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Getting Organized in the Era of Endless

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The New Done

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My client Ann needs a new car. Armed with a rough budget and some preferences, Ann went online. She visited the best car buying websites, jumped into chat rooms, and used social media to find out what people thought of various vehicles. She checked CraigsList, and downloaded CarPerks to her iPhone (her 100th app!). Once on this research-train, it was hard for Ann to stop. According to the Information Overload Research Group (who knew?!) 53% of people surveyed believe that less than half the information they receive is valuable/useful. Still we find it hard to resist loading ourselves up on information. Not a great screen-reader, or adept at cut and paste pieces of webpages into files, Ann printed out reams of information. “I can’t be sure the information is in there,” Ann said pointing to her head. What began as a virtual search quickly turned into a seemingly unending tangible research project. When I visited Ann for our time management session she’d been at the car buying project for 3 months. Dan, her husband is supportive, but frustrated. “I know buying a new car is a big decision. But I’d gladly trade-in her thoroughness for getting the job over with.”

In an era of unlimited information, the pursuit of thoroughness is more than time-consuming – it’s impossible. There is always another opinion to listen to or another piece of information to obtain. I believe “done” needs a make-over. Here’s what I think The New Done needs to be:

  • It’s not about you. Finishing a task is not about your standard of completeness, but rather about meeting other people’s expectations or needs. Pleasing a spouse with making a final decision goes a longer way than making the perfect decision which doesn’t exist anyway.
  • Learn to live with your decision. Let’s say Ann narrowed her search to 2 cars and chose one over the other. Chances are great that there is so little difference between them that either choice would be one she could live with.
  • Coming through on your obligations and commitments enhances your relationships. Perfectionism and being overly scrupulous might give you a good reputation for being thorough but you’ll risk injuring your relationships.
  • If you think the stimulation of the hunt for perfect answers feels good, wait till you experience closure!

Organizationally-speaking, The New Done requires a few good practices (I’m not much of a fan of “best practices”. The question, ‘best for whom?’ always stops me cold in my mental tracks.)

  • Corralling information is key. Putting it in a form for easy use, retrieval and re-use such as a spreadsheet or a dedicated file is important.
  • Impose a time limit especially if the task had no deadline or due date. Go for perfect timing rather than perfect information/solutions/ answers.
  • Ask someone else to judge if you are done or not.
  • Know exactly what it is people want from you, otherwise you won’t know if you’ve satisfied them.

“He who knows that enough is enough always has enough” – Lao-Tzu

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