You’ve heard of the Law of Diminishing Returns: there comes a point where your return becomes more disproportionate to your investment. This doesn’t just apply to money, but to our time and our organizational efforts as well.
To those who know me personally, this may come as a shock: yes, you can be too organized. When you are spending more time and effort to keep something organized than on the thing being organized, you are experiencing the Law of Diminishing Returns. So do we just stop organizing altogether? That’s going to the other extreme, I think.
Personally, my goal always has been to be as organized as I can. But trying to be a perfectionist was self-defeating. When I became a mom, trying to keep a perfectly clean house had great potential for taking my time away from my kids and myself! My new way of thinking had to be, “What is optimal?” In other words, what strikes the best balance between X (keeping the house clean) and Y (having enough free time)? Sometimes the balance between X and Y has to be reviewed daily!
Even at work I face choices of perfection vs. optimization. Should I fiddle with these margins anymore? Or are they close enough? How much time does the task I’m facing really require? How far am I going beyond what is required of me?
One mindset that has helped me optimize is assessing needs/requirements vs. wants. The baby with the wet diaper needs to be changed, whereas the toddler with the book wants to be read to. Change the diaper, then read the book, no matter how much the little guy whines—he will live! The application at work is required to go out by Federal Express tonight; the long-term project you’re working on (though it needs to be done eventually) can wait until tomorrow. Yes, there will be times where there are conflicting needs that are all happening at once, but for the most part, this is a good go-to plan.
The moral of the story: strike the balance—optimize! Get what you need to get done, add in what you can to do it well, but don’t let those things take away from everything else you have to do.