Go on vacation.

Then go on another vacation.

These don’t have to be long holidays. Just long enough so someone has to take over your desk, your projects, water your plants, feed your cat or otherwise substitute for your being absent. That is a great way to rush yourself into putting things in order.

If you take two vacations in close succession – even for two days at a time each – you will have not only organized things once, but then you’ll take second pass at putting away all your odds and end. You will come home to organization nirvana.

Leaving is the greatest motivation for putting things in order.

I had heard this advice a few years ago from my productivity guru David Allen. His book Getting Things Done, along with his workshops; have formed the basis of my organization code. His system is complicated, especially the organization of folders and worksheets to keep yourself on track and almost ceaselessly productive.

It is worth the pain of sifting through your stuff to get the gains from knowing where everything is, and throwing away anything that isn’t relevant to your work now or in the future. To anyone with common sense, getting organized seems like a fundamental tool of success.

The problem I have is a common one. My big time investments are typically for other people: clients, co-workers, getting stuff to vendors, helping out friends and family. I always thought that spending time going through my old emails, putting all my website codes in a list, much less sorting through documents in my files and white shirts in my closet was kind of selfish.

I have always been reluctant, nearly unable, to make myself a priority.

Then, I accidentally scheduled two short holidays very close together. In both cases, my work had to be accessible to a colleague in case something went wrong while I was away. Aha! David Allen is right. Preparing to go away, and “helping” someone take over for me, was the answer to nearly microscopic cleansing of my computer and workspace.  Here’s what I have found.

Being organized allows you to be free. Free to holiday. Free to nap. Free to be creative, enthusiastic, clear-headed and successful.

I will be out the next four days, and everyone is better for it. So, go away!