A Bias For Action: Procrastination is a Personal Pitfall

Read This Now, Not Later

For a number of years I taught a class called “A Bias For Action” to literally thousands of employees in classrooms, meetings and one-on-one.

It was important to make certain we had “shared expectations” and “working definitions” immediately. Hard as it might be to admit it, we sometimes put off the tough stuff in our lives and especially our job.

Some leaders would avoid confronting a direct report who isn’t performing within the new work environment. Others had a tendency to postpone projects that would test their self-confidence, abilities, comfort zone or patience. But procrastination is a leadership pitfall. Causing stress and anxiety, it sticks with you like glue until you’ve addressed it. So tackle the tough stuff first, and you’ll immediately eliminate undue stress, build your abilities, raise your comfort level, and boost self-confidence, too.

Here are some points to keep in mind:

Procrastination is the enemy. 

According to “Psychology Today,” 20% of people are chronic procrastinators. They avoid challenging tasks or addressing big issues, even seeking out opportunities for distraction.

So, what’s the big deal? Procrastination is negative and always has consequences — some direct, some indirect. These negative implications can be tangible, like a missed deadline, and intangible, such as irritability from losing sleep over an issue. It’s an enemy that affects you, your team and your company’s potential to succeed.

Addressing challenges is often easier than you think. 

Taking the first step is the hardest part, but things often go smoother after that. The classic example is when you’ve needed to address a performance issue with a direct report and been a bit worried over doing so. Then when you go to talk about it, the person is surprisingly receptive, rather than reactive, and your anxiety melts away. You think, “Why didn’t I do that sooner?” You’ve freed up your emotional and mental currency, the problem is addressed, and now you’re able to get back to and really focus on your main job.

Dealing with “it” leads to greater productivity.

Some people claim that they work better under pressure and actually use that clichéd excuse to avoid a project, problem or person. But this mindset’s repercussions can prevent and destroy productivity.

For example, maybe you’ve put off fixing some software bug because it would test your patience and take too much time. Yet the crippled system slows the daily performance of your direct reports — and then stops altogether when it crashes one day. Everyone (most notably you) now suffers big consequences. You must do (in panic mode) what you previously put off, plus repair and pay for more serious damage that’s now been done. No doubt, fixing the problem in the first place could have lessened or prevented the blow, yet one common reason people procrastinate “dealing with it” is simply because they don’t know how or where to start.

Begin by putting some ideas down on paper and then build a specific, deadline-oriented plan for tackling that tough stuff…and there will be A LOT during this time. Doing so will help you create the accountability and steps necessary for your goal achievement. And it will also help prevent further procrastination, so you can drive, rather than dodge, that critical, ever-productive change.

 6 Strategies ASAP To Keep Procrastination At Bay:

🔹Start on the day before day one. Your strategy to avoid workplace procrastination should start before your employee’s first day. Start with clear and accurate job description matched up to accurately qualified candidates, then analyze the next steps of your hiring process.

By recruiting and hiring employees that possess the right skills for the jobs at hand, you’ll get off to a good foundation in your quest to avoid procrastination pitfalls. Incorporate checkpoints in your interview questions, reference check process and in your interview testing process to look for signs that your potential new-hire has a procrastination track record.

Clarify goals and expectations. Now that you’ve done your best to hire the right employee for the right role, it’s quintessential that you set them up for success with a strong start. By communicating company-wide (as well as departmental) goals clearly and defining the expectations of the specific role, you’ll alleviate gray areas that could lead to workplace procrastination.

Make communication a two-way street. As business owners try to avoid workplace procrastination and correct it when it occurs, opening the communication lines with employees can be the greatest way to drill down on the causes. Create multiple communication vehicles to help employees communicate with management regarding issues that could lead to and improve upon workplace procrastination. This communication strategy can consist of surveys, anonymous comments boxes and push notifications via mobile app or intranet tools.

Train, train and retrain. Bake procrastination avoidance strategies into your training program for all employees. Be sure to train managers on ways to spot, address and avoid workplace procrastination issues among their teams.

Work on your company culture. A team of motivated, engaged employees feels connected to the company mission at a deeper level and less prone to procrastination. Company culture can be the edge your business operations needs to keep procrastination and all its repercussions at bay. Creating a strong culture may consist of employee recognition programs, career development opportunities as well as work life balance considerations.

