work, and my life. And yes, sure, like any investment you can suffer a complete loss — if the project fails completely the time I have spend organizing is additional time that is lost. But things rarely fail completely and you can learn from your mistakes — where organization becomes helpful again to find the failed projects you can learn from.

I guess, some people, especially people with subordinates or married men who think of their wives as secretaries, like to delegate this organization. If you can, good for you — until you change jobs, subordinates, or wives. I have seen people who have tried to delegate it and failed. Honestly, I think the only way to organize oneself is to do it oneself, find a system one can work with and keep it in use regularly, although the start will be excruciatingly tedious.

Of course, the amount of time it costs you to organize yourself and use your organization system, depend on your meta-knowledge about your organization and the speed with which you can handle your organization system. If you use a computer, make sure that you control your computer and it does not control you. If you fear the computer, do not use it until you have overcome that fear.
So, yes, organizing, learning to find stuff in your new organization, using your organization, — these things all take time. But once you train yourself to use them, you begin to see the benefits and save a lot of time.

This said, it’s holiday season soon. Probably the best time to start organizing yourself. The business you have to do every day and which prevents you from changing your organization is slow or stopped and you can escape some relatives because you “have to work”.

So, go on and invest some time in your organization to save time in the future.

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