Monday, January 05, 2009

Get Organized! Part One

Is “get organized” on your list of resolutions for the New Year? If so, you’re not alone. “Getting organized” is one of the top ten resolutions that people make every year. Maybe “getting organized” is a perennial item on your resolution list.

You’ve heard me say this before: organization is more about behavior than it is tools. Oh tools are important – the wrong tool for the job can certainly make things difficult. The right tool can make a job easier and more fun. But tools by themselves will not make you organized.

Since behavior is at the crux of organization, getting organized will take time – it is not instantaneous. Why? It takes time to change behavior. To create behavior change we need strategies that encourage that change. Those strategies provide the framework for other changes that we wish to make.

The framework is generic in that it does not specify what is being changed. So if your resolution is to “get organized,” the organizing strategies are the “what” of the change. Concentrating on a generic framework for change may strike you as a digression. But in reality, creating a framework for behavior change allows you to approach any goal with more confidence, more focus and a better chance for success.

The steps that make up the framework are summarized below. Rather than think of steps in a linear fashion – you’re finished when you have accomplished step six - look at it as a circle. Once you have accomplished step six, take your changes to the next level and go to step one again.

1) Visualize the change. Visualization provides the direction needed to make changes. I often ask clients to create a collage of pictures that represent the look and feel of the goal they are pursuing. The collage – often called a dream board – helps bring focus to a goal and make it more tangible. When it is hung in a place that the client frequents it provides a constant reminder of the what the client wants to accomplish.
2) Write down your goals and visit that list often. Written goals have a much better chance of being actualized. Writing provides a way of formalizing goals. It doesn’t matter if you write your goals in a diary, a personal planner, or a poster as long as they are in a place that you refer to frequently. Because my goals shape how I spend my time, and I manage my time with my planner, I personally feel the planner is a fantastic place to record my goals.
3) Break the goal down into smaller goals with milestones. Change takes energy. Try to change too much at the same time and you will exhaust yourself. Refer to step two. Small goals make it easier to incorporate change, and as such will increase your likelihood of success. Reasonable milestones for achieving small and large goals can “light a fire” under us to motivate us toward success.
4) Track the changes. That which we measure tends to be reinforced. Check marking a calendar, putting stars on a chart, and keeping a journal are simple and effective ways to track your behavior. Choose what works for you. A word to the wise: if you have never tracked your behavior or used a journal before, you may want to spend a few weeks just doing that. Create the habit of self-reporting before engaging in any other changes.
5) Reward progress. In the beginning frequent, small rewards will help reinforce the changes you wish to make. A small reward might be ten minutes of reading a new book or an extra cup of coffee. Over time you can decrease the frequency of small rewards. Significant rewards at established milestones will help set a certain amount of excitement and help motivate you. A significant reward might be dinner out, a new pair of shoes, or maybe a whole afternoon pursuing a hobby.
6) Ponder, not punish, the setbacks. Life is full of challenges. When things don’t go as you had hoped, analyze what led to the setback. Use the analysis to take proactive measures when faced with a similar situation in the future or to accommodate changes in your life. In your analysis make sure you acknowledge what went right as well as awry. The balance helps combat all or none thinking.

Make the framework for change part of your life, and increase the odds for accomplishing your goals and resolutions. Make this year the best year for you.
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