🔹Trust but verify. It’s important to place trust in your team and trust your hunches regarding your business, but the importance of measurement can’t be discounted. By setting up systems to measure deadlines, productivity and detect dips before they have detrimental impacts, you will gain real visibility into your business operations. Using this data, you can avoid workplace procrastination as well as be able to quantifiably reward the positive efforts of your team.

Letting procrastination run rampant in your workplace can cost your business customers, impact your bottom line and create a negative culture. If you make smart hiring decisions, set your team up for success and measurement performance, however, you’ll be able to avoid the complications that workplace procrastination can bring.

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From award-winning Texas author Cynthia Leal Massey.

Goettle HVAC and Plumbing services are located in Phoenix, Tucson, San Antonio, Austin, Las Vegas areas as well as regions in Southern California.

12 Lessons From the Best in their Business

The Secret to How Ritz-Carlton, H-E-B, Disney, ClubCorp and Goettl Soar

JackNotes: Summaries of Wisdom

Fortunately, I worked for a remarkable Texas business, H-E-B Food Drugs, from 1980 to 2010 and retired early as an executive over their facilities management organization.

H-E-B invests a great deal in training their employees (known as “Partners”) including customer service all the way. I made certain to retain and use this learning in my personal growth but loved to share it within my department.

Personal significant learning events included Six Sigma Certification, Executive Reinvention by Tracy Goss, Disney University, Project Management, Executive Finance from Southern Methodist University’s Cox School of Business and so much more.

Working with Clubline at Fair Oaks Ranch Golf & Country Club near San Antonio, I’ve been able to practice what I preach adapting their “Warm Welcomes, Magic Moments, and Fond Farewells” creed.

Like H-E-B, one of the best in their business is Ritz-Carlton. Service is EVERYTHING to them.  It is what defines the chain in their very competitive niche.  This is not to say that other firms that offer similar products do not have as a goal top-level customer service.  They do.  But few execute this as well as the Ritz-Carlton.

Three Steps of Service

It starts with their Three Steps of Service.  These are:

  1. A warm and sincere greeting. Use the guest’s name.  As you walk about you are surprised by the number of times you are actually referred to by your name.  Super simple idea that is sales or marketing 101.  It is, however, very hard to execute on this.  The Ritz-Carlton does this very well.  Find a way to incorporate this into the approach of your staff to your clients.  No one ever heard a better word spoken than their own name.
  2. Anticipation and fulfillment of each guest’s needs.  Your needs are anticipated in advance through questions, and the answers and preferences are recorded for future use.  Don’t like a high floor?  You will probably never be assigned one again.  But this is the easy CRM type stuff.  The difference is a rooms attendant seeing that champagne is in a container with mostly melted ice and immediately returning with ice to refill… anticipation of the need, with no management intervention.
  3. Fond farewell. Give a warm good-bye and use the guest’s name.  As you leave you are graciously thanked by everyone in the lobby area for your stay, and sent on with wishes to see you back as a guest soon. But with them it doesn’t just come from one individual, this comes from at least two other reception staff, from the two executives that are in the lobby awaiting arriving guests, from the many other staff, out the door to the bellman and valet driver, you are experiencing the delivery of an entirely different level of service.

Ladies and Gentlemen

How do the management drill this level of engagement down so that it is authentically delivered without prompting by the entire team?  What gives the staff, the Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen as they are referred to, the OK to boldly step out with imaginative service in ways that seem held at bay with other companies despite their best intentions?

I am sure there are many more points but this list of 12 ‘Service Values‘ give clues.  Read this list and where it says ‘Ritz-Carlton’ change that name for your company or personal brand.

Change also the word ‘guest’ to client or customer, as for most readers that is probably more relevant anyway.

The list of 12 starts with a declaration of the corporate mindset that you, the employee, are proud TO BE Ritz-Carlton.  The brand, the experience, IS YOU.  

