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How We Get Things Done Around Here – Organizing Digital Natives

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I was organizing a family of digital natives (DN) the other day. DN’s are a growing tribe in the US, families who grew up on the computer. Technology is so generation-compressing that the youngest daughter uses gadgets and apps her college-bound sister is unfamiliar with. The parents, technically not digital natives, but darn close, cannot recall a time when computers were not a part of their lives. “I never typed a term paper or balanced a check book manually. My chores have always been aided by computers. I’ve had the internet in my pocket since the kids were born”, notes Mom. Generations no longer span 20 years. Nor are they simply parent/child-oriented. In fact, generations are no longer even defined as shared experiences of a cohort group. The impact of technology is so strong it compresses generations. For instance, in late 2009 teens sent and received about 10 text messages for every waking non-school hour. Their older siblings, not their parents mind you, but their older brothers and sisters sent half as many. Child-based social networks are increasing giving rise to a mini-generation sure to differ from preteen siblings.

Even with all the technology, the family still suffers from what I call “time displacement”. Time spent on video games, texting, and surfing the web displaces family time. “We rarely eat together and when we do, everyone has their iPhone out.” Meanwhile, non-virtual chores are not getting done such as the kid’s cleaning their rooms, or the parent’s changing the oil in the car. Taking a page (or actually several pages!) from my new book co-authored with Allison Carter, Sync or Swim: 201 Organizing Tips You Need to Survive the Currents of Change, we created a “How We Get Things Done Around Here” manual. It’s a web-based calendar built on Google that details who has to do what and when it needs to be done. It is searchable by keyword with links to a description of each chore with more detail how to get it done, and it has built-in reminders synced to everyone iPhone. Not so long ago, a big family calendar on the fridge did the trick, and that still works for families with really young children, people who need visual rather than instruction-based information, or families that are not very mobile.

The second step for this time-displaced family was setting up device-free face time. “We have dinner together just once a week, but it’s the real deal. Everyone helps shop, cook, and choose the menu. We sit down together and talk undistracted, about school and the news. Then we all clean up. Magic!” notes Mom.

Don’t hesitate to contact a professional organizer (especially a digital native professional organizer) if your family needs help getting organized and supporting family life.

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