Thursday, March 15, 2018

3 Keys Thursday: 3 Keys to Managing Your Time Your Way

Photo: Dodgerton Skillhause via Morguefile
I am behind schedule. And I'm okay with that. 

I'm not okay with it on a regular basis, but right now, my daughter is home. My twenty year-old daughter who lives away from home for the better part of nine months is eating our food, sharing our living space and sleeping under our roof. 

And I'm willing to make adjustments. 

Time management and efficiency are important parts of organization, but there are times that we need to let go a bit and let a thing two slide because something else is more important. Maybe it's not efficient, but it's the kind of time management that makes us happier in the long run.

Here are three keys to managing your time your way.

Keep your priorities in mind. Sometimes, efficiency, meeting deadlines and checking things off our lists will be the priorities. Other times, watching a movie with your spouse, reading a bedtime story to your child or having a late-night chat with your teenager will be the priority. When in doubt, zoom out and take in the big picture. A week from now, a month from now, ten years from now, which choice will lead you to look back and smile? Which will make you grateful about how you chose to spend your time?

The way you've always done it isn't the only way to do it. Yesterday, my daughter and I went shopping. As a result, I didn't finish grading the exams I'd administered on Tuesday so I could get them back to my students today. I always return exams in the next class period. It gets them out of my to-do pile and puts my students' minds at ease by allaying their uncertainty. But, there's no rule that says I must return exams in the next class period; that's a random rule of my own creation. And spending the time on the exams would have meant giving up time with my daughter. The exams will be here next week. She won't. Decision made.

You don't have to say yes. One of my New Year's resolutions was "just say no." I have a tendency to take on too many things and, while this interest in a wide variety of things is a good thing in general, it interferes with my ability to get things done in a timely fashion. In addition, it limits how often I can say "yes" to cool things that pop up unexpectedly. Then, instead of doing the cool thing, I'm doing the thing I said yes to that I perhaps wasn't so excited about in the first place. In the long run, overcommitting doesn't make me feel good; it makes me feel resentful, especially when there's not enough time to do the things that really matter to me. The best way to short circuit this is to think before I commit in the first place: is this something I really want to commit time and energy to? If not, it's easier to say no in the first place than to let it throw everything off-kilter down the road.

My daughter's visit was wonderful. It was nothing extraordinary, nor was every minute packed with family fun or even family togetherness. She slept late, I had to go to work, she had appointments, I had appointments....but, at the end of the day, we were in the same place and, as long as she was here, I was willing to set aside whatever I was working on in order to give her my attention. 

And that is exactly how I wanted things to be.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

The Wisdom Behind the Wacky Names

Heidi Sandstrom via Unsplash
My daughter is home on spring break this week, and today, we are going shopping. Since my spring break was the week before last, I still have my regular workload, and so I need to find ways to free up some time so I can go shopping with her guilt-free.

And so today, I'm reposting a previous blog. This one first appeared here in September 2015, but since it fits very well with some of the themes I've been exploring lately, it was worth revisiting. In addition, I've learned that where we are in our personal organizational journeys influences our takeaways; in other words, as we progress, what we take away from each post changes and progresses as well. 

Whatever your styles, I hope this post leaves you with a new idea, a new outlook or a renewed faith in yourself.

If you've been reading this blog for a while, you know that I believe that you don't have to look organized to be organized. In fact, I swear by that philosophy. 

Sure, all of us would like to look like we know what we're doing. But the truth is, sometimes we know what we're doing even when it doesn't look that way. 

When I started on this organizational journey, I set out first to organize myself and then to help my elementary school-aged students who struggled with organization. Fun style names encouraged them to claim their styles proudly and create their systems accordingly. Along the way, I discovered that adults enjoyed the wacky names, too; as it turns out, a sense of humor is an essential tool for those of us who are organizational works-in-progress.

So today, I want you to think about what lies beneath the organizational styles, because (believe it or not) behind every organizational style lies an understanding of a concept that can form the foundation of a plan that shows the rest of the world that we know what we're doing.

Don't believe me? Read on for hidden gems and the "what nows" that can create those all-important first steps.
  • Cram and jam and I know I put it somewhere kids and adults often have rooms that look neat, at least at first glance. 
    • What do they know? Believe it or not, they're trying to use an important construct of organization: putting things away. 
    • What now? Focus on finding logical homes for everything instead of just stuffing thing into the nearest open space or stashing them away. For maximum success, choose containers that match your styles and will help you find the things you've put away.
  • That trail of belongings leading into the next room or the evidence of a week's worth of activities in various locations is the telltale sign of a drop and run organizer. 
    • What do they know? Drop and run organizers understand the importance of keeping related items together. 
    • What now? The simpler the storage solution, the better. Lids, snaps, zippers and other closures are impediments to those who just want to put things down, preferably in a pile. Focus on finding one-step storage solutions you can just drop things into.
  • Adults and kids who leave things out so they remember them are identifying an I need to see it style. Although this is a personal style, it often influences our organizational choices.
  • Emma Matthews via Unsplash
    • What do they know? Leaving things where they can see them helps them remember to do them.
    • What now? Focus on finding (and using) the right containers -- ones that allow them to see what's inside even when things are put away. Some I need to see it folks do well with color-coded or labeled containers.

