Organization and Motivation


Milne, the creator of one of my son’s favorite characters, Winnie the Pooh, puts it simply and truthfully in the quote above. Without organization, things can get “mixed up.” And, when things get “mixed up,” we often have to backtrack which can deliver a blow to motivation.

It may seem fun to run through a project unorganized, especially when inspired and motivated. We want to harness motivation while experiencing it, fearful that it will disappear. Depending on the scope of the goal, it may be feasible to complete a small project this way. However, most of us underestimate projects we’re excited about, and we may find ourselves unprepared and lost in a mess.

When the path is unclear, we try to balance everything in our heads which can be stressful, distracting and can lead to mistakes.

However, our level of organization must be balanced. You don’t need a blueprint and a task management system to re-arrange the furniture in your bedroom. However, if you plan to do some extensive gardening, knowing what tools you need and having a set place for them will help you spend more time on the work you are motivated to do, and less time looking for tools or running back and forth between your garden, garage, tool shed and the hardware store.

Motivation to Organize

How do you find the motivation to clean your office when you’re motivated to write, or to organize your tools when you just want to use them, or to set up a project management system when you are ready to write code? Sometimes having to do 10 things you don’t want to do before you can do the one thing you do want to do drains motivation.

I have often found myself stuck in this catch 22 scenario, where an unorganized mess makes it difficult for me to do what motivates me, but I have difficulty finding the motivation to take care of the mess. All of the motivation principles mentioned in this series have helped me to get past this, but one specific technique I have used involves organizing in spurts.

Organizing in Spurts

If I find myself interested in a project that requires more organization than I am motivated to perform, I do a small amount of organizing to get things to a manageable stage, all the while thinking about how it will help me do what interests me. Then I spend time working on that which interests me, recognizing the benefits of the organizing that I had done. Then I spend more time organizing and continue that cycle. The result is often that the level of organization that I work within is imperfect, but much better than it would have otherwise been, and my level of motivation remains consistent.

Organizing as a Habit

A better scenario is to have a system of organization habits already in place, so when inspired, your environment is ready. Since the focus of this site is inspiration rather than productivity, I will not speak in great depth on the “how” of organization. There are countless resources which do this already. I mention a couple of them below. I will say that lack of organization is a tremendous obstacle to inspiration. A simple set of organizational habits will aid in the flow of inspiration, allowing us to focus on our creative power instead of digging through a mess.

For more depth on the “how” of organization habits, I recently purchased David Allen’s book, Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity, and am in the process of working through it right now. I am already experiencing substantial improvements in my ability to keep things organized and spend more time… well.. getting things done. I recommend it highly. Also, see 27 Great Tips to Keep Your Life Organized: A set of independent tips suggested by various readers of zen habits.

This post is part three of a series: Motivation to Complete Your Goals.

Continue on to the next article on the motivation building process:

  1. Self Confidence For Motivation
  2. Planning For Motivation
  3. Organization & Motivation (currently reading)
  4. Breaking Tasks Down for Motivation
  5. Celebrating Milestones
  6. Enjoying the Journey
  7. Following Through For Motivation
  8. Facing Fears for Motivation

2 responses to “Organization and Motivation”

  1. Manny Avatar

    Great post. I doubt that massive success can occur without organization. I’ve recently been reading Andy Grove’s biography, and it is clear that one of the secrets of Intel’s success was Grove’s insistence that processes become more and more rational, and that emloyees be willing to submit to being part of this organized structure.

  2. Bob Avatar

    I am definitely a spurt organizer. It’s funny that I should read this less than an hour after a “spurt.” I filed a lot of paid bills that had been cluttering up our desk area in the bedroom.