Thursday, February 23, 2017

3 Keys Thursday: Fine-Tuning Your Plan

Dodgerton Skillhause via Morguefile
Yesterday, I wrote about how the discoveries we make about the underpinnings of our styles can inform our organizational settings. If we understand what feeds our default styles, we can use that information to further tweak our organizational systems so that they become more finely tuned, and, therefore, more useful.

As an I need to see it/drop and run person with tendencies for both procrastination and perfectionism, I need to create systems that are visual, flexible and one-step. I need to limit the number of places where I allow things to pile up. Keeping all of these guidelines in mind may not keep me perfectly organized, but it helps me fine tune my systems by leading me to use what works and rule out what doesn't.

In the mood for a tune up? Here are a few questions to ask yourself.

What are my styles? Have you narrowed down your styles to one dominant personal style and one dominant organizational style, or are you still dabbling in several? Do your styles change from work to home and back again? Do you default to one style for one task and another for others? Organizing by STYLE isn't about cementing answers. It's about doing what works, even if what works isn't always the same thing.

Which part(s) of my styles are most salient? My I need to see it personal style dominates my drop and run organizational style. All of my systems exist to make it as easy to put things away as it is to put them down. But, if I can find a way to put something away and still keep it in sight? Ahh. That's a component of the system that works every time and on every level. It keeps surfaces clear, things organized and me on top of things.

What personality traits facilitate these, or get in the way? Unfortunately, my drop and run organizational style goes hand-in-hand with my tendency to procrastinate. Finding systems that make it easy for me to drop something where it belongs helps me to get past the urge to wait until later to put things away. And, although I'll never reach my unreachable goal of being perfectly organized, the desire to strive for it nudges me consistently toward new ideas and systems that reduce clutter, piles and frustration.

How about you? What are the finer points at the root of your styles?

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Harnessing Habits
Last week, I flipped the page on my Happiness Project calendar and was greeted with some interesting questions about habits. The first asked, "If you could magically, effortlessly, change one habit in your life, what would it be?"

That's easy. Procrastination. Wait, no, perfectionism. Or perhaps staying up too late, but I think that's connected to both of the first two.

Hmm. Maybe not as easy as I thought.

And it was about to get more complicated. The next question asked, "If the people around you were able to change one of your habits, what would they choose?"

That one really was easy. It's my piles of papers that are everywhere they're not supposed to be.

If you're thinking that these answers don't align, you're not alone. It was only after giving it some thought that I realized that all of these habits are connected.

My papers are a form of procrastination. If I just do the thing when I first come into contact with the paper, there are no papers to leave around and nudge my I need to see it style into action.

But sometimes, I need to think about things, or I'm too tired to do them well, and so I set them aside. Piles become clutter, which becomes a habit sure to annoy all those around me.

When we talk about organizing by STYLE, we talk about trusting and valuing our default styles and building our systems around them. But the more we think about these default styles and how they connect to our personalities, the easier it becomes to understand them.

And the better we understand them, the easier it is to incorporate them into our organizational processes.

Organizing by STYLE is not now, nor will it ever be, about asking you to change who you are; that's what sets it apart from all of the lectures on organization you've read in other places. If you make a discovery about a connection between your personality and your styles, that's just one more piece of information you can use to tailor your systems to fit your needs. The better you become at this, the more organized you will be.

So, how do these discoveries inform my organizational systems?

Knowing these are my default settings, so to speak, I need to create systems that are visual, flexible and one-step. I need to limit the number of places where I allow things to pile up, and build in safeguards like space limitations. Without such safeguards, clutter can expand to fill all of the available space, robbing spaces like kitchen counters and dining room tables of their intended purpose.

Whether or not we choose to tackle the underpinnings of our styles is up to us. But, if we begin by working with our styles and our personalities, rather than against them, we're more likely to find successes. These successes can propel us toward ways of fine-tuning our systems so that we find the sweet spot where STYLE and organization meet.

And that is a very sweet spot indeed.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

3 Keys Thursday: 3 Tools You Need to Organize a Dream

Dodgerton Skillhause via Morguefile
Yesterday, I shared some of the tools I use to keep track of my writing projects so that when I get time to tackle them, I can jump right in. Not all of you are writers, I'm sure, but I suspect that most of you are busy and/or have a hobby or dream you'd like to pursue if only you had the time.

One way to maximize the time you have available is to be thoughtful about the way you organize your supplies, ideas and materials. There's nothing worse than carving out an hour to spend on something you love doing only to have to spend the first fifteen minutes getting organized.

As a writer who also works a day job, I have, over time, created a system for keeping track of my projects (yes, that's plural) so that I can jump in with minimal preparation. In addition to my writing calendar and book bible, I need:

Well-maintained, accessible tools. For me, this is my laptop -- in most cases anyway -- which has its very own spot (a home) on my desk. Making sure to plug it in so it charges when I'm not using it is key to its availability when I do need it. Creating and consistently using specific homes for tools that are essential to your hobby is a key time saver, as is making sure they're always in good working order. 

