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The Three Principles of Organizing and its Practice

When we organize, what are we doing?  Do we put things into nice orders?  Make them somehow aesthetically pleasing?

I define organization as:

Organization is the process of clearing and supporting paths for the development of things we find meaningful.

To clear and support paths, there are three components:

  1. Accessibility
  2. Avoidability
  3. Awareness

Accessibility refers to how easily we can get to something when we need or want it.  Ideally, it is instantly accessible. When we are truly skilled at its use, we may barely even know we are using it.  For example, we can consider common words of our primary language as instantly accessible.

Avoidability refers to how easily we can avoid something when we do not need or want it. Ideally, it is invisible.  For example, a coat in the closet during the summer months is generally invisible and quite avoidable.

Awareness refers to how are we are of whether something is supporting us or in the way.  It directly correlates to accessibility and avoidability, respectively. Ideally, we should be instantly aware of whether something is supporting us or not.  As an example, if I want to know when the next bus arrives, if I am unaware that an app exists to tell me that information, that app is, in a sense, not organized.

The reason I bring this up, and the reason I bring up such varied examples, is to demonstrate that these principles exist in all media, including our task systems.  We wish to be aware of a relevant task when and where it is important to be aware of it, and not at other times.

Further, the skill of organization is a practice. Too often, people label themselves as “organized” or “disorganized”. The above set up removes such state-like descriptions and instead makes organization itself a relative thing.  If you live in what others would call messy but it still supports you well where you find things to be meaningful, then you are organized.  If you wish to make things more organized, you need to then consider,

  • How can I be made more aware of something when and where I need to be?
  • How can I make something more accessible/useable?
  • How can I make something more avoidable when I don’t need it?

To practice organization, I could suggest the following:

  • Create a repeating task in OmniFocus. Consider using the Defer Another function set to daily.
  • Title it: Organize one object.
  • Flag it or give it a context in which you would see it daily.
  • Copy and paste the 3 questions I’ve listed above into the note field.

When the task arrives, choose one item nearby that you haven’t used much lately, but is still hanging around–some piece of clutter–and ask the questions.  While the practice does gradually help you organize one piece per day, the practice itself begins to build a certain skill that you can use throughout your days.

For more detail and practice with organizing and its principles, consider Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics.

What is Productivity?

Productivity is many things. For some, it is about doing a lot in a little time.
But, truly, productivity is so much more. It is about:

  • Setting yourself up for success.
  • Being focused where you want to be.
  • Doing things that you find meaningful.
  • Being creative, sometimes even in harsh environments.
  • Forging your own paths.
  • Finding your voice and delivering it well.
  • Knowing and actively deciding on your obligations.
  • Knowing where and how to say “no”.
  • Avoiding procrastination.

Too often, many of us fall into just going along with and fighting whatever the world throws at us. “Go with the flow!”, we say. Meanwhile, we might think, “I’d like to do that one thing. Maybe one day I will.” The days go by. The goal never arrives, and then we wonder why or blame circumstance.

But when we learn to take charge of our lives and the world
around us, we start living life with intention.

“I should do that,” becomes “This is how I start”. Deliberately forging a path to our goals and dreams, we figure out what we want in life and then start taking steps there.

Of course, striking out may seem scary. It takes courage to live life with purpose and on purpose. Roadblocks and worries, fears and concerns show up everywhere.

This is my passion. I want to help you to find that sense of your own unique play to meet the world so that you can:

  • Create a life that is yours.
  • Find and follow an inner guide in a way that works for you and those you care for.
  • Decide on your obligations and meet them while building the world you want.

Productivity Journal

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