Lots of people are familiar with the phrase yo-yo dieting, but probably not with “yo-yo organizing”. It’s a phrase I coined as a professional organizer, observing the tendency to approach organizing haphazardly. We procrastinate until we can’t take the mess, and then dive in with a huge burst of determination, only to abandon the project halfway through when we run out of steam.
Sadly, being “partially” organized doesn’t last—the unfinished portions create blind spots in your system and doubt in your mind about what goes where. Before long you backslide into the same state of chaos you began with, feeling demoralized. Just like yo-yo dieting.
While it’s easy to see the benefits of being organized, it can be hard to justify the time it takes to create a system. It always takes longer than we think. We experience decision fatigue. We feel antsy to get back to life.
Yet, the very PROCESS of organizing —the journey of sifting, sorting, deciding and discovering, is highly beneficial. Organizing is an act of studying, uncovering and curating knowledge–often reacquainting you with vital information that had receded from your memory. In one famous study on retention, participants only remembered 54% of what they’d read the day before, and only 21% two weeks later. Organizing is powerful.
As knowledge workers, we are paid for our ideas, our ability to make good judgements, to be thorough and on top of our game. Ending the yo-yo organizing cycles takes time, yes, but the journey itself will yield huge payoffs, every step of the way.
For over 25 years, New York Times bestselling author and organizational consultant Julie Morgenstern has transformed the way individuals and companies function around the globe, including American Express, Microsoft, FedEx, and the NYC Mayor’s Office.
Her cutting edge advice has been featured on programs from The Oprah Winfrey Show to Good Morning America and NPR, and she is regularly featured in a variety of print magazines and publications, including Forbes, Harvard Business review, and The Wall Street Journal.
In today’s fast-paced culture, professional success often seems synonymous with long days, never-ending to-do lists, and sleepless nights. But it doesn’t have to be that way.