Recently Get Rich Slowly did an excellent article on Getting to Now: How to Beat the Procrastination Habit, with good tips on doing things immediately instead of putting them off.
While the article doesn’t address this directly, the Habit of Now is one of the most important factors in how organized you are. If you want to get organized, you must develop the Habit of Now.
The other important factors in getting organized? There are three:
- Have a place for everything. If you have an item in your hands, you should know where it belongs.
- Put everything in its place. Instead of just tossing a paper any old place, or pasting a scrap of information in a random text file, put it where it belongs.
- Keep your information in one place. This is related to #2 above, but if your information is in multiple places, you’ll waste time looking for it. Try to keep everything centralized, to save time and searching.
But even with those three factors, if you don’t develop the Habit of Now, things will fall apart. Instead of stacking a bunch of papers to put away where they belong later, do it now. If you don’t have a place for something, such as a folder, make one now instead of later.
The Habit of Now, of course, isn’t always that easy to develop. We tend to procrastinate. However, it’s just like any other habit: if you focus on it for long enough, it will soon become automatic and easy.
Here’s how to do it:
1. Write it down. Print out a big sign that says, “DO IT NOW”. Also list the actions you must do right away: filing, creating a place for something, putting things where they belong, the top item on your task list.
2. Log it. You don’t need to create a detailed log for each time you follow the Habit of Now … but it would be very useful to do a running tally. Just have a small piece of paper on your desk, and when you Do It Now, put a tally. You can also do a tally of the times you forget to Do It Now or procrastinate on it. The tally simply makes you aware of the activity, and reinforces the habit, and it really works.
3. Report your progress. Tell others about your habits — your spouse, your co-workers, friends. And tell them to ask you about it every day. Or put it on your blog, and let your readers hold you accountable. If you know someone else is watching, you’ll do your best.
4. Focus on this habit, and nothing else. Don’t try to change multiple habits at once. It’s very difficult, and if you diffuse your focus, you’ll be less likely to be successful. Try to focus on this habit for 3o days.
5. No exceptions. Don’t tell yourself, “Just this once won’t hurt.” That’s like a smoker who’s trying to quit saying, “Just one puff won’t hurt.” Well, that one puff will lead to two, which eventually leads to failure. Same thing with the Habit of Now: if you allow yourself to put it off even once, it will lead to the Habit of Whenever.
6. Make folders quickly. Always have a good supply of manila folders and labels, so you can make a new file folder in a jiffy. If it takes more than a few seconds to make a folder, you’ll resist doing it. When you have a documents that should be filed but doesn’t have a folder it should go in, you need to make a new folder and file it immediately.
7. File it now. Don’t let things pile up. Don’t have a “to be filed” folder. Just file it, right away. Same thing with anything else: put it away, now.