Black or white thinking is your organizational enemy

We’ve just wrapped up our first Kickstart Boot Camp and the February group is getting under way – and one of the most common themes to emerge from both groups is: the danger of black or white thinking when it comes to getting organized.

This is what black or white thinking sounds like:

“Well I failed day one! Ugh. I was gone to work from 6:30am to 4:30pm… then I had to do x, y, z. It’s now almost 9pm and my kids are almost both finally to bed and I’m WIPED out. I did manage to detox the kitchen while I was cooking my dinner but there’s no way I can do the task of the day today.”

And this…

“I’m overwhelmed by this task as it could take me MONTHS! I think that’s why I keep putting it off.”

The first person thinks she’s a failure because she didn’t do the task perfectly. The second person can’t get started because she thinks it will take MONTHS to do it right…and who has that kind of time?

In short, black and white thinking is not your friend. It causes you to think you’re a “failure” when you’re not AND it paralyzes you when you really want to make progress.

Why do we do it?

Black or white thinking emerges, I believe, from our constant exposure to this idea that “being organized” is an end-state. We’re all trained to strive for that pretty picture in our heads (which come from the magazines, blogs and TV shows we watch) where everything is just perfect.

Kind of like this (there’s usually LOTS of white in the picture, right?):

But being organized is a way of living. It’s constantly in flux, because life is always moving.

What’s the antidote?

The first step – awareness. If you don’t even realize you’re using a yardstick to measure yourself that doesn’t make sense, you’re going to keep using it and going around and around in the same cycles. So start to name your problem. For example, “Oh, I’m feeling paralyzed because I’m thinking success = perfection, and the distance between where I am and “perfection” is so huge, I’m feeling defeated.” OR “Ah-ha! I’m beating myself up because I wasn’t able to do something perfectly – but I still made progress!”

The second step – narrow your focus. When you can redefine success within narrower parameters, such as, dealing with one paper pile on your desk or setting your egg timer for 10 minutes and making a small dent in a specific area of the room, you’re much likely to (a) feel better about yourself and your progress AND (b) keep going.

The key is to learn how to better navigate the subtle shades of grey between the poles of black (chaos) and white (perfection). That’s what being buttoned up looks like.

Are you a black or white thinker when it comes to organizing? Where is it worst for you?