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Blog: Surfing the Paper Wave
I Got SMART, Revisited

At the end of October, I posted an entry entitled "I Got SMART," in which I discussed my personal goal to "Weed one file folder per day until all 72 folders in my four file drawers have been weeded by December 31, 2007." I described SMART goals as:
Specific It says exactly what's going to be done.
Measurable It's easy to tell whether a benchmark has been met.
Attainable It's realistic in light of other responsibilities and constraints.
Resource-supported Tools are available to do the job.
Timebound It has a deadline or time frame.
I described my enthusiasm at finally moving on a long-unmet goal, and promised to give you an update on my progress as the deadline neared. Here it is.
Between mid-October and today, I have succeeded in weeding 40 of my 72 folders, or two and a half of my four file drawers. My first temptation, and perhaps yours, too, is to say, "Well, I blew it. I didn't meet my goal." But I often reflect on my own experiences, both to learn something for myself and to help my customers, and that is what I shall do here.
Here is what this experience is teaching me:
  • The glass is more than half full, not only because I weeded 56% of the files, but also because I started with the most challenging, most frequently-used files. My daily processing of the mail and my weekly bill paying ARE easier now because I did these high-priority files first.
  • As I review the SMART aspects of my goal, I can see that the weak link was attainability, i.e., my goal wasn't realistic. I set it for myself in mid-October, right before I landed a major customer who wound up requiring large chunks of my time during November and December. Yet I never considered revising my file goal in light of this new information. Note to self and to you: Goals are rarely cast in concrete. They can be revised as circumstances change, and doing so doesn't make me or you a wimp.
  • Another factor that prevented my meeting this goal completely was failing to schedule a specific time of day to do it. Although I did write it as a repeating daily task on my Palm's Task list, expecting the time to turn up without planning just didn't work.
  • I also didn't account for the mental energy that the task would sometimes require. What often happened was that I would get to the file of the day at 9 PM, find it contained more complicated papers than I expected, and skip it because I was tired. The days I purged my file in the morning -- when my personal energy is always best -- even complicated files took less than ten minutes. In my organizing classes, I often teach the point, "Use prime time for prime tasks." The shoemaker needs to tend to her own shoes!
  • Even on those days when I did quit due to fatigue, leaving a "bookmark" would have moved things along faster. For example, I could have left myself a sticky note saying "Discarded documents for car we sold. Need to group remaining documents by vehicle." Instead, I had to start all over again the next time I went back to the Documents-Auto file.
  • Another thing I could have done when I was tired was pick a very easy file and do it, choosing to make some progress over no progress at all.
The key message here, both for you and me, is to avoid all-or-nothing thinking when organizing or anything else. There's always something to be learned for next time, and partial progress does count.
My best wishes for a happy, healthy New Year to you and the people you care about.

posted on: 12/30/2007 10:30:00 AM by Suzanne Kuhn
category: Paper

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Surfing the Paper Wave

by Suzanne Kuhn

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About Suzanne:

Suzanne Kuhn is the owner of ACE ORGANIZING, offering affordable, customized, energizing organizing solutions to homes, schools and small businesses in the five-county Philadelphia area and central New Jersey. Although an organizing generalist, (she'll organize anything!) Suzanne has a growing specialty in paper and electronic filing systems and financial organizing. To receive her FREE booklet, 50 TOP TIME MANAGAGEMENT TIPS, email her at [email protected]

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