A place to store supplies. Whether it's my laptop, my calendar and book bible or the manuscript pages for my works-in-progress, keeping key tools within easy reach is also a time-saver. Using style-friendly tools is important, too. I have a file cabinet in my office, but I'd be hard-pressed to tell you what's in it. As an I need to see it person, I keep key items either visible or in specific (often labeled) locations (homes) whenever possible. Sometimes, I do both. If your supplies are organized when you're ready to use them, you'll be able to devote all of your time to your activity of choice instead of wasting part of that time sorting out what you need.

A place to store ideas. Remember those folders I loved (from the same dollar bins)? One of them has been pressed into service as a catch-all for the notes and article ideas that would otherwise be scattered across my desk. The bright color is eye-catching, which works for my I need to see it style, and the fun theme keeps things light. In addition, it's easy enough for a drop and run organizer to drop a note into the file folder.

Whether you're organizing supplies for a hobby or details for a dream job or destination, a little organization can ensure more fun and less frustration. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The Tools of Balance

Two of my favorite tools.
Clearly the notebook is well-loved.
Today on the Porch Swing Chronicles, I wrote about my struggle to balance my writing time with my other life responsibilities. As I was writing that post, I got to thinking about the tools I use to make this balance easier. While having the right tools doesn't translate into automatic balance, it takes me one step closer. 

From my writing calendar to my book bible to my choice of folders, each tool has its purpose. Remember that perfect calendar I found in the dollar bins at Target? I use it to keep track of time spent writing, amount of time spent on freelance projects and a variety of other writing-related items that pop up and need to be in a central location. This morning, my page-a-day calendar provided me with some blog inspiration, so I tucked it into my calendar so I'd know where to find it when I need it.

And that book bible? It's where I keep track of what happens in each chapter of my novel as it progresses so that when days (or weeks) go by without me providing my characters with new adventures, it's easier to remember where I was the last time they were telling me what to do. For writers who write from a synopsis, a book bible might simply be a place to capture details they don't want to forget, like the color of a minor character's eyes or the name of that coffee shop where the cute guys hang out.

Do you have a hobby or dream you want to spend more time on? Are you an I love to be busy person, or maybe just busy? What tools do you use to manage the process and maintain your balance when life threatens to bowl you over? Tomorrow I'll share some more of my tools and the purposes they serve. 

Thursday, February 9, 2017

3 Keys Thursday: 3 Key Questions to Ask About those Piles

Dodgerton Skillhause via Morguefile
If you're a regular reader of this blog, you know I'm an I need to see it/drop and run person.

This combination makes me the Queen of Piles.

This drives my husband a little bit crazy, and, truth be told, it bugs me, too.  While I'm still very much a work-in-progress, I have found a few ways to deal with the piles, and even make some of them go away.

Do you put things down instead of away? Here are three questions to ask yourself so you can do things the other way around.

Is it always the same stuff? At my house, it's usually the homeless items that end up in piles (next to the things I don't want to forget to take care of). While I can't quite bring myself to get rid of the reminder piles, eliminating the piles of homeless items is as simple as finding them a home.

Is it always the same place? Most homes have spots that are clutter catchers -- the kitchen counter, the dining room table, the dresser in the bedroom. Ask yourself whether the items that are piled there should be stored nearby, or if the spot is merely convenient. Then, organize accordingly.

Will a strategically placed container solve the problem? If so, maybe, just maybe you can keep the pile. Just make sure that the container is sized properly. Too big, and you'll lose sight of what you need. Too small, and you might as well just keep the original pile.

As an I need to see it/drop and run person, I've come to terms with the fact that piles are a part of my life. But, by asking some strategic questions and employing the right tools, I can keep them to a minimum.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Assessing the Big 3

About a month ago, I started using a strategy I'm calling the Big 3. Each day, I decide what three things are my top priorities for the day, and then I write them down.

And you know what? This one's a keeper.

If you're like me, you've tried any number of strategies when it comes to organization and time management, only to abandon some of them even before the ink was dry on the note you wrote to yourself. Some are too complicated, others too time-consuming. And then, of course, there's the biggest flaw of all.

The plan doesn't fit your styles.

I started the Big 3 because I have a tendency to never be satisfied with what I accomplish. I focus too much on what I've left undone, and not enough on what I've accomplished. Or, I swing from one extreme to the other, overdoing it one day and crashing the next. I needed a strategy that would even things out, helping me to establish a steady flow of successes. Successes are, after all, the foundation of STYLE.

I'm happy to report that, one month in, the Big 3 is working quite well. Some days, I've been tempted   to expand it to the Big 5, because, after all, if 3 is good, isn't 5 better?