This is reinforced by the following:

  1. I build strong relationships and create Ritz-Carlton guests for life
  2. I am always responsive to the expressed and unexpressed wishes and needs of our guests.
  3. I am empowered to create unique, memorable and personal experiences for our guests.
  4. understand my role in achieving the Key Success Factors, embracing Community Footprints and creating The Ritz-Carlton Mystique.
  5. I continuously seek opportunities to innovate and improve The Ritz-Carlton experience.
  6. own and immediately resolve guest problems.
  7. create a work environment of teamwork and lateral service so that the needs of our guests and each other are met.
  8. I have the opportunity to continuously learn and grow.
  9. I am involved in the planning of the work that affects me.
  10. I am proud of my professional appearancelanguage and behavior.
  11. protect the privacy and security of our guests, my fellow employees and the company’s confidential information and assets.
  12. I am responsible for uncompromising levels of cleanliness and creating a safe and accident-free environment.
Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe

These are reviewed continually.  It is not enough, as most companies do, to have an orientation meeting or two, give the employee the manual, and think the job is done.    Daily focus is paid to one of these service values.  It is as if the life of the company depends on it.  Guess what? It does!

Without this the Ritz-Carlton is just another luxury brand chain, H-E-B is just another grocery and gas store and Goettl Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing would only be defining themselves by the facilities, the amenities, the products and services they sell. 

JackNotes: The Effective Executive by Peter Drucker Summary

When reading up on management, you can’t help but come across the name of Peter F. Drucker.  

He wrote 30+ books on the topic and his teachings are integrated deep within business practices many are familiar with today. 

Not only did he coin the term, “knowledge worker,” but many of the quotes being thrown around the web today came from him or his books as well:

The best way to predict the future is to create it.

Time is the scarcest resource and unless it is managed nothing else can be managed.

There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.

It isn’t enough for an executive nowadays to simply get things done. It’s more important to know how to get the right things done and to prioritize effectiveness, not just efficiency. As with productivity, find out where your time goes, focus on contribution, and put first things first. 

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The Summary

Effective executives follow the same 8 practices:

  1. Ask “What needs to be done?”
  2. Ask “What is right for the enterprise?”
  3. Develop action plans
  4. Take responsibility for decisions
  5. Take responsibility for communicating
  6. Focus on opportunities rather than problems
  7. Run productive meetings
  8. Think and say “we” rather than “I”

The 5 habits of an effective executive:

  1. Know Thy Time
  2. Focus on Contribution
  3. Make Strengths Productive
  4. First Things First
  5. Effective Decisions

The 5 habits of an effective executive:

  1. Know Thy Time. Effective executives know where their time goes and work systematically at managing it
  2. What Can I Contribute? Effective executives focus on outward contribution
  3. Making Strengths Productive.Effective executives build on strengths—their own, their superiors, colleagues, and subordinates; and on the strengths in the situation, that is, on what they can do
  4. First Things First. Effective executives concentrate on the few major areas where superior performance will produce outstanding results
  5. Effective Decisions. They know that this is a matter of system, the right steps in the right sequence

Effective executives know that time is the limiting factor.

To be effective, every knowledge worker needs to be able to dispose of time in fairly large chunks. To have small dribs and drabs of time at his disposal will not be sufficient even if the total is an impressive number of hours.

The 3-step process to manage time:

  1. Record. Find out where your time actually goes
  2. Manage. Cut back unproductive demands on your time
  3. Consolidate. “Discretionary” time into the largest possible continuing units

Every organization needs performance in 3 major areas:

  • Direct results
  • The building of values and their reaffirmation
  • Building and developing people for tomorrow

The man who asks of himself, “What is the most important contribution I can make to the performance of this organization?” asks in effect, “What self-development do I need? What knowledge and skill do I have to acquire to make the contribution I should be making? What strengths do I have to put to work? What standards do I have to set myself?”

How to have an Effective Meeting:

  • Know what to expect to get out of a meeting and what the purpose of the occasion is or should be
  • State at the outset of a meeting the specific purpose and contribution it is to achieve
  • At the end of the meeting, always go back to the opening statement and relate the final conclusions to the original intent

Staffing from Strength

Fill positions and promote on the basis of what a person can do. Do not make staffing decisions to minimize weaknesses but to maximize strength.

Effective executives know that their subordinates are paid to perform and not to please their superiors.

The 4 rules to staff for strength:

  1. Any job that has defeated two or three men in succession, even though each had performed well in his previous assignments, must be redesigned
  2. Make each job demanding and big
  3. Start with what a man can do rather than with what a job requires
  4. To get strength, one has to put up with weaknesses

Staffing the opportunities instead of the problems not only creates the most effective organization, it also creates enthusiasm and dedication.

Conversely, it is the duty of the executive to remove ruthlessly anyone—and especially any manager—who consistently fails to perform with high distinction. To let such a man stay on corrupts the others.

