Productivity and GTD
What “Being Organized” Means
“For the first twenty-five years of my life, I wanted freedom. For the next twenty-five years, I wanted order. For the next twenty-five years, I realized that order is freedom.” ~ Winston Churchill
Some organization is needed and I think we all agree on that, albeit at different levels. No matter how disorganized you think you are, you surely keep the cutlery in the kitchen and your toothbrush in the bathroom. It is hard and stressful to live without knowing where the stuff is when you need it, right?
To organize household items is much easier than to organize the wealth of ideas, thoughts, information, tasks, and messages that catch your attention every day. Just like you have a drawer for cutlery in the kitchen, which you open without thinking whenever you need a spoon to stir the sugar in your coffee, you need something that allows you to free your mind of all these things and, at the same time, keep them easily accessible for when they are needed.
If you are in the waiting room of the dentist with a phone in your hands but don’t have a list of pending calls to make, you will end up opening Twitter or a game to spend your time, and later you will have to use a more valuable time to make those calls. If you go to the groceries without a list of what you need, you’ll probably need to come back another time because you forgot the milk. If you complete your current task at work, you will waste some precious time to start the next task just because you haven’t decided yet what it should be.
Something that amazes me about most people I know is how much they are concerned about their economic expenses (they sometimes make disproportionate efforts to save a few cents) and how little they worry about throwing away a good portion of their time. Is it that time worth nothing?
Being organized is not a one-time event, it is a state that requires a sustained effort. An effort that is not such when you have absorbed it as a habit. In any case, it is a necessary effort if you want to be in control of your life, make better decisions, enjoy your time and gain peace of mind.
Being organized is not about sorting a lot of things in a lot of lists. To be organized you first have to define the meaning of the stuff that needs to get organized (in GTD this is the stage of the method called processing or clarifying). To put something in its place, you first have to know what that something is — putting things in any place is not “being organized”.
In short, you are organized when everything is in the place it belongs.