Blog Post

Key to Organization: The Habit of Now

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:

  1. Have a place for everything. If you have an item in your hands, you should know where it belongs.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

15 Responses to “Key to Organization: The Habit of Now”

  1. I love Anna’s comment: “How do you balance “do it now” with “don’t multi-task” – I come across something and go to “do it now” and pretty soon I’m scrubbing around the faucet in the upstairs bathroom with a toothbrush instead of writing, calling, scheduling or whatever it was I was doing in the first place.”
    Exactly… that’s what a lot of procrastinators do. I think we each have subconscious reasons for behaving the way we do. I see procrastination as being linked to perfectionism… that a perfectionism wants things to be done perfectly, and that will take a lot of time, or perhaps s/he doesn’t believe s/he’s got what it takes to do that task yet… so then it gets put off, until there is time… and that may be a while! I’d love to see comments of what others see as the cause of their procrastination.

  2. How do you balance “do it now” with “don’t multi-task” – I come across something and go to “do it now” and pretty soon I’m scrubbing around the faucet in the upstairs bathroom with a toothbrush instead of writing, calling, scheduling or whatever it was I was doing in the first place.

  3. The tips for developing the habit are great! It is, however, much easier if you take the time to not only set up the system in the beginning so it’s very easy to use, but also tinker with it when it gets too left-handed to use.

  4. Well, you can call it discipline, but I don’t know that that’s very useful. Because people will just give up and say, “I have no discipline” as if discipline is something you can have, or something you can learn. But how do you learn discipline?

    Instead, I find it more useful to think of this as a habit. Then it’s doable: you can form habits. I’ve formed many habits: running, quitting smoking, organizational habits, clean-as-you-go, waking early, etc. … and though it’s not always an easy process, it’s fairly achievable. Think of this as a habit, focus on it for a month, and you can do it … you don’t need discipline.

  5. #2 is a variant of one of my favorite organizational phrases,

    “Don’t Put It Down, Put It Away.”

    (I believe this is attributed to Janeane Garofalo, but don’t quote me on that.)

  6. I agree with these tips for organization. In my company we use a system called 5S. 5S is a way of organizing your work area and it can help both physically and digitally. The five S’s are Seiri, Seiton, Seisō, Seiketsu, and Shitsuke. These translate to Seperating, Sorting, Cleaning, Standardizing and Sustaining. With these five steps many people find it much easier to work and to find things that they need when they need it. More info can be found on

  7. Thanks Leo, this is a good reminder. I agree with Serge above too — discipline is the order of the day. Unfortunately, it is not something that comes easily to many people. I have tried several things recently that have helped me. One is creating a Tickler File, a series of folders to refer back to. Another is creating a Knowledge Depot folder on my desktop that I categorize miscellaneous data in, should I need to call it to mind again. I have been reading a lot about knowledge management (from an organizational and personal perspective) lately and trying to apply the principles.
    Anybody else have ideas to add?

  8. Well Leo

    Should we call this discipline?

    I would describe this as Getting into the Habit of Doing Things.

    It is a process, like eating healthier.

    After a while you can see the results.

    Let me acknowledge that I am still a work in progress.

    I see the usefulness of your steps but have not turned them yet into standard practice.

    Have a great day

    ‘The French Guy from New Jersey’