Effective executives periodically review their work programs—and those of their associates—and ask: “If we did not already do this, would we go into it now?” And unless the answer is an unconditional Yes, they drop the activity or curtail it sharply.

The executive who wants to be effective and who wants his organization to be effective polices all programs, all activities, all tasks. He always asks: “Is this still worth doing?”

And if it isn’t, he gets rid of it so as to be able to concentrate on the few tasks that, if done with excellence, will really make a difference in the results of his own job and in the performance of his organization. 

Systematic sloughing off of the old is the one and only way to force the new.

Priorities and Posteriorities

There are always more productive tasks for tomorrow than there is time to do them and more opportunities than there are capable people to take care of them—not to mention the always abundant problems and crises.

A decision has to be made as to which tasks deserve priority and which are of less importance. The only question is which will make the decision—the executive or the pressures.

If the pressures rather than the executive are allowed to make the decision, the important tasks will predictably be sacrificed.

The job is, however, not to set priorities. That is easy. Everybody can do it. The reason why so few executives concentrate is the difficulty of setting “posteriorities”—that is, deciding what tasks not to tackle—and of sticking to the decision.

Courage rather than analysis dictates the truly important rules for identifying priorities:

  • Pick the future as against the past
  • Focus on opportunity rather than on the problem
  • Choose your own direction—rather than climb on the bandwagon
  • Aim high, aim for something that will make a difference, rather than for something that is “safe” and easy to do

The 5 Elements of the Decision Process:

  1. Ask if it’s a generic situation or an exception
  2. Clear “boundary conditions” as to what the decision has to accomplish
  3. Start with what is right rather than what is acceptable
  4. Convert the decision into action
  5. Build feedback into the decision

Effective Decisions

A decision is a choice between alternatives. It is rarely a choice between right and wrong.

Executives who make effective decisions know that one does not start with facts. One starts with opinions.

People inevitably start out with an opinion; to ask them to search for the facts first is even undesirable. They will simply look for the facts that fit the conclusion they have already reached. And no one has ever failed to find the facts he is looking for.

The effective executive encourages opinions. He then asks: “What do we have to know to test the validity of this hypothesis?” The people who voice an opinion also need to take responsibility for fact-finding.

“What is the criterion of relevance?”This turns on the measurement appropriate to the matter under discussion and to the decision to be reached.

The best way to find the appropriate measurement is again to go out and look for the “feedback” —only this is “feedback” before the decision.

The first rule in decision-making is that one does not make a decision unless there is disagreement.

The executive who wants to make the right decision forces himself to see opposition as his means to think through the alternatives.

The final question the effective decision-maker asks: “Is a decision really necessary?” There’s always the alternative of doing nothing.

If the answer to “What will happen if we do nothing?” is “It will take care of itself,” one does not interfere.

JackNotes

JackNotes: Atomic Habits

Self improvement and how-to motivation by James Clear.

Executive Summary

The holy grail of habit change is not a single 1% improvement, but a thousand of them. It’s a bunch of atomic habits stacking up, each one a fundamental unit of the overall system.

Awareness comes before desire.

A craving is created when you assign meaning to a cue. It can only occur after you have noticed an opportunity.

It is the idea of pleasure that we chase. Desire is pursued. Pleasure ensues from action.

With a big enough why you can overcome any how. If your motivation and desire are great enough, you’ll take action even when it is quite difficult. Great craving can power great action – even when friction is high.

Being motivated and curious counts for more than being smart because it leads to action. To do anything, you must first cultivate a desire for it.

Appealing to emotion is typically more powerful than appealing to reason. Our thoughts and actions are rooted in what we find attractive and not necessarily in what is logical.

Suffering drives progress. The source of all suffering is the desire for a change in state. This is also the source of all progress. The desire to change your state is what powers you to take action.

Your actions reveal your true motivations.

Our expectations determine our satisfaction. If the gap between expectations and outcomes is positive (surprise and delight), then we are more likely to repeat a behavior in the future. If the mismatch is negative (disappointment and frustration), then we are less likely to do so.

Feelings come both before and after the behavior. The craving (a feeling) motivates you to act. The reward teaches you to repeat the action in the future:

Cue > Craving (Feeling) > Response > Reward (Feeling)

How we feel influences how we act, and how we act influences how we feel. Desire initiates. Pleasure sustains. Wanting and liking are the two drivers of behavior. If it’s not desirable, you have no reason to do it. Desire and craving are what initiate a behavior. But if it’s not enjoyable, you have no reason to repeat it.

