Being Messy Is Ruining Your Productivity

Disorganization impedes productivity. It’s a tough pill to swallow because most people are disorganized, especially when it comes to work (and that’s true no matter how you define “work”). We never sort our emails or clean out the inbox. We save all files directly to the default Downloads folder and never rename them sensibly. We store some information in Google Docs, some in a note on our phone, some in a spreadsheet.

It Takes Effort to Go From Step to Step

The problem is that when we need to find information or move forward with a task, we waste a lot of time simply getting started.

Where is the information I need? What is the next step?

While you may be able to hobble along with your own mess, the fact that disorganization slows us down really becomes apparent with team work.

If I delegate some of this task, will the people I assign be able to pick up the process quickly and easily, or will they have a dozen questions about how to proceed?

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to dive into the problem of how messes hinder productivity and point to ways anyone can be more organized and intentional with work.

Part of the trick is to look at the big picture of how we work, the exact steps that take us from preparing to do a task through to finishing it. Unlike most other productivity tips you’ve likely read, being organized has nothing to do with small detailed processes, such as changing some settings in an app or remembering to eat breakfast. It’s much more about knowing how to get from A to Z.

Work Like You Sing

Think of it this way: If I told you I was going to give you a list of 26 things that you had to memorize right away, you might worry that the list sounds awfully long and how could you possible memorize them all quickly. But if the list is the English alphabet, you already know all 26 items and in the correct order. You can sing through them without thinking much about it. How can we do the same thing with our work process?

Here are some of the topics I’ll be writing about next. I’ll update this post with links as they become available:

Image by Alan Strakey, CC.


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