Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Getting Organized in Spite of Ourselves

I’ve mentioned before that I’m a little compulsive about neatness, particularly where my work spaces are concerned. That wasn’t always the case; I was as messy as the average teenager. Once I became a full-time worker bee, however, I realized that being organized meant being able to find the things I needed to do my job quickly and easily, and ever since I’ve had offices neat enough for co-workers to call me “Felix” – and people dying to hire me for my efficient ways.

One of the main reasons my current boss hired me, in fact, was to help her get organized, and we’ve made great strides together so far. However, I’ve tended to organize things in ways that make sense to me, and her brain frequently doesn’t work the same way. I’m supposed to be evaluating CRM (client relationship management) software now, but I’m afraid of not picking the right long-term solution for her. After all, what good will it do her if I set up everything to suit myself and then leave a year down the road?

That’s why this week I lent her my go-to book on organizing theory, How to be Organized in Spite of Yourself by Sunny Schlenger and Roberta Roasch. I believe I’m on my fourth copy; I keep giving it to friends who hang onto it forever. The authors’ theory is that organization schemes only succeed when they make sense to the user and work with his or her internal organizational preferences.

What does that mean? Well, for example, some people (like me) are happiest when their desks are clean and all their “stuff” is tucked away out of sight. Others, like a memorable former boss of mine, want everything out where they can see it; I often wondered whether she felt protected by the walls of paper she built around the perimeter of her desk. When that particular boss went out on an extended sick leave I had to manage her desk during her absence; it was clean when she returned and covered in its usual stacks of correspondence by the very next morning. I felt pressured by her mountain of paper; she felt naked without it. Obviously the same paper-processing procedures couldn’t work for both of us.
The authors of How to be Organized… first ask the reader to take a number of tests to identify his or her organization style(s). The remainder of the book suggests the best techniques to use by style; the reader can read only the applicable chapters and skip the rest.

Even if my realtor friend won’t read the entire book, I’m asking her to take the tests so I will know just who I’m dealing with, and where our organizational efforts need to go from here.

“Organizing is what you do before you do something, so that when you do it, it is not all mixed up.” ~A.A. Milne

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