Pleasure and satisfaction are what sustain a behavior. Feeling motivated gets you to act. Feeling successful gets you to repeat.

How to Create a Good Habit

The 1st Law: Make It Obvious

  • Fill out the Habits Scorecard. Write down your current habits to become aware of them
  • Use implementation intentions: “I will [BEHAVIOR] at [TIME] in [LOCATION]”
  • Use habit stacking: “After [CURRENT HABIT], I will [NEW HABIT]”
  • Design your environment. Make the cues of good habits obvious and visible.

The 2nd Law: Make It Attractive

  • Use temptation bundling. Pair an action you want to do with an action you need to do
  • Join a culture where your desired behavior is normal
  • Create a motivation ritual. Do something you enjoy immediately before a difficult habit

The 3rd Law: Make It Easy

  • Reduce friction. Decrease the number of steps between you and your good habits
  • Prime the environment. Prepare your environment to make future actions easier
  • Master the decisive moment. Optimize the small choices that deliver outsized impact
  • Use the Two-Minute Rule. Downscale your habits until they can be done in two minutes or less
  • Automate your habits. Invest in technology and one-time purchases that lock in future behavior

The 4th Law: Make It Satisfying

  • Use reinforcement. Give yourself an immediate reward when you complete your habit
  • Make “doing nothing” enjoyable. When avoiding a bad habit, design a way to see the benefits
  • Use a habit tracker. Keep track of your habit streak and “don’t break the chain”
  • Never miss twice. When you forget to do a habit, make sure you get back on track immediately

How to Break a Bad Habit

Inversion of the 1st Law: Make It Invisible

  • Reduce exposure. Remove the cues of your bad habits from your environment

Inversion of the 2nd Law: Make It Unattractive

  • Reframe your mindset. Highlight the benefits of avoiding your bad habits

Inversion of the 3rd Law: Make It Difficult

  • Increase friction. Increase the number of steps between you and your bad habits
  • Use a commitment device. Restrict your future choices to the ones that benefit you

Inversion of the 4th Law: Make It Unsatisfying

  • Get an accountability partner. Ask someone to watch your behavior.
  • Create a habit contract. Make the costs of your bad habits public and painful

The Three Layers of Behavior Change:

  1. Outcomes: changing your results, e.g. losing weight. Most of the goals you set are at this level
  2. Process: changing your habits and systems, e.g. developing a meditation practice. Most of the habits you build live at this level
  3. Identity: changing your beliefs, e.g. your worldview or self-image. Most of the beliefs, assumptions, and biases you hold are associated with this level

The most effective way to change your habits is to focus not on what you want to achieve, but on who you wish to become.

Any habit can be broken down into a feedback loop of four steps:

  1. Cue: what triggers your brain to initiate a behavior. The bit of information that predicts a reward
  2. Craving: the motivational force behind every habit. You don’t crave the habit itself, but the change in state it delivers (e.g. you do not crave smoking a cigarette, you crave the feeling of relief it provides)
  3. Response: the actual habit you perform, as a thought or action. Whether a response occurs depends on how motivated you are and the amount of friction associated with the behavior
  4. Reward: the end goal of every habit. We chase rewards because they satisfy our cravings and teach us which actions are worth remembering in the future

If a behavior is insufficient in any of the four stages, it will not become a habit. Without the first three steps, a behavior will not occur. Without all four, a behavior will not be repeated.

The Four Laws of Behavior Change are a simple set of rules we can use to build better habits:

  1. Cue: make it obvious
  2. Craving: make it attractive
  3. Response: make it easy
  4. Reward: make it satisfying

We can invert these laws to learn how to break a bad habit:

