A recent article (Less Is More — Do You Agree?) over at Your Life. Organized. got me thinking. I’m beginning to believe it is possible to be over-organized. At the point where our productivity systems, whatever flavor they are, begin to take up more time, they have crossed the threshold and have run up against the Law of Diminishing Returns, where at some point, each additional unit input yields less output.
Crossing the Threshold
The ideal is to find a point where the input to your system yields the maximum output. In most cases, overly complicated systems that are a burden to manage are going to be beyond that point. Systems that lose track of items are going to be before that point.
Another article I ran into, Mark Forster’s Just how organised do I have to be?, talks about the law of diminishing returns when applied to desktop organization. I know I am not one of those pristine desk people. I need to have my writing implements, notepad and various other things on my desk. When I want a highlighter I don’t want to have to stop and open a drawer. It disrupts my thoughts and slows me down.
How To Avoid Going Over the Top
My best bet for knowing when I go over the top is to pay attention to how I am maintaining the system. If I do not do it unconsciously, and end up with a backlog at some point, I know the system is too complicated. I mostly get to that point if I try to make a system that will do everything for me, without my thinking about anything. The system is supposed to keep me on track so that I can think effectively; not automate my life entirely.
Looking at my in-place systems, I realized where the sticking points are, and I need to simplify those areas. Often times I digitize my processes before I have the process completely worked out. Applying technology under those circumstances does not lead to efficiency; it merely makes inefficiency faster.
Likewise, when trying out a new organization scheme, I know I have gone over the top if I have to spend more than 2 seconds to figure out where I put something.
Look at your own systems. Are there sticking points? Are you resisting them? See if you are up against diminishing returns.