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I’m in charge of keeping Nellie organized and on top of everything.
And let me tell you, that can be a challenge.
You creative types are strange creatures. Luckily, my years training college students and non-profits has given me some knowledge on how to deal with you creative people. So Nellie invited me to share some of my understanding on organizational styles as well as tricks, some of which have already made her hectic life more doable.
Most people think they are either organized or not. Period.
But the truth is, there are actually several different ways to be organized. I am a Practical Manager, the person who has a master planner, a notebook for work, a notebook for daily To Do’s, color coded events, and folds her underwear. At least the pretty ones. Guilty. That’s why Nellie pays me the big bucks :) But I’m actually in the minority. Most people don’t think that way, which is probably a really good thing. Nellie has a hard enough time dealing with one person like me in her life; I don’t think she could deal with more! So for those of you who aren’t Practical Managers, I have some questions.
So sit down, buckle up, and if you’re a creative daydreamer (as I’m sure most of her readers must be), grab some munchies and doodle supplies. Here we go.
Question 1: What organizational style do you have? (okay, this is cheating. there’s only one question total. but I like lists. so I’m pretending).
Most of us lean pretty clearly towards one of these styles, though we see tendencies of the other ones cropping up occasionally. Once you recognize what style you have, you’ll be better able to organize your life.
Big Picture People.
These are the ones who ask the “why?” questions. Why do I have to keep all the receipts? Why do I have to mix the wet ingredients before dumping in the dry ones? Why can’t I just put one really thick coat of paint on the walls, instead of 3 separate ones? You hate being left out of the loop, and want to know what your end goal is going to be. You are someone who works on tasks until they are finished, and love to see the results of your hard work. You are the type of person who would love running your own business, and would HATE working an assembly line.
Most of you probably fit into this category. Nellie certainly does. Who else would want the job of thinking up new projects, crafts, recipes, and whatever the heck else she does every day?! Only crazy people. She’s always moving and looking for interesting things to do or make. She wants something new, and hates having to follow through when work gets dull. She’s usually working on a dozen projects at the same time. And secretly she probably likes the thrill of looming deadlines. If you’re like her, you are a Creative Crazy.
To you, everything is a chance to be around people. And even if you mean to be organized, you fill your free moments with more conversations, interactions, and relationships; you never quite get to that organization stuff. Relationships are always more important than deadlines, cleaning up, or knowing where your toothbrush is. You probably can’t handle being alone for very long.
That’s me! (See above for list of crazy anal qualities).
Now for some organizational tricks that might help:
Post-Its: I LOVE POST-ITS! Seriously. They work for everyone. I use giant wall-sized ones for my lists, because I’m like that. But Big Picture People can use them really well for ideas and doodles. People People can post them around the bathroom mirror, on the fridge, at the front door, as quick reminders of important tasks (like buying toilet paper). And Creative Crazies can use them to make the only kind of calendar that they would ever actually use: a moveable post-it calendar! We really should be having Post-It sponsor this post, because if you gain nothing else from this, you should now realize your incredible need to buy post-its in bulk.
Whiteboard: After post-its, a whiteboard is probably your best investment. Even if you are able to organize nothing else, you will at least have a space where you can write down reminders, notes, and major To Dos. Make sure you erase things as you go along.
Lose the Desk: That’s right. A desk, particularly for your Creative Crazies, can actually make you LESS organized. You throw something on your desk and lose track of it. You sit down at your desk to work and don’t get anything done. You take up valuable real estate for a desk that never really gets used. Toss it. Or repurpose it. Create a space that you can move in, lay everything out, and re-arrange as you get tired of the same old. Your living room floor might work. Or if you have a large dining room table, that might work as well. Plus, both those spaces will require that you at least throw all the stuff you’ve been working on into a bin/pile when you are done.
Create Areas: Sure, having a place for each individual item is probably ideal. But that isn’t the world you live in. When was the last time you seriously had a space for EVERY SINGLE THING in your office? … that’s what I thought. And that means there are always a few things floating around causing you problems and stress. Get rid of that by creating areas for your work, crafts, sewing, etc. Earmark a closet for your sewing things. Maybe you have a dark corner somewhere that can be for random stuff you just don’t have a place for yet. Could you use an old dresser for all of your paperwork? When you think this way, everything ends up with a pseudo-place it belongs, and you spend a lot less time trying to force your projects to fit into places they really don’t belong.
Bins: Forget folders and files. They’re useless. Go with bins. Label them vaguely (and non-permanently if possible) with labels like “office papers” or “paint stuff” or “random parts for things around the house”. You’ll use them all the time, and things will have a place.
Duplicates: Especially helpful for you People People, duplicates can relieve some stress. Anytime you print an important paper, or one your going to need often, print 2. Put one away somewhere, and keep the other handy while you work on it. When you lose the one you’re working with, you’ll have a second. This principle is also helpful with tape, scissors, coffee mugs, etc.
Large monthly calendar: Try a desk-sized one, or a re-usable whiteboard version for your wall. This type of calendar will let you Big Picture People see a larger segment of your time, which will motivate you to keep writing things down.
Break Time!: Our brain, no matter our organizational style, needs frequent breaks. About once every half hour. Your break can just be a coffee refill, a few minutes of stretching, or a few moments catching up on Facebook. This step-away will give your brain the chance to refocus and accomplish the task at hand much more quickly and effectively.