Organized vs. disciplined

I’ve been thinking a lot about this idea of being organized vs. being disciplined.  It’s easy to want to “get organized” — or worse, to spend a lot of time and effort getting organized — but then not actually have the discipline to see it through (this is also known as “systems to cover up symptoms“).

Framing the question this way has lead me to ask myself, when trying to improve on something, if I’m being disciplined here, and if the answer is no, then why not.  Inevitably that leads to a more profound answer than “well, I just need to get more organized here”, which often results in yak shaving, procrastination, and a false sense of accomplishment.

I am thinking about this — if it’s not obvious already — because my natural tendency is to do the opposite.  And it seems clear to me that this is not usually the best way to be.  For example:

* “ooh, I really need to get in and set up mint / check / etc to help me manage spending and bills (vs. spend carefully and simply keep track of what’s due / paid and/or set up a regular time to do it)

* “if only I had a better way to find important emails I haven’t responded to yet” (vs. set aside a regular time every day to catch up on important emails)

* “gosh, there are so many issues to keep track of at work; let me build a web app to keep track of them all” (vs. stay more on top of my email!)

* boy, it sure would help to have a better way to share our to do list at home (vs., say, pulling my head out of my phone when I’m at home).

* and on and on and on

In my own defense — I do think part of what makes me effective as a technologist is that I like thinking about and building products and systems. I try lots and lots of products (often out of this quest to be more organized), and I think that’s helpful in terms of understanding what’s out there, how things work, etc.  And I love hacking on stuff.  That’s fun, and useful (I hope!), and I don’t want to stop doing that.  But a healthy dose of discipline can’t hurt.

As I look at these examples, it strikes me that establishing a routine would help with a lot of them.  Now, if I could only find a way to help me track all the areas where I want to build a routine…

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