The Deliberate Mental Shift You Need To Make That Stops The Bad Habit Of Over Organizing
When I was a little girl, I hated Saturday mornings with a vengeance. Mom would wake us up and proceed to hand out to each of us, a white index card filled with the day’s chores.
‘Sorting socks’ always seemed to land on mine, and it was annoying as hell. The whole family’s worth of socks would be in one big basket, and it was my job to sort and match them all. No matter how fast I went, it still took forever.
So when I found myself as an adult sorting my kid’s socks, I started to wonder, “How can I stop doing this….forever?”
Turns out…I could.
And no, it didn’t mean handing the chore off to the kids.
I figured out a way to think differently about socks.
First, I bought each kid a different brand of sock. Adidas for Evan, Nike for Ellie, and Hanes Her Way for Eden.
Next, I found this cute shoe bench for the front room. The seat opened up and had storage underneath.
I literally just dumped all the clean socks into the shoe bench.
Instead of folding socks, matching socks, putting them away in drawers, I kept the large pile of unmatched socks in a storage compartment RIGHT next to the shoes. Whenever one of the kids would go outside, they’d run to the front room, open the bench, grab two of their brand of sock, put it on, put their shoes on, and go.
I got even smarter as time went on, and had a little basket for the dirty socks too. That way when they came in to take off their shoes, they could take off the socks and throw them right there. I bought enough socks to fill the bench so every kid had way more than enough, and the whole thing became a self-contained system. Grab the basket of dirty socks. Wash. Dry. Throw back in the bench.
What used to cost me so much time and aggravation, was virtually eliminated.
I made the mental shift from “Socks are clothes” to “Socks are a part of shoes”.
Deliberate Mental Shifting
There are so many things in our lives and businesses that we just “assume” we need to do. We don’t stop and observe how social pressure or the “normal” way to do something might actually be flawed, or altogether unnecessary. In just my last post, I explained how I mentally shifted the idea of the morning routine because it wasn’t really as productive as I thought.
If you were to go through your daily tasks, I bet there are evidences of what I call “over organization”. Matching socks is an example of this. It appears organized. It satisfies our OCD. It’s also a complete waste of time. Here are some ways in your business in which you might be over organizing and tricking yourself into thinking you’re being productive:
- You spend all day creating a complicated filing system on your Google drive or your inbox even though you know you won’t be able to stick to it and eventually your downloads folder will look like a bomb went off.
- You spend all day setting up a new system on Trello or Asana or some other program thinking this will solve your issue of disorganization (forgetting that you’ve done this three or four or five times already).
- You have created 17 Google calendars all with different colors and labels to keep track of every task you need to do.
- Your content strategy plan includes turning every podcast episode into 85 different quote memes for Instagram because you’re supposed to be everywhere all the time.
- When it’s time to create your course or write your book, you find you’re spending 95% of your time block working on your outline.
Some of you might be reading this and laughing because there is NO semblance of over organization in your life at all right now. Even if that’s true, this principle of mental shifting is still important to understand because I find that the most disorganized of people tend to revert to the “strictest” of systems and rituals in an attempt to control their distracted mind.
It also stands to note that you might not notice this rigidity in your business, but it might be showing up in other areas.
- Are you the kind of person who gravitates towards diet methods that include weighing and tracking your calories, macros, whatever? When you’re about to start a new plan, you clean out your fridge, buy all the new perfect foods, and then organize them with exacting perfection in your fridge?
- When you go to clean a room, do you get lost in ONE drawer and find that three hours in, you’re now organizing all the old photos by year and month?
The key to spotting this behavior in yourself is to look at where you feel the most out of control.
Since we’re wired for symmetry and order, when we feel the opposite of it in our lives and businesses, we tend to grab onto any methodology that promises to put it ALL back in order. It gives you a feeling of control. That is a powerful feeling, but what has really happened? The control you want over that issue is now not really in your hands, it’s locked into the rigidity of a new routine that now takes TIME to keep up with.
Let’s unpack this with one thing we all have…. an inbox.
Deliberate Mental Shifting With Your Inbox
There’s an understood belief for most people that says…Inbox zero = organized.
We laugh and joke about the little red notifications on our phone that say 15,403 unread messages, and then feel enormous stress when we open up a disordered disaster of a Gmail.
In essence, we feel out of control.
What if there’s an important message I’m missing?
Then we launch into a three hour long research project looking at all the new apps and tools and methodologies to organizing our inbox. By the way, we probably also do this during our sacred time. It’s natural for this to happen because when we set aside time to clear our mind for the important work we want to do, it also creates a beautifully empty arena for every worry and insecurity and problem to come rushing in.
Back to the inbox.
- Maybe you set up a tool like Unroll.me.
- Maybe you create all kinds of new filter rules.
- Maybe you have 85 new folders to organize all your emails.
But three weeks later, you’re annoyed by Unroll.me cause some of your favorite emails are now going into that folder and you want them in your inbox. It’s hard to sort every message into a folder and with a zillion folders, it’s time consuming. The filter rules also caught a message you needed to see, and now you’re nervous that you’re missing stuff just the same as when you had a million emails in your inbox.
Time to think of a new system.
And round and round it goes.
Do you see how this causes so much additional work and mental bandwidth?
Let’s think about Gmail differently.
Truth #1 – Gmail is powered by Google. Which means, you can buy unending amounts of storage for like $10 a month. You don’t have to ever delete an email. Just hit archive. And…if you need to find it again, Gmail is also powered by the company that makes the BEST search tool on planet Earth, and you can just search with one keyword and it’ll pull up whatever you need.
Truth #2 – There’s really only ONE folder you need in your inbox, and that’s the ACTION NEEDED folder. A folder that tells you, “Hey! I need to answer the emails in this folder!” Once they are answered, you can archive. Long ago in 1992 your inbox was the action needed folder, but those times have come and gone. How bout each morning, you take three seconds, scan your emails – and just move the ones that need your attention into ACTION needed? Archive the rest, and then find a “non sacred time” to go through your action needed folder from bottom to top.
Truth #3 – You know the crazy inbox is bugging you. And mentally, you want it to feel clean. So…file email bankruptcy. Scan the first one or two pages of your inbox, archive everything and put only the important ones in ACTION NEEDED, and then make one new folder called “Email Bankruptcy”. Take your entire inbox and put it in that folder. Chances are, if you don’t have to go scouring in there for at least six months, you’re not missing anything important, and just hit ARCHIVE *not delete- remember truth #1*.
- I’m rethinking the idea that I need to delete stuff (I don’t).
- I’m rethinking the idea that I need a million folders (I don’t).
- I’m rethinking the idea that I need to sort all 15,000 emails before I can have a clean inbox again (I don’t).
This could literally be done in the next 20 minutes, and then you’re off to the races.
Not only that, now that your inbox is clean, when new messages come in, you have a simple way to manage them. ARCHIVE, or ACTION NEEDED. That’s it. And you can go into your ACTION NEEDED folder once or twice a day and answer them.
Train your brain to HATE systems that take more time than is necessary and it’ll help you stop over organizing things. Even if it’s something like a content strategy plan that at first glance makes sense, maybe it doesn’t for you. If you’re busy creating scheduled posts that get no engagement, just stop doing them. Rethink why.
Sometimes just acknowledging that you feel out of control is enough to get your brain to stop and realize it’s a bad idea to cling to a system that’s going to be too hard to maintain. Your processes should work naturally with your personality, with the way you do things innately, and they should never consume more resources when your goal is to try to leverage time!