  1. Cue: make it invisible
  2. Craving: make it unattractive
  3. Response: make it difficult
  4. Reward: make it unsatisfying
  • Practice guitar more frequently? Place it in the middle of the living room
  • Drink more water? Fill up a few water bottles each morning and place them around the house
  • “If I see stairs, I will take them instead of the elevator.”
  • “When I serve myself, I will always put veggies on my plate first.”
  • Can’t get any work done? Leave your phone in another room for a few hours
  • Watch too much television? Move the TV out of the bedroom
  • Only listen to podcasts you love while exercising
  • Only watch your favorite show while ironing 
  • Exercise. Exercise can be associated with a challenging task that drains energy and wears you down. You can view it as a way to develop skills and strength. Instead of “I need to go run in the morning,” say “It’s time to build endurance and get fast”
  • Finance. Saving money is often associated with sacrifice. You can associate it with freedom as living below your current means increases your future means
  • Motion: outlining twenty ideas for articles. Action: sitting down and writing an article
  • Motion: search for a better diet plan and read a few books on the topic. Action: eat a healthy meal
  • Want to exercise? Set out your workout clothes, shoes, gym bag, and water bottle ahead of time
  • Want to improve your diet? Chop up a ton of fruits and vegetables and pack them in containers so you have easy access to healthy snacks

Find gateway habits that lead to your desired outcome by mapping your goals on a scale from “very easy” to “very hard.”

For example:

  • Running a marathon – very hard
  • Running a 5K – hard
  • Walking ten thousand steps – moderately difficult
  • Walking ten minutes – easy
  • Putting on your running shoes – very easy

Your goal might be to run a marathon, but your gateway habit is to put on your running shoes. 

The point is to master the habit of showing up. You can’t improve a habit that doesn’t exist. Make it easy to start and the rest will follow.

The Cardinal Rule of Behavior Change: “What is immediately rewarded is repeated. What is immediately punished is avoided.”

The Goldilocks Rule: “Humans experience peak motivation when working on tasks that are right on the edge of their current abilities. Not too hard. Not too easy. Just right.”

JackNotes: Positively Habits

Quick Notes from Superhuman by Tynan: Positivity Habits

Positivity Towards Yourself

  • Every time you have any negative thoughts, simply think of one positive aspect of the situation. For example: if your car gets towed, you can think about how now you’ll get credit card miles when you pay for the tow.

  • After a period of 2-4 weeks, the habit will become almost automatic. Remain vigilant and make sure that you’re still doing it.

  • After 3 months, you will have trained your brain to automatically come up with the positives.

Positivity Towards Others

  • Whenever you find yourself thinking poorly of someone or in some sort of conflict with someone, force yourself to say to yourself, “Remember that this person is just doing their best and trying to be happy, just like me.”

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We love H-E-B MEAL SIMPLE

JackNotes: Productivity Habits

JackNotes are quick summaries of notes I’ve taken from books, conferences, classes and life experiences.

Productivity Habits

Twice, Then Quit

  • When you want to quit working for the first time, don’t. Push through and work some more
  • The second time you want to quit, also don’t quit. Push through again
  • The third time you want to quit, go ahead and quit

Eliminate Starting Procrastination

  • Get yourself to start to work earlier
  • Think about the top thing that you want to get done every single day. Then, every day, track what time you started that activity

Plan When Stuck

  • Ask yourself if you know exactly what you should be doing next. If you don’t, set a clock for thirty minutes, and begin planning
  • Start with a long term vision. Give your brain the freedom to unload everything it’s got and curate later
  • The goal isn’t to figure out the one true path to success, but rather to understand what you’re up against. It’s this context that allows you to look at your immediate todo items and choose the best, or one of the best, to attack next
Live in Quadrant II.

Rating Your Day

  • Every night before bed, rate your day on a scale from 1-10
  • Rate yourself on how little time you wasted, rather than on raw productivity or output
  • Ratings help put slumps into context and motivate you to grind your way out, rather than feel helpless

The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up JackNotes No. 2

JackNotes on the book by Mari Kondo using the KonMari Method, which helps you escape the vicious cycle of clutter.

Concentrate your efforts on eliminating clutter thoroughly within a short span of time and you’ll see instant results that will keep you empowered to keep your space in order ever after.

“The question of what you want to own is actually the question of how you want to live your life.”

There are two types of tidying: “daily tidying” and “special event tidying”. The first refers to using something and then putting it back in its place. It will always be a part of your day-to-day life and long as we need things. However, the purpose of the book is to help you with the latter, putting your house in order once and for all. It focuses on the system itself.

Tidying must start with discarding, throwing away or donating anything we don’t need or use anymore. Kondo repeatedly uses a simple question at the center of the tidying process:

“Does this item spark joy?”

What sparks joy for one person might be different for another. This particular prompt helps to assess when it’s time for an item to go.