Go ahead. Show 'em your organization.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

3 Keys Thursday: 3 Keys to Putting Doubts in Their Place

Photo: Dodgerton Skillhause via Morguefile
Have you ever had the feeling that, despite your progress with respect to organization, you really don't have it all together?

Yeah. Me too. So much so, that yesterday, I even wrote about it.

Because this is a process, we all have those days when we feel as though not only don't we have it all together, but perhaps we never will. It's a terrible, defeated feeling, and it's one we need to shake off. It's okay -- normal, even -- to have doubts, but there's no point in letting them win.

Here are three keys to putting the doubts in their place.

Put it in perspective. Usually, when these feelings emerge, something has gotten in the way of our progress. Maybe it's a shortage of time, maybe it's an influx of stuff, maybe it's that one spot that just won't stay organized. Temporary setbacks are not the same as permanent problems. Keep using your style-specific strategies and this too, shall pass.

Focus on what is working. Often, the best way to put things in perspective is to seek out specific examples of solutions we've put into place. While these successes don't negate the things that bug us, they remind us of what we're capable of. There's a reason the S in STYLE stands for Start with Successes.

Remember who the systems are for. No one else has to like, approve of or understand the systems you choose to use. The only person your system has to work for is you. So, if it doesn't look perfect or spotless, it doesn't matter. Not as long as you can find what you need when you need it.

We all have those days where doubt digs in its heels. A little shot of confidence might be all it takes to loosen its grip.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

The Validity of a Different Approach

madsliebst via Pixabay
Lately, due to some fun opportunities that have come up, I've found myself talking with friends about Organizing by STYLE. In the process of these conversations, a strange thing has happened. My voice has dropped, and I've become suddenly apologetic about the fact that I write about this topic.

It's not that organization isn't a valuable subject -- even my listeners agree that it is -- but rather, that I am the one writing about it. I feel exposed, somehow, as though my every organizational flaw has been magnified and as though the listener will suddenly burst into raucous laughter and say, "You? YOU write about...organization?"

None of them does, of course.Yet the feeling of being an imposer persists.

I've known from the start that what I write here so often is true: that I'm an organizational work-in- progress. I've also known that's part of my charm, so to speak -- I'm writing not as a someone who has gained expert status through training and certificates, but rather through research and experience. I know this and find value in it, yet I allow it to highjack my self-confidence when I'm in the presence of Type A organizers. The very judgment I seek to eradicate in my readers, I impose upon myself.

Rather self-defeating, don't you think?

After walking away from several of these conversations annoyed with myself, I've come to realize that these interactions, uncomfortable as I have made them, have served only to remind me why I started writing about Organizing by STYLE in the first place. Organization is not a one size fits all concept, look or process. Yes, I would love my house to be spotless, and no, it never will be. And, if it is, something has gone horribly awry because the only way it will happen is if I stop living my life and instead devote my time solely to organizing.

Not gonna happen.

Still, I need to find a way to shake the imposter syndrome. I'm proud of how far I've come, of the work I've done and of the fact that I can make people laugh when I talk about a topic that has frustrated them and made them feel like impostors, too.

And then today, even as I was contemplating this post, I was reminded (again) of the value of an alternative approach. I met with a student -- bright, articulate, creative, funny -- about a paper she is writing for my class. She has tons of ideas, but getting them from her head to the page without them colliding with one another and creating a mess in her head before they get to the page is a struggle for her.

As I watched her jot her notes and listened to her articulate where she ran into trouble, I saw a fellow I need to see it person. Instead of trying a standard (Type A organizer) approach using outlines and multiple drafts that suck the life out of the paper before it's written, I suggested that she write each of her (many) ideas on a Post-it note and arrange them and rearrange them to her satisfaction before she started writing. In listening to her, it was clear that she needed a way to manipulate her ideas before she started writing and, that if she could do that, she could retain her excitement over what she wanted to say and avoid getting sidetracked and missing connections. Sure, we were talking about organizing ideas instead of stuff but, recognizing not only what she said but also how she organized it enabled us to come up with an approach that allowed her to feel good about herself -- justifiably so as her ideas were good -- and that made it easier to complete the difficult work of writing a paper.

Though I respect my Type A colleagues, I will never be a binder-and-file cabinet kind of organizer who uses outlines to write. And, while many people -- including me, in moments of weakness -- see this as a potential credibility issue, I think the world needs more Post-it note, open storage people who mind map their papers.

Now I just need to put my self-confidence where my passion is.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

3 Keys Thursday: 3 Keys to Turning Your Styles to Organizational Strengths

Photo: Dodgerton Skillhause via Morguefile
If you, like me, have an I need to see it personal style, there are most likely days when you (not to mention those who live with you) don't see this style as an asset. At its worst, this style is a clutter creator but, at its best, it can be the way I remember where things are, what to do and what's due.

