Why Getting Organized is Like Running a Marathon

This post is a teeny bit self-indulgent as I just completed my first, and definitely last, marathon.  Thanks to my fragile, attention-seeking knees, this rainy 26-mile jaunt through California’s wine country took me five and a half hours, which gave me plenty of time to come up with some running-related metaphors for getting organized:

1) You don’t start from being a couch potato and try to run a marathon; you begin with a bit of walking and build up to jog maybe a 5 mile race.  Similarly, if you’re extremely disorganized and messy, don’t try to be Martha Stewart.   Just pick one small area of your life and focus on improving that.

Photo thanks: Napa Valley Marathon


2) Not many people end up running a marathon by accident: they make a plan, based on their starting fitness level, the pace they want to achieve, and an anticipated race date.  When aiming to get organized, it’s also a great idea to assess your starting position, what results you’d like to see, how long it will realistically take you, and how you’re going to make the time.

3) Sunday’s 26 miles were no picnic, but they’re not actually the hardest part of a marathon.  I would argue that months of regular training, including hauling myself out of a cozy bed into rainy darkness at 5:30AM, is in fact much tougher.  During the last 12 months, I’ve covered more than 500 miles and spent over 100 hours simply putting one foot in front of the other, even when I didn’t feel like it. To get, and stay organized, you probably don’t need quite so much dedication, but small, regular sessions, several times a week, for many weeks or even months, will do the trick.  It doesn’t – and shouldn’t – all happen suddenly, one Sunday morning when you spring out of bed and decide to get things sorted out.

Photo thanks: Napa Valley Register

4) Especially for a beginner, there are times in the marathon when you feel like giving up.  There’s the famous “wall”, for example, which typically occurs somewhere in the mile 18-22 range.   That’s when you dig deep, think about how much effort you’ve already put in, and realize how far you’ve come.  Guess what?  When you’re knee-deep in trying to organize paper piles, toys or random clothing, you’ll probably feel like giving up, too.  Don’t: you’ve come a long way too and you can finish what you started.

5) Runners need a support crew, and not just at the start and finish lines.  The best supporters are noisy, cheer wildly for people they don’t even know, and position themselves strategically on the hill at mile 22 to offer a boost to the runners who need it most.  Those who came out in the rain on Sunday in wine country lifted my spirits more than they will ever know.  And I was doubly lucky: I had the companionship and support of my husband, who selflessly reined in his natural pace to accompany me every step of the way. Who do you have in your organizing support crew?  Who knows you are hoping to make a change, and is willing to pitch in with you, watch your kids, cheer you on, or at least pick up their own socks?

Photo thanks: Napa Valley Marathon

6) Marathon finishers celebrate their success, whether the race took them three hours or eight.  They get a foil blanket, a cheesy medal, lots of photos, and about a week’s worth of respect from all who know them.  You should celebrate your organizing successes, too: take before and after pictures, and enjoy the glory of what you’ve achieved.

If you would like friendly, confidential Professional Organizing help to turn chaos into calm, contact me to take the first step toward a sorted, stylish space.

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9 Responses to Why Getting Organized is Like Running a Marathon

  1. Yay! CONGRATS!! I was just thinking that this seemed like about the time of your race and wondered how it went. From a 5:25 finisher who knows what it’s like to run that long… remember that not only did you run just as far as anyone else who’s ever run a marathon, but you also ran *longer* timewise and therefore achieved a far greater feat of endurance. ;-)

    You’re totally right about the parallels between training and organization, and I’d argue the same goes for renovation. It’s all about the planning, the baby steps, continuing on even when you’ve hit the wall and just want to throw a sledgehammer through a window… and when you cross the finish line, it’s all worth it. :-)

    CONGRATS once again! I hope you have a speedy recovery and aren’t hobbling around as much as I did after my marathon!

  2. Claudia says:

    congratulations on your marathon! and you are totally right, for anything in life, jumping in without some “training” can results in some serious pain.

  3. Anna says:

    Loved this post. I’m going to share it on my personal facebook page, maybe someone needs to hear it. I sure did. #5 made me kinda teary eyed, so sweet.

  4. Gwen says:

    You knocked it out of the park! Congratulations! As to organization, you are so right, it isn’t a matter of one day and you are done. It takes commitment each and every day, no matter how crappy you feel, just push through and think of your goals.

  5. Janell Beals says:

    A huge congratulations, this is a feat I will never conquer…a huge accomplishment on your part! Janell

  6. Congratulations! To take part in even one marathon is more than I (and probably most other people) will ever even attempt. And a fabulous analogy to getting organized!

    As I read your post, I was thinking how much this analogy applies to so many things – even blogging. Many bloggers start out posting every day, only to find they run out of ideas or no longer have time to keep it up. Instead of using up all their great ideas in the first week or month, they can get their posts written and pre-schedule them to be published once a week, and they’ll last so much longer!

  7. Bromeliad says:

    Congrats on the marathon!

    I’m totally tidy. But I have never run a marathon. So I will take your marathon advice more literally.

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