When I think about exercise and dieting, I always come up with grand plans. These plans usually involve a few hours of exercise each day and eating fabulous foods that are healthy. Of course, it would be wonderful if I actually did these things, but I never do. The fact is that I set myself up for failure from the start.

My diet and exercise plans in the past have been way too ambitious for someone with my schedule. Taking into account that I hate to shop and cook, the idea that I would have fresh food in the house that I would then prepare is pretty silly when I look back on it. So, what went wrong?

I made these plans based on what I thought I should be doing, not what I knew I would actually do. Of course, I have to make some changes in my behavior if I want to have fabulous arms and killer abs, but it’s helpful to be realistic about what you will do when faced with the choice of laying in bed until 7:00 or getting up to do a workout.

In organizing projects this happens frequently. We have so many images of what organized means in various situations. Perfectly clear desktops, doing everything the moment you think to do it, scanning all of your paper so you never have to deal with it again. Not to mention all of the books out there touting the definitive solution to organizing problems. The reality is that much of what is published in books and articles probably won’t work for you.

Here’s my beef with most of the information out there on organizing. Solutions are presented as though they are great for everyone. If you just put enough effort into it, this extremely complex system can work for you. No way! Your organizing systems must be based on your own logic and realistic assessment of your behavior.

I was recently asked by a workshop participant if scanning paper was a good solution for paper clutter. I asked if the person liked dealing with paper. She cringed and said “No way! I hate paper!” So, my answer is that scanning probably won’t be a good solution for her. If she hates paper so much that she won’t deal with it to get it filed, what are the chances that she will want to sit around scanning paper for hours. Now, I’m not saying that scanning is not a good option for dealing with paper clutter. I’m simply pointing out that realistically, she will probably not keep up with scanning paper if she doesn’t like dealing with paper to begin with.

Here are three things to consider when setting up a system or routine for organizing:

1) Is there anything wrong with your current system? Don’t change for the sake of changing. If your systems work, leave them alone.

2) Ask the question, “What will I really do?” Will you really scan all that paper or is it better to come up with some strategies to keep the paper from coming in at all. Will you really put all of those articles you’ve been saving into alphabetized binders? Or is it better to put them into a few research folders and call it a day? Better yet, you probably won’t ever look at them again so maybe you could just toss them.

3) Keep things simple. Complicated systems are typically difficult to maintain. The best organizing systems and routines are very simple. No need to color code your file system or calendar…unless you really believe that you will keep it up. As you develop your systems, continually ask yourself how it could be made easier.

So, my new diet plan is to exercise as many times as I can each week and to cut out eating so much ice cream. I still need to work to keep up my new routine, but I am being more realistic and not beating myself up.

Happy Organizing!