Um, no. No, it's not.

The purpose of the Big 3 was to increase the likelihood that I'd not only accomplish what I set out to do, but also that I'd have time to do other things -- maybe even fun things -- as well. And the purpose of evaluating this strategy here and now is to expand on another principle of tailoring your solutions to fit your needs.

When something is working, don't stretch it to the breaking point. Adapt, if you must, but don't ruin a perfectly good strategy by pushing it beyond its limits -- or pushing yourself beyond your limits.

Like so many strategies, the Big 3 arose over time, in response to a problem I identified. In addition, I set it up so it would fit me and my needs.

Could the Big 3 work for you? Maybe.

But maybe it won't. Maybe it won't fit your styles, and you'll need to make adjustments. Maybe you're more of a backwards to-do list person, or maybe you survive on one big, long list that includes everything you need to accomplish for the foreseeable future.

Whatever you do, let your styles be your guide.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

3 Keys Thursday: 3 of My Favorite Habits

Dodgerton Skillhause via Morguefile
It bears repeating that I don't write this blog from an expert point of view. Consequently, one of the benefits of doing so is that it keeps me honest, consistently spurring me on to bigger and better things, organizationally speaking. 

As I've often said, am work in progress. As such, I find myself working out my own solutions as I write this post and as I continue to look at my house in my life through fresh eyes. Along the way I've tried a variety of solutions to the organizational problems that plague to me. Some have fallen by the wayside, but others have stuck, becoming habits I rely on. Here are three of my favorites.
  • Dealing with the mail as it comes in. I used to just dump the mail on the counter when I came into the house. I think this habit began when my daughter was small and I had a miniature human to tend to the minute that I walked in with the mail. Over time, this habit created a major mess, but it remained a really hard habit to break. What finally made the difference (in addition to the beautiful clear space that appeared when I finally decluttered the counter) was finding a solution to the mail counter that worked with my styles. Once I succeeded in doing that, (the solution was switching to an open-top file that simplified the process, and kept things put away, but still visible) it became just as easy to take care of the mail immediately as it had been to put it off. While I certainly can't say that the counter is perfect on a daily basis, it rarely reaches the epic disaster proportions that used to be  a common state of affairs before.
  • Making the bed. I credit organizer Marcia Ramsland with this one. When I read in one of her books how big a percentage of the room it takes up, and how the room automatically looks neater just because of this simple act, I was sold. Some days it gets made later than others, but it rarely goes unmade.
  • My Big 3. Admittedly, this habit isn't very old, but I can already feel it making a huge difference in changing the way I look at things. Accomplishing my big three gives me permission to relax and stop worrying so much about what I didn't do. 
How about you? What simple habits make your life easier?

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Trash or Treasure?

Do you have anything you just can't part with? It's okay--you can be honest. I'm not going to make you get rid of it.

For me, two things come to mind immediately, both articles of clothing. The first is a ratty old Bucknell sweatshirt, and, when I say ratty, I'm not exaggerating. The sleeves are torn and shredded at the wrists -- yes, both of them -- and there are holes under both arms. When I put it on yesterday at the end of a long day (because it remains one of the softest, most comfortable and most comforting pieces of clothing that I own), it inspired this blog post.

What do you think the odds are that I'm getting rid of it now?

The second thing is a silky, turtleneck maxi dress that belonged to my grandmother. It lives in a box at the back of my daughter's closet, where I know it will stay, because getting rid of it would feel too much like getting rid of a piece of my grandmother. I don't know why this dress is the one I've chosen to hang on to, but I know that it's not going anywhere anytime soon.

Getting organized doesn't mean getting rid of everything; rather, it's about striking a balance between the things that are important enough to keep and the things that simply take up space. While we certainly can't keep everything that comes into our possession, there's no harm in a little strategic collecting.

The point is to keep it strategic. If things you'll never use again are encroaching into your storage space, or, worse yet, your living space, it may be time to reassess. Are you keeping these things because they have value -- financial or emotional -- or simply out of habit?

How easily we find the line between trash and treasure will vary by style; those with an I love stuff  personal style will most likely find it harder than those with the l love to be busy personal style. As long as we can find a place for each of our belongings, whether it's a place of honor in a collection or a place for safekeeping at the back of a closet, there's no need to get rid of things we love. 

If, on the other hand, you're feeling overrun, and the time has come to clear things out and dispose of the items that are no longer must haves, consider whether or not they might have value to someone else. While no one will want my ratty Bucknell sweatshirt or my grandmother's vintage 1970s maxi dress, the collection of fleece blankets that's threatening to overtake a corner of our family room might be very valuable to a homeless shelter, women's center or pet shelter. 

Just one piece of advice: no fair passing it along to a family member unless they love it as much as you do. 

How about you? What are your must haves, and what are you keeping simply out of habit?