In the last two weeks, I have been helping you to be more organized as a leader, because it is impossible to be a productive leader without being properly and suitably organized. One of the major reasons you are not leading at your best is because you are not organized as you should. This Monday, I am going to be teaching you some principles that will help you to be more organized as you lead in your own sphere in Nigeria and across the length and breadth of Africa. Here we go!
To start with, choose a time with no distractions and sit down with your notebook and pencil. After this, go ahead and list at least six elements in your life that need to be put in order. Forget about straightening out your life as a whole. Instead, focus on things like these:
I spend so much time looking for kitchen utensils that cooking a meal takes hours. How can I make my kitchen “work” properly?
I want to start wood-working again, but my books and tools are all over the house. What do I do to get them together?
The living room is always a mess because I don’t know what to do with all those magazines and newspapers I haven’t read.
I am always running out of soap, toilet paper, and other household staples. How can I plan more effectively?
It takes me forever to get ready in the morning and I am always late for work. How can I streamline the “up and out” process?
How can I plan enough time for special projects that I like to work on and still leave a comfortable margin for household, family, and other activities?
On the condition that your mind tends to blur when you try to isolate problems, the “movie” technique may help. Take a deep breath and relax. Then close your eyes and mentally run through a typical day, letting it unroll like a movie. “I get up, brush my teeth…” and so on. When you come to a scene or situation that creates a problem, write it down. While you are screening your day’s movie, remember that you may not be consciously aware of some problems but your mind and body are. If your stomach lurches or your muscles tighten or your head aches when you come to a particular scene, then you can be sure you have locked onto a problem.
If, for example, a twinge of tension occurs at the idea of brushing your teeth, perhaps you are always running out of toothpaste—a problem in maintaining an inventory control system for household supplies. Or, the toothpaste might be there, but the medicine chest is so jammed that a dozen other things fall into the sink every time you reach into the cabinet.
Write down each problem as you come to it, then shut your eyes again, relax, and continue. List no more than six problems, otherwise the list itself may overwhelm you! This procedure of problem definition illustrates a fundamental rule of organizing; every life situation, no matter what it may be, can be divided into its significant parts.
This is the second principle: Divide up a complex problem into manageable segments. How do I mean? Some of the problems on your list will be fairly straight forward. A messy clothes closet, for example, is a small area with one function, and organizing it is a fairly simple procedure. But changing your morning ritual so that you are on time for work is a considerably more complex matter. It may involve changing your habits, revising your time schedule, reorganizing your bathroom or laundry system—or all of these things. Keeping Principle 2 in mind, the next step is to divide the complex on your list into more manageable units. These more complex situations usually fall into one or two categories:
One, physical areas: Rooms. If an entire room needs reorganizing, you must first isolate its various problem areas. Stand in the doorway of the room and, choosing any corner at random, mentally block out an area about five feet square. Cast a sharp eye over every inch of that area to inspect it for “knots.” In the living room, a knot might be a sloppy desk and work area, a disorganized wall unit with books piled in disarray, or an inconvenient and unappealing furniture arrangement. Whatever jars your nerves or sensibilities is a fit subject for reworking. List these specific “knot” areas on your master problem list under the general problem of which they are a part. Block out another five foot square area immediately adjacent to the first and repeat the process. Follow this procedure until you have checked the entire room and have a complete list of individual elements to work on.
Two, processes or systems: How do I mean? To break down a process or a system into its manageable parts, use the same movie technique; mentally running through the particular process that’s giving you trouble. Each time you feel tension about an action or function, write it down. For instance, the stumbling blocks in the “up-and-out-in-the-morning” process might include some of the following alarm clock rings too softly; cannot move quickly in the morning; don’t have time to decide what clothes or accessories to wear; kitchen always messy so cooking breakfast is a chore.
There is one more very significant step that provides the bridge between defining the problem and finding the solution. Come next Monday, I will take this crucial issue further. Till I come your way again, see you where organized-leaders are found.