The Broken Windows Theory

by Francisco Saez

This chapter is a free excerpt from The Pursuit of Mastery.

August 13, 2012

In 1982, an article was published in The Atlantic Monthly magazine, which introduced the so-called Broken Windows Theory.


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August 13, 2012

In 1982, an article was published in The Atlantic Monthly magazine, which introduced the so-called Broken Windows Theory.

Scientists found that what often made ​​the difference between a clean and beautiful building, and a devastated and abandoned one, was a simple broken window. When time passes and that window is not repaired, the building’s inhabitants are impressed with a sense of abandonment, so they care less and less about the appearance of the building. Dirt and graffiti appear. And the more impaired the building is, the less willing to fix it the owners are.

This theory was used by municipalities and police departments of some cities to improve the physical appearance and lower crime rates in certain neighborhoods. How? Fixing any decay as soon as it was discovered. And by the way, all this worked quite successfully.

I think the main reason why many people fail when trying to get organized is because of the fundamental idea behind this theory. Entropy is a physical property used in the laws of thermodynamics, and also refers to the degree of disorder of a system. And all organizational systems have a strong tendency to entropy.

It is relatively easy to get organized. Just spend a few hours writing down all the tasks that you need to do but that are currently incomplete and put them into a set of lists that allow you to manage them in a simple way. The hard part is staying organized. Of course, you need to have a method, but even with some method in place, your system always tend to get disordered and if you are not able to cope with these moments of breakdown, your system will soon become useless and you will abandon it altogether.

Maintaining order is especially important in a personal organization system. For it to work, do not live with broken windows. Review your system regularly, keep it current, and fix any imbalance as soon as you discover it.

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