Get Organized

This is the fourth chapter of nine included in my free, full version program, Goals! An Interactive Guide. The other chapters will be added in blog entries for future use.

Goals! An Interactive Guide Chapters:

Chapter One: Why Set Goals?

Chapter Two: Decide Exactly What You Want

Chapter Three: Create an Unstoppable Drive

Chapter Four: Get Organized

Chapter Five: Stay Flexible

Chapter Six: Overcoming Obstacles

Chapter Seven: Review Your Progress

Chapter Eight: Velocity-Based Goal Setting

Chapter Nine: Operate From the Highest Level

Setting clear and committed goals won’t work if you can’t organize your resources towards achieving them. How you organize your goals and how often you are reminded of them play a key role in their success. If your goals are collecting dust in a filing cabinet or a folder, they won’t influence your actions. Similarly, how you organize your physical surroundings can give you much greater productivity towards your goals. A messy, disorganized house, office or computer waste valuable time. How you organize your time is probably the greatest factor, and without the ability to control and allocate time to your goals, they will fail before you even start.

Organize Your Goals

So you’ve written out your goals on paper. You have described them in objective terms and written a paragraph or two about why you want to achieve them. Below them you have set the deadline for which you feel is both realistic and challenging. Now what? Do you store this file in some obscure folder in your computer? Do you take the sheet of paper and put it into some binder marked ‘goals’ and put it into the dark and cobwebbed realm of your attic?

The organization of your goals and how often they serve to remind you are critical to their success. If you never see your goals, they become easily forgotten and they lose whatever significance or meaning they held when they were written. Creating a system where you can see your goals a few times per day and getting organized so you can track the past goals you have set will ensure they stay meaningful.

The first step to organizing your goals is to find a system to store them. I will describe the system I use to store my goals, but you can use whatever system you wish. If you store your goals on a computer, or you prefer a more complex or simplistic scheme for storing your goals, go ahead. But if your having trouble deciding how to organize all these new goals your setting, you can see how I organize them for better efficiency.

All of my goals are written out on a separate piece of paper. This paper contains my brief one or two sentence overview of my goal, my reasons why I am pursuing it and the deadline for achieving it. This is the main copy of my goal. I store this copy into a large binder I have for my goals. I keep all of my current goals at the very front for easy browsing.

The binder I use has labeled areas for the different aspects of my own personal development and the general areas of my goals. These sections include health, productivity, business, finance, mental/creative, social, relationships and fun/adventure. Once I’ve successfully achieved a goal, I transfer it to be filed into one of these sections. If I was unsuccessful at setting my deadline, I make note of that as it serves to ask me whether I am being overly optimistic in my deadlines and allows me to improve my ability to accurately set deadlines in the future.

This binder serves as an excellent tracking and organizing tool, but it isn’t that effective for browsing or reminding me of my goals. For that I use my reminder sheet. My goal reminder sheet is a piece of paper that records the brief summary for all of my goals. I keep this sheet of paper pinned up to my wall above the binder I use for a daily review. This means I am going to have to check the reminder sheet at least a few times per day. Although I don’t often sit and read through every item, a quick glance reminds me of the goals I have set.

On this reminder sheet I’ve grouped my goals by time. At the top I have my short-term goals which are under three months to accomplish. Below them I have my mid-range goals between 3 and 18 months, my long-range goals of between 18 months and 5 years and my monumental goals of greater than 5 years. Although my short term goals are generally more connected with my daily actions, reminding myself of all of my major goals on a continuous basis ensures they stay meaningful.

If you use a computer a lot, you may want to turn your desktop wallpaper into a goal reminder sheet. This can be a little time consuming if your goals change rapidly, but if you are using your computer frequently, this can be an excellent reminder. Simply open up one of your desktop backgrounds with an image editing program (I use the GIMP but even MS Paint will do). Create a white rectangle and then type the summary of your goals in black over top this rectangle. Every time you minimize a program or shut off your computer, you will get a reminder of the goals you have set for yourself.

Organize Your Environment

Always losing your car keys? Seem to have a lot of stuff just lying around? Being disorganized will damage your productivity, increase stress and make staying on track with your goals more difficult. Organization is a skill anyone can learn and it can save you a lot of time, energy and frustration. Most importantly, being organized creates an environment of productivity and achievement that serves to reinforce your goals.

The main culprit in being disorganized is simply that the your items don’t have a home. Whether it is your home, your office or even your computer files, if the items don’t have a specific place they should be stored, they will be pile up in clutter. Losing your car keys is a sign that you don’t have a specific place to put them.

If you are already disorganized, reorganizing everything is a huge task that will take a significant time investment. This is an example where an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Once you are organized and place things where they belong, only minor reorganizing will need to be done to keep everything operating smoothly. You may need to split this task up into several pieces if you have a lot to organize, but the benefits of being organized are well worth the time required to get there.

Start by mentally getting an idea of how you want to organize everything. Chances are you have an idea about where things should go, but by sitting down and thinking about where you want to put things, you can create an effective organizing system. Next go through every single item. Decide whether you want to keep it or throw it out. Unless it is a legal document or holds sentimental value, I’d recommend tossing out anything that you haven’t used in a long time and you can buy again. When you are going through all your items, sort them into the rough groups they will be put into when they are re-organized. Finally take those organized groups and put them back into the place you designated at the start.

Organizing your environment may seem costly and unnecessary if you feel that you are just as efficient with some clutter, but it serves an even more important role. An organized environment sends a strong message to your subconscious telling you that you are productive, hard-working and efficient. A cluttered area tells your subconscious that you are lazy, unmotivated and wasteful. As we talked about in the last chapter, the environment you have sends a strong signal to your motivation and your ultimate success towards your goals.

Organize Your Time

Time management is an extensive subject that has been written about in many books. There are many different styles of prioritizing and organizing your time for the greatest effectiveness. This program is not designed or equipped to teach everything there is to know about time management, but it is important enough to warrant a general overview on methods to increase the organization of your time.

The first step in time management is deciding what is important. Your goals should already be doing this step for you. If your goals aren’t telling you what is most important, or worse, the objectives of other people are placed on a higher importance than your goals, then your goals won’t work. Ensure that your goals have been broken down until the next action step at any stage in their progress is always apparent. Secondly, make sure your goals are loud enough that they demand your action now.

Once you’ve decided what is important, the other step in time management is actually doing what is most important. In this area there are many methods for doing what is important more effectively and efficiently. Depending on your personal style, you might work best by scheduling work in advance or you might work better with a to-do list style that allows you to choose when to work on your goals in the spur of the moment. Experiment with different techniques and styles. If your goals are strong and compelling enough, this phase becomes a lot easier to optimize.

If you are looking on organizing your time more effectively, I would suggest reading Getting Things Done, by Dave Allen. Reaching almost a cult status, Dave’s book about simple and effective organizing methods can allow you to remove the burden from your memory. Organizing your time is an important step towards successfully achieving your goals that cannot be overlooked.

I once heard that a successful venture is, “5% plan, 95% execution.” Whatever the actual percentage is, how you execute the progress towards your goals will ultimately make more difference than the planning you use towards them. Having an organized system for reminding you of your goals will allow you to be more motivated and productive and ensure a superior execution.