Each of the personal and organizational styles has the potential to be an asset or a liability. Here are three ways to make sure they work in your favor.

Embrace them. Because the dark side of the styles can be an organizational obstacle, it's difficult to view them as strengths. But, when pressed into service, that's exactly what they are. When we stop seeing our styles as stumbling blocks, we unlock their potential as tools for getting organized.

Use them to manage stuff. When we work with our styles, they can lead us to workable solutions. Sometimes, they can even spark creativity. Whether we're color coding our systems, pressing unique containers into service or jazzing up clear containers with Washi tape so we can remember which safe place holds which items, letting our style strengths lead the way can make organizing less intimidating.

Use them to manage time. Do you swear by a Post-it note reminder system for appointments? Prefer  the calendar on your phone to a planner and a pen? Create lists in grids so you have room for all of your activities? You're probably listening to your styles. When we really think about which strategies and tools work for us instead of trying to mold ourselves to the strategies and tools that we think are supposed to work for us, organizing time and stuff becomes less of a chore.

Sure, the style names are silly. Sure they can cause trouble when we let them get out of hand. But, when we look at the purpose they serve, these liabilities become the strengths that drive our organizational systems.

Organizing is something we have to do every day. Shouldn't we make it as much fun as possible?

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

STYLE Strengths

As someone who teaches psychology, I've long been interested in finding a link between Organizing by STYLE and empirical evidence -- something research-based that serves as some sort of proof of the validity of this approach. I know it works, and I've had others tell me it works for them, but finding something more solid than that had consistently eluded me.

Until I started researching and teaching positive psychology. This semester, as I was discussing strengths assessments with my students, the connection suddenly became crystal clear.

When we use our personal and organizational styles as the foundation for our organizational systems, we are engaging in a strengths-based approach. Instead of trying to take on someone else's systems -- the ones that work for their strengths -- we're building on our own.

In addition, strengths-based approaches advise us to make our strong suits even stronger. This may go against conventional wisdom, which often tells us to shore up our weaknesses, but there is definitely a certain logic to it. If we're already good at something, why live on a plateau? Why not work to take the things we're good at to the next level?

Organizing by STYLE does just that. Step by step, letter by letter, organizing by STYLE helps us to build a workable system on the foundation of things we're already good at, even if those things are dropping and running, cramming and jamming and needing to see things.

Hey, if it's not broken, why fix it?

Thursday, February 22, 2018

3 Keys Thursday: 3 Keys to Tackling that Organizational Achilles' Heel

Photo: Dodgerton Skillhause via Morguefile
Yesterday, I shared my organizational Achilles' heel -- my car. As often happens, I shamed myself into taking action simply by writing the post. When I decided to take a few minutes just to "tidy up," I was amazed at how little time it actually took to make a noticeable difference. Writing the post served to get me thinking about what I wanted to do and, from there, it was only a few baby steps to taking action.

Sometimes, getting started is the hardest part. Whether we're motivated by embarrassment, spring cleaning or company coming doesn't matter nearly as much as the fact that we're motivated in the first place. Once we're motivated, it's a lot easier to make things happen.

Ready to tackle your organizational Achilles' heel? Here are three keys to making it happen.

  • Make time. Nothing frees up time on the calendar than a desire to make something happen! Even taking five minutes to assess the situation may reveal little things that can be done in ten minutes or less to get the project rolling. For me, it was simply cleaning up accumulated papers and items that didn't belong in the car. Most (straw wrappers from Starbucks runs, outdated flyers) could be disposed of easily, which immediately improved the space and gave me a sense of accomplishment. Getting started makes it easier to make a plan to finish the job, whether it's blocking out time or attacking the space ten minutes at a time.
  • Rethink the purpose of the space. Nothing like reminding myself that the primary purpose of a car is NOT to store stuff to make me think about what belongs in the car (or, more accurately, what doesn't). Sometimes, we fall into the habit of doing something (or storing something) without thinking about why we do it (or store it) that way. While it's okay to designate my car as a home for some things, they shouldn't take up prime real estate like the floor in the back seat or, worse yet, space on the seats themselves because that interferes with using the car for its intended purpose.
  • Consider your resources. I have organizers hanging from each of the seats, but they were sitting empty while my stuff was piled on the back seat. Yes, I know how ridiculous that is but, since I'm the only one who drives my car and I rarely have passengers, I didn't really think about it until I determined to get to the root of the problem. Whether it's a pile of frequently used items on the back seat, an accumulation of papers on the dining room table or a gathering of accessories on the dresser, the first step to restoring order is asking whether or not those things should be there in the first place. If not, where should they be? Often, we don't have to look very far to find the answer to that question.
Although my car is much improved, it's far from perfect, and, if I'm honest, that will remain the case. Many of our organizational Achilles' heels have gained this dubious distinction because they're low on our priority list, and that's okay. Life is all about priorities and making low priority spaces merely presentable might very well be all we want to do. 

After all, there's more to life than organizing.