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Procrastinate less, organize more

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IT’S NOT A secret that “getting organized” is a popular New Year’s resolution. But what has happened to your resolve to get organized in the foggy weeks of January? Will it be any easier in the short little month of February? If you made a goal to get organized this year, my mission is to encourage you to stay the course.

To stop dilly-dallying, make peace with the “P” word: procrastination. The human condition is to delay doing today what can be done tomorrow. We procrastinate for one main reason: to avoid pain and unpleasantness. We recognize that making order of the towering stacks in the garage will be difficult, that clearing the desk may require hefty blocks of time, and that something will have to go if we want to see the floor of our clothes closet. To help you procrastinate less and reach your goals:

Write it Down: If you write it down, it makes your desire real. Writing can be a powerful act of commitment. Put it where you are sure to see it.

Make an Affirmation: A simple statement of purpose and conviction said out loud can make an inroad of accountability. Just close the door and no one will laugh; in fact the organizing gods may smile on you. For the ultimate accountability, tell your mother.

Get Started: Starting is saying yes to your resolution. This is usually the hardest part, but the good news is that action builds momentum. There is no one right place to begin. The right place to start is the place you decide to jump in. We’ve all tried inching our way into the water, and that didn’t change the temperature. Jump in even if it’s uncomfortable at first.

Step by Step: “What saves a man is to take a step. Then another step.” — Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Organizing is a process that isn’t accomplished in one day. Even grown ups benefit from taking baby steps. What seems insurmountable becomes manageable when it’s broken into small steps. The customary steps to organize any space are sort, weed/purge, containerize and maintain.

Time: Use time to break down tasks as well. Set a timer, set a deadline, set a fixed time to work on your goal each day or week. A banker who commutes on BART says this about how he beats procrastination: “The train ride gives me a window of time to read something I’ve been putting off. Then when I get to my office, I’m ready to make follow-up calls or whatever next step is needed.”

Buddy-Up: Sometimes it’s as simple as not knowing how to do it. Barter with someone who is good at something you struggle with; collaborate, and accomplish more with two minds/four hands working together; delegate. At the very least, get moral support by sharing your goals with another.

Worst First: Someone said, “If you have to swallow a frog, do it first thing in the morning.” The idea is to tackle a difficult project when you are fresh. Or, try the opposite: Do the easy first. Quick projects may provide the gratification that spurs you to tackle the harder project. Send me an e-mail about which approach works best for you.

Benefits: If you haven’t pictured the benefits to getting organized, you may see only high hurdles. Get a picture of what it is you hope to gain: a kitchen where you can actually make a meal, less chaos in the family room, a garage you can park in, a home you like to come home to.

The Buck Stops Here: Put aside excuses, those mutterings that begin with “but,” and live with less regret and more creative energy. Practice doing something instead of obsessing about what you think you should be doing. You have good intentions; make them a reality this year.