How do normal people do it?

I have been doing a lot of reading lately on different approaches to improving productivity.  Pretty much all of the authors agree that one starting point is getting yourself and your stuff organized. Good advice. But how, exactly, do you fit ‘getting organized’ into a schedule that is already stretched to the max?

Many sources advocate setting aside up to several days to get through everything in one massive burst. I know that approach makes a huge difference. I also know that most of the people I work with just don’t have several days they can put towards this effort. At best they might have to set aside some of their vacation time or weekend to do it.

Since I am not an advocate of using your time off in this fashion – I was wondering, how do normal people tackle this task?

What works best for me is the ‘eating the elephant’ approach – you know, one bite at a time! It doesn’t seem as if spending 15 minutes on a regular basis will make a dent in the years-long accumulation of stuff, but it is astonishing what can be accomplished.

One saying I like is ‘this didn’t accumulate overnight – it is unreasonable to expect it to be cleared up overnight.’ That really takes the pressure off!

So, if ‘get organized’ is one of your priority items – try setting a timer for 15 minutes, and work on one stack until the timer goes off. Then walk away until the next time. Bit by bit, it will all get done over time.

I am going to leave you with a quote from Rosabeth Moss Cantor: The middle of every successful project looks like a disaster.

When will you schedule your 15 minutes?

Because, really, without a life, what’s the point?


  1. Lynn Moore says:

    Terry, I love the 15 minutes at a time idea! Wow, anyone could get organized that way!

  2. Sue Painter says:

    One of the things Ali gave us at our last retreat was a timer! It’s a great way to work your way through things.
    Sue Painter

  3. Thanks, Terry! It is great to be reminded to eat the elephant one bite at a time!! Very helpful. Thanks! ♥

  4. Pinky McKay says:

    I love your quote -I am going to gift my desk 15 minutes! It has taken all week to get to this disaster.

    I often tell my kids – just ten minutes tidying your room – and this can result in major improvement but I need to keep reminding myself – this mess didnt happen in an instant. Thankyou!

  5. jesseavesmathews says:

    Terry — such a great and simple piece of advice that can transform your life one “bite” at a time! And I love that you also used the “eating the elephant” analogy! Great minds think alike!! 🙂

  6. melody says:

    Hi Terry,
    This is a great reminder to start little by little:) I often have to work 15 min at a time w/ a two year old around me all day!

  7. Lisa Manyon says:

    Hi Terry,

    You are so right. Many times, we just don’t know where to start. Setting a timer is a GREAT way to “just do it”.

    I have a closet with sliding doors in my office. I converted it into shelves and it’s become my “catch-all”. Every time I open the doors I think “I should really organize this more effectively.”

    Thanks for the push…maybe this weekend.

    Write on!~


  8. Mitch Tublin says:

    Thanks for some real tips that may be used right now
    with ease!

  9. Hi Terry, I don’t know what I would do without my timer. It definitely helps keep me on track for my day. I love the eating an elephant analogy. Great post.

  10. Phil Dyer says:

    The timer is a GREAT idea…

    I tend to be a “file by pile” person and by the time a piece of paper makes it into the proper place I have touched it WAY too many times (plus my wife is threatening to put me on the “Hoarders” TV show…

    Thanks for the info…