December is always a good time to reflect on what has happened during the year. 2015 was marked for me by my 2nd dan grading in taekwondo. I’m pleased of course not only for the achievement itself but also for all the learnings that came with this journey. I’ll focus here on the 3 main lessons that I’ve learned or been reminded of and that can be transferred to an organising project.
Lesson no 1: Always break a project into small manageable parts.
If I had been told when I first started taekwondo that it would take me about 6 years to get to my 2nd dan, I think I’d never have envisioned it happening. But as a taekwondo student, you advance through a succession of colour belts or chapters by completing promotion tests organised by your country taekwondo federation. In Singapore, those gradings are conducted every 3 months. A curriculum is developed for each quarter by the school to prepare the students for grading.
Attaining my black belt and then my 2nd dan was definitely made very tangible and possible through those quarterly gradings.
Having spent most of my corporate life managing projects, I would lie if I were to say that breaking a project into small manageable tasks was a new concept to me. Yet sometimes we fail to recognise that this concept is also applicable to our personal lives. But it’s definitely very relevant to organising. So if you were feeling overwhelmed at the idea of de-cluttering your entire home, just focus on one room; if you wanted to de-clutter your wardrobe, start with one drawer etc. Make it as small as you need to be to increase your chances of success.
Lesson no 2: Treat appointments with yourself like any other meetings or appointments.
I haven’t kept track of the number of hours I’ve spent training over the last 6 years, but I guess it’s quite a lot. There was a time before my 1st dan grading when I was training up to 8 hours a week. It was challenging to balance training with work and family commitments but I was committed to make it happen as it was one of my personal goals for that year.
Those training sessions were blocked in my diary and as much as possible I treated them like any other meetings and appointments in my schedule. That meant I had to make choices and let go of activities and tasks that didn’t serve any purpose in my life. It also meant I had to learn to say no and to delegate. It’s easier said than done of course but being clear about my objectives and priorities in the various aspects of my life helped me dramatically.
So if you want to get organised, I highly encourage you to block the time in your diary. Try to be realistic though, find the time you can reasonably commit to this project and stick to it. Look at the options you have if something in your schedule has to go. Don’t systematically give up this time first.
Lesson no 3: Being a perfectionist holds you back.
I must confess that I have been a perfectionist all my life. Not only at work but also at play… Not surprisingly I gave the best I could during my taekwondo practice. But regardless of how hard I trained there was always something that needed to be improved.
I think I may have driven my instructors insane at times when I was suggesting missing a grading to give myself more time to practise so that I could make a pattern perfect while they had declared me ready to move on to the next level. But I had to admit that perfection was simply not possible and that although there were minimum requirements to pass, what was more important was to improve.
In my job as a Professional Organiser, I come across so many people who hold back because they wait for the perfect time to get organised and it never comes or because they aim for the perfect outcome knowing they can’t achieve it at this point of time. If you recognise yourself here, remind yourself that the goal is not about doing things perfectly but about making progress. There is so much value in getting started.
At this stage, anything else that can happen in my taekwondo journey is a bonus. For now I keep enjoying the practice and will have to see whether this will take me to a 3rd dan. In the meantime, a big thank you to all my instructors at Trifecta Martial Arts for preparing me so well for my grading! With the numerous injuries I had sustained over the last 3 years, I was certainly not the easiest student to train but they took up the challenge and showed a lot of patience and support. Thank you!
But back to you, if you’ve tried to get organised in the past but couldn’t achieve your goals, remember:
- Break your project into small manageable parts.
- Block the time in your diary and don’t compromise on it.
- Let go of your perfectionism and embrace the good enough!