Notes from a Floating Life Thoughts about productivity, digital living, and leading a simpler life

Things Will Get In The Way

Disorganization causes stress. Stress makes you flounder. Floundering makes you even more stressed. That makes you flounder more. It’s a perfect definition of a downward spiral.

— Douglas C. Merrill, Getting Organized in the Google Era

You need to understand that in spite of all your planning, in spite of all your attention to detail, things will get in the way. But don’t believe that you can prepare for the unexpected —there are just too many variables, too many intangibles. When you run into a problem, you need to be able to get back on track as quickly as possible. You need to get out of the contingency mindset. When you try to prepare for every eventuality, that scatters your energies. You lose some or a lot of your focus. You head in to that downward spiral Douglas Merrill talks about.

When the unexpected does strike, and it will, all you can do is roll with it. Adapt. Pick yourself up and dust yourself off.

One of my first professional writing jobs in the early 1990s was in the marketing department of a mutual fund company. One day, I was chatting with one of the agents who sold the funds and our conversation turned to keeping organized. When I asked him how he did the deed, he reached into his briefcase and pulled out a day planner. Yes, a leather-bound binder about the size of a large paperback book.

Remember that this was in the days before the Internet was on most peoples’ computers. The personal organization software of the day was Ecco Pro, ACT!, and Lotus Agenda. Even those tools weren’t as widely used as some people would lead you to believe.

He showed me how he used the day planner to chart the course of his week. When I asked him what happened when things don’t go according to his day planner, he gave me an answer that still sticks with me, over 20 years later: when you get off track one week, just start all over the next Monday.

Really, that’s all you can do.

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