It’s a well-kept secret among organized people that sometimes we love organizing for its own sake. Nothing thrills me more than cleaning out the fridge and lining everything up according to type: savories on one shelf, dairy on another. Similarly, a new project is thrilling for the prospect of planning it out, making a file or a notebook, and using my label maker to give it the perfect description. Just as some people love to look at photos of food or fashion, I love to gaze at the rows of white notebooks lined up on my office bookshelves.
As desirable as it is to be organized, though, it can become an end in itself—or a great way to dress up procrastination. A little piece of productivity wisdom I heard the other day hit me like a bull’s-eye: “Plan less. Do more.”
When the project is a big one that has yet to take shape, like writing a book or moving across the country, organizing can be a way to try to find a feeling of control. This is where an outline of a project is a good idea: if you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up somewhere else. In addition, a good degree of organization can help break a task into its component parts, making it easier to tackle in a logical, sequential way. This is a good thing. But the fateful day comes when you just have to jump in and get going in order to have the real fun.
Getting into the meat-and-potatoes of a project is where you find “flow,” that engaged state where time passes without notice and the most creative ideas are born. As fun as it is to find flow, we often resist it because it requires concentration. It’s a quirk of human nature that we often prefer the quick victory of a short email or a completed errand to the deeper, but quieter, satisfaction of finding flow.
Jumping in offers another advantage as well. Interim developments inevitably change even the most well-laid plans, and often for the better. Creativity fosters more creativity, and more connection. Bringing a project to life attracts other perspectives and resources, enriching it as you go along. The kernel of an idea is definitely enough to get you started. So go ahead and get organized, but remember that it’s all right to dive in and invent the water on the way down.