Effective tidying involves only two essential actions: discarding and deciding where to store things. Of the two, discarding must come first. This principle does not change. In her words:

“Putting things away creates the illusion that the clutter problem has been solved. But sooner or later, all the storage units are full, the room once again overflows with things, and some new and “easy” storage method becomes necessary, creating a negative spiral. This is why tidying must start with discarding. We need to exercise self-control and resist storing our belongings until we have finished identifying what we really want and need to keep.”

If you start wondering where to put things in the middle of the discarding this work will come to a halt. You can think about where to put things when you’ve finished getting rid of everything you don’t need.

The rest depends on the level of tidiness you personally want to achieve.

Getting Started

There are 3 lessons you need to keep in mind:

  • Move from easy to hard itemswhen considering what to keep

The author recommends that you declutter in the following order: clothes, books, papers, “komono” (miscellaneous), and finally end with mementos (things with sentimental value). This order will make cleaning a breeze since you work through the easy things first – gradually improving your decision-making skills -, so that when you reach the hard stuff it will be simpler and less stressful.

  • YODO – you only declutter once (if you do it right)

If you follow this method, a weekend is more than enough time to clean a house. After you cleaned it thoroughly, you’ll notice how much space you have and emerge with a new mindset. The first cleaning can have a deep impact on your life: you will probably buy a lot less in the future and be more protective of your space, making future cleanings simple and easy.

  • Ask yourself a few simple questions for each item

Kondo suggests a few simple questions, which you can use, moving from a rational to a more emotional approach, depending on the item and the complexity of the relationship you have with it: What is the purpose of this object? Has it fulfilled its purpose already? Why did I get this thing? When did I get it? How did it land in my house?

Discarding

Do not even think of storing your things until you have finished the process of discarding. This is the single biggest mistake people make.

Think in terms of category, collecting everything that falls into the same category at one time. For example: if you want to tidy your clothes, gather every single item of clothing in one place at the same time. Search every room of the house and collect all clothing items.

Then pick up one by one see if it sparks joy. If it doesn’t, think of the lesson that the object taught you while you owned it. For example, the sweater you bought that was on sale but wasn’t quite your color, taught you what was not your style. The sweater has served its purpose. It should be thanked for its service and be sent on its way to serve a purpose for someone else.

Follow this procedure for every category. If you have too many clothes, you can make subcategories such as tops, bottoms, socks, and so on, and examine your clothes, one subcategory at a time.

As you go through the order, break each category down into subcategories to make it less overwhelming and to focus better. Remember: it’s not about what to discard, it’s what to keep. Default to discard unless something truly brings you joy.

Discard all papers that are not in these three categories: currently in use, needed for a limited period of time, or must be kept indefinitely. Papers never spark joy.

For things with sentimental value, Kondo argues that many of those should still be thrown away, but to take care in the process of getting rid of it:

“By handling each sentimental item and deciding what to discard, you process your past… It is not our memories but the person we have become because of those past experiences that we should treasure. This is the lesson these keepsakes teach us when we sort them. The space in which we live should be for the person we are becoming now, not for the person we were in the past.”

For example, gift cards are nice messages from friends and loved ones, bringing you joy and happiness. But even though you keep them around, you probably never look at them again. You’ve received the message, and therefore you can now let them go. The item has served its purpose.

Placing

Designate a spot for everything. This is a lot easier than it sounds.

Once you learn to choose your belongings properly, you will be left only with the amount that fits perfectly in the space you currently own. This is the true magic of tidying.

“The first step is to visualize what the inside of your drawer will look like when you finish. The goal should be to organize the contents so that you can see where every item is at a glance, just as you can see the spines of the books on your bookshelves. The key is to store things standing up rather than laid flat. Some people mimic store displays, folding each piece of clothing into a large square and then arranging them one on top of the other in layers. This is great for temporary sales displays in stores, but not what we should be aiming for at home, where our relationship with these clothes is long term.”

Go for “ultimate simplicity” in your storage efforts: store all items of the same type in the same place and don’t scatter storage space. Clutter is caused by a failure to return things to where they belong. Therefore, storage should reduce the effort needed to put things away, not the effort needed to get them out.

Store things vertically. Avoid stacking as you end up with inexhaustible storage space and things can stack forever and endlessly on top, making it harder to notice the increasing volume.

