The Virtue of Order
I read this post on LINKEDIN this morning… around Critical Things Organized and Productive People Do Every Day by Dr. Travis Bradberry. I suggest that you have your own read. It is worth the time. It begins with…
“We often confuse being productive with working as fast as we can, every second of the day. We fear that slowing down to get organized will kill our productivity, but the facts suggest otherwise:
- The average office employee spends over one hour each day just looking for things.
- The average U.S. executive spends six weeks per year searching through messy desks and disorganized files for misplaced information.
- 23% of adults say they’re late paying their bills because they lose them.
Being disorganized is costly, in terms of both money and time. But if you can convince yourself to slow down and get organized, the ROI will shock you.”
Orderliness is a Virtue
Orderliness is indeed a Virtue. Virtues are strengths of character and pre-existent. They exist whether we practice them or not. They exist whether we call upon them or not. They are always in potential. In our best moments, they can be and are called upon and practiced. Certainly, in our own capaCITIES™ Course of Action, we explore the capacity of character and culture to strengthen strategic advantage at school, work and community. I say this to help us move beyond the “I am not organized” argument that comes often from the all-too-common understanding of differences in temperament. Certainly, some personalities have a greater inclination to be “naturally” organized. Still, behaviour is the surface and character is the depth. Behaviour is the tree and character is the soil. Committing to the soil will advance the tree. Committing to practicing strengths of character helps to breed a consistency of behaviour that is sustainable… and sustaining.
In other words, if we practice the Virtue that is Orderliness… if we continuously call upon it not unlike calling on (dare I say) an angel if you will… then we start to internalize a piece of character that can truly serve us. My own preferred metaphor is around arrows in a quiver. Each Virtue is like that and we get to choose which we will use and practice, given our lives and needs and more. The arrows are always there, though we might not draw upon them enough. For me, the arrow that is Orderliness is one I am increasingly drawing upon. I say this, personally and professionally. It is not my “born” nature to be orderly, but it has become a practice of character, a sharpening of the blades as I like to call it. Steven Pressfield might call it The War of Art; a commitment to the crafting of character.
From Behaviour to Character
Dr. Bradberry cites several characteristics of orderliness; and I find them highly valuable and useful. Here, through the use of direct excerpts of his insights and wisdom, I simply suggest the elements of character that are actually called upon, if we but do so,
They don’t let their desks get cluttered. You may think you know exactly where, and in which stack of paper, you can find a particular document. But you’re kidding yourself if you don’t think you’d be more productive with a clean and organized desk. Just the act of organizing the stuff on your desk helps you organize it in your mind. In addition, research conducted at Princeton University revealed that the more our brains are bombarded by the competing stimuli on a cluttered desk, the less we’re able to focus. And this wasn’t just subjective evidence; they were able to see the difference in MRIs of the subjects’ brain activity.
This is the Virtue of Cleanliness.
They never touch things twice. Organized and productive people never put anything in a holding pattern, because touching things twice is a huge time-waster. Don’t save an e‑mail or a phone call to deal with later. As soon as something gets your attention, you should act on it, delegate it, or delete it.
This is the Virtue of Initiative.
They don’t respond to e-mails as they arrive. Productive people don’t allow their e‑mail to be a constant interruption. In addition to checking their e-mail on a schedule, they take advantage of features that prioritize messages by sender. They set alerts for their most important vendors and their best customers, and they save the rest until they reach a stopping point in their work. Some people even set up an autoresponder that lets senders know when they’ll be checking their e-mail again.
This is the Virtue of Discernment.
They work from a single to-do list. Remember the days when people used to buy those expensive, leather-bound planners and fill them up with a to-do list color-coded by priority? Those might seem a bit old school now, but no one can deny that it was effective. Why were those planners effective? They reminded us how important it is to keep a single to-do list. When you consolidate everything into one list, you always know where to look, and you can stop wasting time trying to remember which list has the information you need.
This is the Virtue of Purposefulness.
They have a high level of self-awareness. Highly productive and organized people have a clear sense of who they are. They know their weaknesses, and they put organizational structures in place to overcome them. If they tend to let meetings run too long, they set a timer. If they have trouble keeping meetings productive, they make an agenda. If they forget to check their voicemail in the morning, they set a reminder. The details don’t matter; what’s important is that they think carefully and use specific aids and routines that work with their organizational weaknesses.
