virgin islands scene

Art does not solve problems but makes us aware of their existence. It opens our eyes to see and our brain to imagine.
-- Magdalena Abakanowicz


Thursday, November 30, 1995

Putting things in order

It finally got to me. All those little pink slips of paper floating around on my desk. All the books piled on top of each other and the newspaper stories spilling over on the floor. All the random files and email messages hidden in every nook and cranny on my 2 main computers. I was surrounded by mountains of information, but unable to use it. It was so unorganized and haphazard, that I spent a good portion of my time just digging through it to find what I needed.

Yesterday I bit the bullet. The thing that finally motivated me, that caused me to realize I needed to do something, was my need to upgrade a software program. In order to upgrade, I needed the serial number of my existing version. I could not find it anywhere. It turned out that I had it -- I was just looking in the wrong place for it. After two long distance phone calls, and waiting on hold for “customer service” I was told by someone halfway across the continent where to look for my number. It was right where she said it would be.

Not wanting to repeat that experience, I set to work. I put together a “Master Database” on my computer to track all the people, things, ideas, resources, places, concepts, account numbers, passwords, phone numbers, email addresses, web sites, books, magazine articles and other information that crosses my path.

In just a few hours, I had my desk cleared off and everything neatly entered into my database. Gone are the little pink slips with phone numbers. Gone are the yellow legal pad pages of ideas. Now they’re all organized and searchable, with some items carrying “reminders” set for a particular date.

What I discovered was that I had a wealth of information at my fingertips that I was just not using. People I meant to call, letters I meant to write, great business ideas never acted upon, valuable resources -- all these things came to light. In the day-to-day rush, many of the important things get ignored because of the urgent things that come along.

It is helpful to think of all your activities and categorize them as either urgent or not urgent, and important or not important. That gives you four basic categories

  • urgent-important

  • urgent-not important

  • not urgent-not important

  • not urgent-important

The first three, we generally find a way to take care of. The urgent things get our attention, even if they’re not that important. Even the “not urgent-not important” things get done, usually because they’re easy to do and give us some sense of accomplishment. Unfortunately, the last category “not urgent-important” is the one that gets ignored and “put off until later.” These are the mind-bending, difficult tasks like revising a business plan, developing a new marketing strategy, calling people who’ve been referred to you, putting together a training program or writing a new advertising piece. These kinds of activities are critically important. But because they have no urgency, and because they require a great deal of effort, we put them off and put them off until they’re often just forgotten.

What I realized, in organizing all my information, is how many opportunities I was overlooking each and every day. So now I’ve put together a system to remind myself of these “important but not urgent” things that really need to be done. It gives me a whole new sense of possibilities. And with my increasing ability to quickly access the information I need, I’ll be able to make time to get them done. It’s amazing how much time is wasted just looking for information. With everything in one easily accessible place, I can discover a lot of possibilities that never would have come to light before.

Think about the things you’ve been meaning to do, but keep putting off. They’re the things that can make the biggest difference in your life. Chances are, you’ve put off some of them for so long that you’ve forgotten about them. Dig them back up. Find a way to keep them at the center of your attention. Keep yourself busy with the important things.

— Ralph Marston

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Copyright ©1995 Ralph S. Marston, Jr. All Rights Reserved. The Daily Motivator is provided for your personal, non-commercial use only. Other than personal sharing, please do not re-distribute without permission.