When Organization Goes Too Far
You know how much I love being organized, but believe it or not, it is possible to be too organized.
In some cases, being over-organized can even lead to increasing overwhelm rather than reducing it.
Here’s an example to explain what I mean by organization going too far:
Whenever I sign up for a new course or training and I’m sent a PDF workbook, my first instinct is to head to Staples or the nearest office supply store to buy a new binder. While I’m there, I’ll also get the workbook printed nicely and organized with special tabs or whatever I feel I need to be fully ready to dive into this new program.
Then, a couple of months later, when I sign up for another course or workshop, I head right back to the store to get a different colored binder because that's going to help me keep it organized, right? And the cycle continues.
Fast forward to a few years later, and what you're likely left with is the binder graveyard on the bookshelf. It might look really pretty with your 15 different colored rainbow binders full of information, but chances are you likely never went back and did anything with them. Or by the time you did want to go back and reference something you learned, you have no idea where to find it amongst all of your beautiful binders.
This is what I mean when I'm talking about over-organization.
The purpose of organization
The heart of organization all comes down to this question: Can you find what you are looking for with ease?
If the answer is yes, then chances are you've got a great organizational system! And remember, being organized only needs to work for you. It doesn't need to work for the rest of the world.
But if your answer is no, then that's a sign there is room for improvement with your organization by either organizing less (like my example with the binders) or organizing more.
What the “right” amount of organization can look like
Going back to the binder example... Your notes and workbooks from every course you’ve ever taken may look super organized on the surface, but it’s obvious when you begin searching through your binders that finding what you actually need is not easy.
A simpler way could be to have one central, easily searchable repository for that information.
For instance, you may choose to go digital, which could allow you to take notes in different Google Docs that are easily searchable by keywords.
Or if you really want to continue using a paper-based system, you may need to create an indexing system of sorts that lets you know which specific binder and sections within your binders to find different subjects or information.
Whatever method you choose, the point is to make sure that you can find things easily when you need them.
Where to start with organization
I’m often asked questions like “Where do I start with getting organized?” or “How do I know what needs to be organized and what doesn't?”
The truth is, you can’t organize everything in your life at once. You have to prioritize.
Here’s a great place to start: As you’re going through your day or week, notice when you find yourself looking for something and it's taking you a while to find it.
This is a sign that your organization in this particular area is off. It’s either too organized or not organized enough to make your life easier.
Ask yourself, “Is this area so hyper-organized that I can’t quickly find my way to what I actually need, or is it under-organized?”
It could be that you need to reorganize things because you either over-organized them or you haven't even started at all (i.e. that kitchen junk drawer).
Either way, I want to caution you not to immediately jump into the car and head to the Container Store or the office supply store — although, I love both of those places. Buying more supplies to get even more detailed organization in your life should actually be one of your last steps in the process.
First, what you need to really understand to get organized is what makes sense for your brain in terms of how you would go and find whatever it is you are looking for.
For example, my spice rack is organized alphabetically, but one of my close friends who is an exceptional cook has her spice rack organized by the types of seasoning. Neither way is wrong or right. It’s just about the easiest and quickest way for our brains to process and find what we need when we need it.
So before you run out to purchase another round of bins, racks, and binders, give yourself permission to organize in a way that actually works for you.
And constantly be asking yourself as you're doing it, “Does this allow me to easily find what I'm looking for? Or am I getting so over-organized that it will be very overwhelming and difficult for me to get what I'm looking for later when I need it?”