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File folders, organization, & compromise

I’m extremely anal when it comes to organization. So much that if I can’t organize things to my exact specifications, I prefer not to organize them at all. It is very confusing for people around me because to an outsider it looks like contradictory behavior.

I’m either hyper organized or everything is in a state of chaos.

This type of thinking has proven to be especially difficult in the workplace. For about a year (off and on) I’ve subscribed to the Getting Things Done methodology. It has its perks, but the minute one to do item slips by uncategorized, I start losing faith in the entire system.

For example, one recommendation the author makes is to file everything in file folders in alphabetical order. Regardless of the type of content stored in the folder it falls into one alphabetized group, no subcategories. I always print labels so they will be legible in case someone else needs to access them, but this was taking way to long and I often wouldn’t get to it for weeks at a time. (Yes,waiting weeks to file works against the GTD model.) The author recommends a label maker, but this too was time consuming because I had to leave my office to create the label.

My solution:
I’m learning to make compromises with myself about how I reach the end result. I’ve started writing out labels by hand.

It goes against the neurotic part of me that wants every label to line up perfectly and have the same font size, color, etc. It isn’t how file folders are _supposed_ to look. It bugs me, but it works. I can create my files quickly, find them easily, and get on with my day.

I’m taking actions that meet 85% of my requirements instead of creating mental roadblocks for why I shouldn’t do the tasks at all if I can’t do them “right”. Are preconceived notions about what it means to be organized keeping you from cleaning up your act?


  1. Tori Tori

    Coolest website ever to get things clean and organized. It has a lot of other things in there too and a lot of it has to do with things around the house. You might be able to switch some to work. I’m the exact same way when it comes to organization, once it has a spot it stays but the miscellaneous stuff just sits around. ugh

  2. rightforus rightforus

    I can’t imagine how many hours of work time are lost every day to this exact problem. You’re 1 step ahead of most by recognizing it is a problem!

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