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Gretchen Rubin is the author of many books, including the block-buster New York Times bestsellers The Four Tendencies, Better Than Before, and The Happiness Project. She also has a top-ranked,[…]

GRETCHEN RUBIN: Whether at home, or at the office, or anywhere where you're part of a process where you're trying to get something done, it's very useful, at least every once in a while, to ask yourself, why am I doing this? So, if I'm doing something to benefit other people, to make their work easier, are they actually taking advantage of it? If I'm writing a summary of what I just created, is anybody using that summary? Because maybe at one time somebody used the summary, but no one's using it now. Or maybe I just started doing this and assumed that it was useful to other people. But they aren't actually using it. Maybe I've created work that doesn't actually need to be done. Now, sometimes too, we want to make things more beautiful than they need to be.

Now, beautiful tools make work a joy. And it is more pleasurable to work with files when the files are neat and organized, or when the binders all match and are all lined up, and look great. Absolutely. But there is a point where that can swallow us up, and we can spend too much time on things that are too fleeting or that don't really go to the aim that we're trying to achieve. And you want to think about if people are just going to be using these binders for 10 minutes, do I really want to spend 30 minutes making them look right? Sometimes the answer might be it's totally worth it. But sometimes maybe we could use some kind of more makeshift solution. It might get us where we need to go and save us a lot of time and energy. Because what we want to do as we're creating outer order is we really want to be purposeful with our time, and our energy, and our possessions.

We want to do the things that matter, that do the things that take us where we want to go, and create the environment in which we want to live. But we don't want to let ourselves get consumed or choked with tasks that really, in the end, don't need to be done at all.