Recently, I was asked an interesting comment about organizing that I’d like to respond to:
“The [question] that comes to mind here is how to persist. I can’t seem to hold the course more than 3 months . . . that seems to be my cycle. How do we organize ourselves and keep on trooping through our own cycles of up and down?”
In my response, I praised the fact that the writer knows what her cycle of productivity is. She is aware that after 3 months, she runs out of steam. This is great. And if you don’t know what your cycle is (it could be 2 weeks or 2 years!), I encourage you to begin observing it.
In my coaching work, I work with the topic of cycles a lot – enough that I’d like to deconstruct it here.
Assumption #1: You must persist.
As a country, the US has grown so far beyond the original colonies… and yet our Puritan work ethic seems not to have waned in over 200 years. People say, “Lord, I can’t get everything done.” And yet they give it a whirl anyway – to the detriment of their health, and lives, and relationships.
Organizing Truth: You don’t have to persist.
That doesn’t mean you have to let everything drop, either. But what if it was okay to let up sometimes? I talked to a client yesterday who shared that her new goal is to simply turn off the computer 2 nights per week. This was a huge epiphany for her (and I’m so proud!).
What are you holding onto too tightly? Where could you be more flexible in your work so you can bend instead of break? What needs to soften so that you can offer yourself gentleness – and become thereby sustainably productive?
Assumption #2: You must hold your course.
If you think you must always be tidy, always be organized, and produce everything you think of, you will become very, very tired. And cranky. Trust me on this one.
Nothing in nature, including you, can hold its course forever.
We tend to think of productivity and organization as linear systems. But it actually comes in cycles. Like seasons, or tides, or volcanic activity. You’re part of nature and you do have your own rhythms and cycles.
Organizing Truth: You can’t produce linearly – not forever, anyway.
The mistaken assumption we make is that if we did it once, we can do it again – without any turn around or recovery time. If you do this, you eventually start to run on fumes, drive like a mad person, and start feeling very isolated. Unrelenting productivity is unsustainable.
Assumption #3: You can’t be organized while you’re going through your cycles of “up and down.”
This is a touchy subject for people because even though we work in our spaces and basically know what’s there (tools and projects and files, etc.) – most people honestly believe that their offices must look like the cover of Pottery Barn. Unrealistically tidy.
If you want to spend your time getting it to look this way, go for it. But last I checked, you were trying to run a business. Your time might be better spent on doing the work you love – and periodically devoting time to maintaining your systems so you can work comfortably.
Organizing Truth: You can work with your natural cycles, rather than trying to defeat them.
What might that look like? Just go with your own flow. Create a little chaos while you’re working – and when you’re almost done, take some time for cleanup and purging. Not at the very end of the cycle, because you might need downtime to restore your brain, body and spirit. It might take a few tries to get the hang of it.
More than anything, it’s more about making an attitude shift. Accepting and working with your own cycles makes organizing a downhill battle. Easier. More supportive to you and your business. Possibly even fun.