Furthermore, stacking is very hard on the things at the bottom. They tend to get squished.

Kondo’s vertical folding technique makes it easy to spot everything and maintain the clothes organized (as you are not taking and putting back a bit pile of clothes). If needed, use shoeboxes as drawer dividers: a smaller box is perfect for square scarves, a deep one can go in a bottom drawer for sweaters.

How Tidying Affects Your Life

Discarding anything that doesn’t spark joy means that we only keep what we truly love. Following the KonMari method, we rediscover what those things are and surround ourselves only with the things we love.

Learning how to let go and what to keep is a matter of how you want to live your life.

We attach to things because of past and emotional bonds. We hold to other areas of our life for the same reasons and using the KonMari it becomes far easier once you know that things will still work out even if you are lacking something

When you detox your belongings, you detox your body and mind. This will help you simplify other areas of your life, such as career, money, and relationships.

Surround yourself with things that spark joy and you will become happy.

How ‘Big Rocks’ Can Improve Your Home, RV, Work, Life Experiences

I’m grateful for over 30 years (on and off) of employment with H-E-B Food/Drugs for many reasons. Besides working with awesome Partners (employees throughout Texas and Mexico), I’m especially thankful for the learning and training opportunities that proved so beneficial in life.

Learning and teaching Lean Enterprise and Six Sigma was especially rewarding.

Even today, years after my early retirement, I use these powerful techniques at home, in the RV and with projects.

Eventually earning Six Sigma Black Belt accreditation, I gave presentations across the country at various professional conferences.

At H-E-B, all of my Facilities Management regional offices (for retail stores, gas stations, manufacturing, real estate properties and warehouses) and their field Partners were trained. Some became belt holders of various degrees.

The results in productivity and value were amazing, saving millions of dollars over the years. Efficiency was the name of the game, by destroying waste along the way.

As an introduction to many classes and seminars, I’d present the substantial visual lesson from Stephen Covey’s First Things First “rock parable.”

With a large jar on a table, surrounded by various sizes of rocks, gravel and sand, I’d begin.

“Your life and work has big rocks and little rocks. The size represents the importance and, essentially, what should be prioritized. They all have to fit into your jar.”

I’d pour the little rocks in first and could easily get them all in the jar.

Next, I tried the big rocks, they wouldn’t fit.

Scratching my head, I’d suddenly come up with another idea.  This time I put the big rocks in first. Guess what happened?

Big Rocks always first.

The little rocks naturally fell into the remaining space allotted. I’d follow up with small bits of gravel and sand, representing inconsequential things people worry about, dwell on or spend far too much time on.

The moral of the story: Always take care of the most important stuff first. Always the big rocks! You can fit nearly everything else (that might be valuable and needed) later.

There are many ways to make sure your big rocks stay front and center.

One popular method is the Eisenhower Box or Matrix. I believe in it so much, that my children, now adults, use it naturally in their own homes and careers.

To use it, mark a piece of paper into four equal boxes or quadrants. Write or separate what needs to be done into one of the four boxes. Quadrant 1 will be top left, Quadrant 2: top right. 3: bottom left.

Quadrant 4: Not urgent and not important

Quadrant 3: Urgent, but not important

Quadrant 2: Important, but not urgent

Quadrant 1: Urgent and important


It becomes clear “urgent and important” items are your immediate priority.

We get into the most trouble when we confuse “urgent, but not important” with “urgent and important.” 

Live as much of your life as possible in Quadrant 2 activities: Studying, planning, vacationing, reading, exercising, taking your vitamins and medications properly, nutrition, mitigating, improving, resting, learning, organizing and getting rid of waste, etc.

The most successful and happiest people realize that things are always urgent, but if they only focus on the urgent (or what some may consider urgent but in reality, it’s not), the important will never get accomplished.

A common mistake people make in their planning, work and projects, is spending an inordinate amount of time on little rocks.

Imagine how much better your life, travels, and experiences could be if you weren’t so enamored with the bits of gravel. At a certain point–sooner than later–spending your time more on the little rocks, gravel and sand will give you significantly diminished returns.

That inordinate amount of time can have devastating effects on your “big rocks.”  Sometimes it’s better to attend to your true priorities, arrive safely on time or accomplish an important goal, than having a perfect little rock.

In future posts, I’ll present valuable Quadrant 2 type examples and information you can use at home, in your RV, workshop, or office to improve your life.

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