Don't Agonize, Organize

Don’t Agonize, Organize

“If you are not doing what you love, you are wasting your time.” ~ Billy Joel

Rather than focus on resolutions for the New Year, like eat less and exercise more, why not focus on goals and organize your time around these goals? It’s not easy to navigate the constant balancing act of our hectic fast-paced lives, but becoming more organized, and living life with purpose, is a sure way to feel less scattered and congested. The following are some simple, actionable steps to help make sure you live the life that you want to live.

Step One: Reflection

“We are, in fact, the sum total of our choices.” ~ Woody Allen

What is your doing/reflection ratio?

According to a recent Harvard Business Review article, making room for deep questioning and thinking is a strategic imperative for business. According to the author of the article, “the most disruptive, unforeseen, and just plain awesome breakthroughs, that reimagine, reinvent, and reconceive a product, a company, a market,…rarely come from the single-minded pursuit of the busier and busier busywork of “business.”" Reflection “….becomes the rocket fuel for experimentation, the lifeblood of high-level innovation, the spark of deeper meaning, and the wellspring of enduring purpose.”

So why not make reflection a strategic imperative for managing your life as well? Without making time for reflection, you may be climbing the wrong mountain, and regret it later on.

Start with a few questions about how you spent 2010, and some deep thinking about their answers (I find listening to music helps me with reflection). For example start with:

What did I (and what didn’t I):


What do I regret?
What do I want to change, what do I want to keep the same?
What made me happy?
What obstacles did I find in 2010? What did I do to get through them?
What did I do well, what didn’t I do well?
Who made the most impact on my life?
What I am most grateful for?
Who made me laugh, cry, happy, angry, frustrated, warm, inspired?
Who were my heros of 2010? What did they accomplish that was remarkable? Whose lives did I impact the most?

Make sure you also answer the ‘Why?’ to all of your answers above. Ultimately you want to get better at deeper thinking to answer the question: ‘What will my headline be for 2011?’, our Step Two.

We love this post about a reflection on 2010 by Erin Loechner at Design For Mankind.

Step Two: What Will Your 2011 Headline Be?

What will your headline be?

For example your headline for 2011 could be:


Compose your headline from a list of broad accomplishments you want 2011 to be remembered for. It’s important to be realistic about what you can achieve, which requires accepting that there are opportunity costs with every choice you make. By focusing on a set of outcomes, you will naturally make sure your time is filled up with activities that push you towards those outcomes, and not just activities that keep you busy. The type, nature and number of activities might change as you learn more about what works for you and what doesn’t work, but your ultimate goals should stay the same and provide the direction you need for modifying your activities. As this article proposes, “companies that put a bigger, more enduring purpose first before profit”, will win. Why not apply this to your life as well?

Step Three: Make Lists

Butterflies on a wall

Once you have your set of outcomes, make a list of all of the activities that will help you achieve them. There are several online and offline ways to create and incorporate your list into your daily life. For example, one of our favorite online tools is Workflowy, a site that makes it very easy to edit and save lists online that are private.

For extra motivation, make your list public by posting it on your blog. We found these wonderful examples, each has its own unique style and aim:

Bacon Grinder: Goal Setting For Your Life List: 101 Goal Examples
Design For Mankind: My Life List
A Diary of Little Things & Curiosities: A List of Little Things, My Obsessions
Epiphanie: My Life List

We love that ‘sending and receiving snail mail‘ seems to be on everyone’s list!

Another way to bring your activity list into your world, is to pin your activities on a wall, like this beautiful ‘butterflies on my wall’ idea from Epiphanie.

Step Four: Manage Your Time

“Don’t Agonize, Organize!” ~ Florynce Kennedy

Manage Your Schedule

It’s easy to let your schedule and priorities fall victim to day-to-day emergencies, so it’s “uber” important to protect and manage your schedule. Block off time in your calendar for working on your outcomes – for travel, for family, for fitness & health, for team-building etc.

You can then protect that time, and stop wasting time with back-and-forth scheduling of meetings, playdates, social gatherings, group vacations, etc., by sharing your availability with others using one of our favorite online tools, Tungle. Tungle makes co-ordinating your schedule with others easy. You can sync Tungle with your existing calendar, and then invite friends to see when you’re available (you can elect for the details of why you’re not available to be invisible), and to select a time from your available time slots. Their selected time will appear in your calendar.

To organize my priorities I like a simple-to-use iPhone app called ‘Things’. Things makes it easy for me to refer to and keep my to do list up to date while I’m on the go.

Tip: Set aside Friday afternoons in your calendar to focus on the tasks you most procrastinate about doing (e.g Admin). It’s rare that you will have a deadline on a Saturday morning, so the likelihood of you pushing these tasks off in favor of a more immediate deadline will be low. You can also reward yourself for getting these tasks done with a fun Friday night and weekend!

Step Five: Act

“The simplest of answers is to act.” ~ Anonymous

Your life is waiting for you to make it yours, so commit to achieving your goals! Think big, think new, choose happiness and never give up!

New Year Resolutions

Images in this post:

1) ‘UBER’ Happy New Year Card By Naughty Betty, available at

2) Photo by Dave Geeting via Design For Mankind.

3) Image via abandunce.

4) Butterfly wall photo by Epiphanie.

5) 2011 Resolutions by Lilac Saloon.

Related posts:

  1. Happily Ever After: What Happily Married Women Know
  2. 31 Questions for The New Year…and A New You
  3. 5 Simple Tips To Stay Positive
  4. Advice for the Graduate: Words of Wisdom from 10 Highly Successful People

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