This is the Virtue of Mindfulness.
They make time for lunch. We’ve all been there—you’re head-down busy, and by the time you look up, it’s way past lunchtime. You end up either going without, or grabbing a donut or a bag of chips from the snack machine. Both are really bad ideas. The donut will give you an energy boost for about 20 minutes, but after that, your focus will drop like a rock. As far as skipping meals, not only does it affect your concentration, productivity, and problem-solving skills, it also affects your waistline—and not in the way you might expect. Research from Ohio State University shows that the weight you lose by skipping meals is muscle weight that you regain later as fat.
This is the Virtue of Caring.
They eat frogs. “Eating a frog” is the best antidote for procrastination; ultra-productive people start each morning with this tasty “treat.” In other words, they do the least appetizing, most dreaded item on their to-do list first, before they do anything else. After that, they’re freed up to tackle the stuff that excites and inspires them.
This is the Virtue of Courage.
They tidy up at the end of each day. The best remedy for clutter is to set aside about 10 minutes at the end of each day to organize your desk. Although we know that it’s best to touch things only once, we’ve all stopped halfway through a task because the phone rang or somebody stopped by to chat. You really can’t prevent such things, but you can end the day by resolving all of the things you left half-finished.
This is the Virtue of Diligence.
They plan their days the night before. Organized and productive people go to bed each night, secure in the knowledge of what they’ll accomplish the following day. They get their priorities straight the night before, so that once the day starts, they’re less likely to get distracted by the “tyranny of the urgent”—those little fires that pop up and get in the way of their real priorities.
This is the Virtue of Wisdom.
They make full use of technology. There’s been a lot said about how modern technology extends the work day, making it so that we’re always on the clock. While that may be true, technology can also make us more productive. Whether it’s setting up an e‑mail filter to keep your inbox spam-free, or using an app like Evernote to organize information you’re going to need again, technology isn’t always bad. Used properly, it can save a lot of time.
This is the Virtue of Creativity.
They don’t ignore their snail mail. For this one, we go back to the “touch it once” philosophy. For most of us, there’s not a lot of snail mail these days that we actually look forward to. But ignoring it can cause problems, especially when it comes to things like bills and tax notifications. Just go ahead and open it, and take care of it as soon as it arrives; otherwise, you’ll end up digging under the sofa cushions searching for that overdue bill.
This is the Virtue of Responsibility.
Pick and Practice
There are many other Virtues at play here. You can take your own picks. That being said, I focus on the Virtues at play because they are indeed the soil. As we strengthen the soil, we start to produce consistent behaviours that work for us. Being organized is a skill set; a set of behaviours. But they are the surface. The Virtue that is Orderliness is available to us all… and deeper… to be practiced and committed to in order to make our lives better and happier.
The post by Dr. Bradberry is ripe with great ideas and actions and strategies for practicing this Virtue called Orderliness. It is a great read and source for action. I love the insights and ideas; finding great personal and professional value throughout. Ultimately, the thought I think to leave you with is that the Virtue, as with all, is accessible to each of us… regardless of temperament or “wiring”. Orderliness is a strength of character that is a birthright for access and practice. The arrow is in our quiver. The angel is in our chorus. The Virtue stands ready, on call… to be practiced.
The practice of any Virtue, including Orderliness, is about going deeper into that soil to both find our potential and our capacity to meet any given situation. Despite our inclinations, we have access to all strengths of character. Orderliness can be a powerful one for our own effectiveness, efficiency, and productivity… for own best purposefulness.
The post by Dr. Bradberry quotes Benjamin Franklin.
“For every minute spent organizing, an hour is earned.”
For every minute practicing the Virtue that is Orderliness, an hour is earned. Now there is a Return on Investment. Invest in Orderliness. Part of that investment is to take some time to go read Dr. Bradberry’s post and share it. I did and am glad I did.
Yes, invest in Orderliness. Certainly, it will invest in you.
Peace, passion and prosperity.
Barry Lewis Green, aka The Unity Guy™
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