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Effective Organizing: Introduction

What this guide is: In these posts, I want to illustrate a practical philosophy for organizing. When you have completed reading this series, you will be armed with a way to approach life beyond just knowing what junk to throw away. In short, I want to share with you how you should approach organizing so you can live effectively.

What this guide is not: This is not a collection of quick tips on how to clean up your room. If you came across this post for that objective, I suggest you look elsewhere.

Who should read this guide: The primary audience consists of everyday people who want to make themselves more efficient. However, principles from this guide are equally useful to Product Managers, UX Designers, and Entrepreneurs who want to build better things. Similarly, leaders who want to build stronger, more effective organizations may also want to take a look.

To begin, why do we need to organize? The answer is simple.

Life is complex. Our organic bodies and feeble minds, by themselves, are not well-adapted enough to produce everything needed to sustain our desired standard of living. As a result, we humans, like other animals, have augmented our lives with external things. Every day, we dearly depend on many of these objects for our everyday existence.

For millennia, we stored our food to reliably nourish ourselves, we used stone and metal tools to complete our daily tasks, we carried badges and jewelry to preserve our very identities, and we kept stone tablets, scrolls, and later books to save knowledge to supplement our forgetful minds or communicate with others.

For most of human history, useful things were scarce. This meant we could never live well. This situation, unfortunately, remains the case for many of us around the world even today. But if you are one of the many relatively comfortable members of a developed country, you have been born into an era marked by an unprecedented explosion of affordable consumer products. They cater to your every physical need. Materialist heaven, if not more, is within your reach.

Yet as of 2019, unless you are wealthy enough to have the best servants (human or robot), most of your things remain lifeless. A book will not suddenly come to you when you want to read it. The fully-cooked meal your stomach wants will not appear in front of you whenever you are hungry. A weapon will not appear in your hands when you need to defend yourself — and even if it did, the instructions to operate it may not come with it. On top of that fact, as a consumer, you face an abundance of choice that confounds you profusely. When you go to a store, you are never sure which item is the exact one you need. Thus, it is possible to own all the things you need, yet suffer all the same for the immediate lack of these things.

To ensure we can have the right things, at the exact time we need them, we must become the best organizers and designers we can be. We organize so we can figure out where our things are. We design so we can keep our things useful, given constraints.

This document will help you get there. In the next few chapters, I will bestow upon you both a guiding philosophy, as well as practical tips, to help you begin your journey of effective living.

Let us begin.

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