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Getting Organized in the Era of Endless

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Archive for the ‘Time management’ Category

Post-Clock Time Management© – Part III

Thursday, July 30, 2015 @ 06:07 AM
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Post-Time Clock Management©: Part III

Photo Credit: graphic stock.com

Unless the Earth changes its path around the Sun, it looks like 24 hours is going to be a pretty hardcore determinant of the partitions of time into days, hours and minutes, unless, of course, you are a zebrafish larva. Scientists say it has a gene that can be manipulated to change the larva’s circadian rhythms essentially extending the larva’s day. For the rest of us the breakthrough in time management is not that time can suddenly be recalibrated, but that the dictatorship of the clock holds less sway.

JM, a Princeton-based ADD coach, works to the beat of a non-clock drum. Without looking at the clock or using a to-do list, JM gets things done all day long and stays on time. “I know what kind of activities I do best throughout the day. From 6:30-8:30 a.m. without fail, I exercise, walk or swim. I also use that time to rehearse my day in my head.   From 8:30- 10:30 I’m at the computer “eating the frog first.” JM also uses her magnificent working memory, kinesthetic memory and visual memory, as well as techniques like memory castles. “When I do errands on my commute, I map out in my mind the actual geography of my errands and rehearse them mentally so I do them in the most efficient way possible. In fact, I visualize my whole day in my head, kind of like a movie. I can actually picture myself moving through my day.” JM sees clients from 1-5 pm, then does wrap up from 5-6 pm. Afterwards it’s dinner, chores, and clean-up before she heads to bed. “I don’t need a schedule because I already know what I’m doing during certain times of the day; I call it ‘automaticity’.”

Susan Lannis has another name for it: time awareness. Lannis, who calls herself ‘the Time Liberator’, asserts that, “Time is becoming liberated from the clock because technology has released us from doing things face-to-face, in the same space at the same time as others.” She believes we are increasingly free to work in rhythm with time’s natural pulse. “Awareness of our natural pulse will replace time management,” Lannis claims. The pulse of time has four beats (my terminology, not Lannis’). In the first beat, we expend energy and create. We “hold up” a bit on the second beat, which Lannis characterizes as ‘evaluative.’ The third beat is a ‘gathering-in’ or a resting called a “contraction” followed by a fourth beat, another hold, as we prepare for the next pulse of creativity. Lannis’ book Time Awareness is due for publication at the end of 2015.

Recognizing that the nature of work is different in our digital society than in previous clock-oriented eras, some corporations are developing post-clock models, such as allowing employees to get paid for results rather than by the hour. If you accomplish your results in less than a workweek, you’re done working for the week; the Earth and Sun be damned! Thomas Merton said “… we should stop working, not for the purpose of recovering one’s lost strength and becoming fit for the forthcoming labor….but for a Sabbath, a day for the sake of life.” In the post-clock society, when work is untethered from the clock, walls, bosses, geography and proximity, it is easy to reinvest our productivity gains into more work. We should instead strive to invest it into rest and leisure for “the sake of life.” What could be more important?

Getting Organized in the Era of Endless by Judith Kolberg

If you want to learn more about how our world has changed into one full of infinite information, constant distractions and boundless stuff, I recommend my book Getting Organized in the Era of Endless: What to Do When Information, Interruption, Work and Stuff are Endless But Time is Not.

 

Other Posts You Might Enjoy

Future Sense and the Rise of Time Management: Part I

Time Management and War: Part II

 

Calendar of Upcoming Organizing Events

Virtual Chapter of NAPO – August 10, 2015.

Judith Kolberg will present “Creating Your Digital Estate Plan”. The one-hour presentation will address how to protect your “information afterlife” including transferring digital information to your executor, accounting for digital assets in your estate, and keeping digital mischief-makers out of your stuff.

Decatur Book Festival – September 5-6, 2015, Decatur, GA – Join Judith Kolberg and Squall Press at the Decatur Book Festival in the Get Organized booth #424 Saturday, Sept. 5   10-6 PM and Sunday, Sept. 6   12-6 PM. Buy deeply discounted books and sign up for organizing services.

Institute for Challenging Disorganization (ICD) Annual Conference and Exhibition – September 17-19, 2015, Cleveland, OH.

National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) Annual Conference and Exhibition. May 18-21, 2016, Atlanta, GA

Institute for Challenging Disorganization (ICD) Annual Conference and Exhibition – September 17-19, 2015, Cleveland, OH.

 

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Time Management and War: Part II

Thursday, July 9, 2015 @ 06:07 AM
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Time Management and War: Part II from Judith Kolberg | fileheads.net

I misspoke. This is a blog in three parts, not the two parts I originally thought. Part I is available here. This is Part II. Part III is called ‘Post-Clock Time Management’ but in order to have it make sense, I need to finish up the history of time management in Part II below. So bear with me as I lay the groundwork for the exciting Part III ‘Post-Clock Time Management.’  

In the 1920s the country prospered. The enormous post-WWI working age population clocked in at factories, meat packing plants and offices, but underlying economic dynamics would soon result in the Great Depression. Fully 25% of the population would be off the clock, jobless, aimless, and without the structure of normal modern life. So deeply felt were the economizing effects of the Depression that the children of the children of the Depression, the Baby Boomers, live by a waste-not-want-not ethic even in a time of prosperity. The massive spending necessary to build the industrial-military complex for WWII finally got people back on the clock. Even kids were on the clock as public schooling exploded with its tight classroom schedule. There’s nothing like the regimentation of a couple of wars to teach an entire society the time-saving power of routines. People worked 9 – 5, brushed their teeth twice daily, a habit brought back by returning soldiers, ate fish on Fridays and did the laundry on Wednesdays.

Time and Fast and Discretionary Time

The most significant development in the management of time in the 1950s was the integration of fast into daily life. The expectation of how quickly it should take to complete mundane household tasks changed. Electric blenders took the place of mixing bowls, vacuum cleaners replaced brooms and the washer and dryer moved into the house. TV taught us about the time management skill of dealing with distraction as many a seasoned cook burned the roast more than once distracted by the Ed Sullivan Show. Children would neglect homework watching television until the invention of TV dinners.

The word “instant” entered the popular lexicon when John Glenn orbited the Earth drinking an instant breakfast drink called Tang. Rockets let the fast genie out of the bottle forever. In the 1960s, automobiles, among the most efficient time-saving device ever created, were owned by the masses and specifically designed to go faster on America’s newly built highways with their off-ramps to fast-food. Multitasking, another time management skill, was taught to us by the automobile as we drove, listened to the radio, screamed at a backseat full of kids, rolled down the window at McDonalds and ate all at the same time. But it was still safer than the Bluetooth, texting, and driving of the new century that would nearly kill us.

For the first time in decades, people had discretionary time. Families vacationed. Employees enjoyed personal days off. Women entered the labor force in unprecedented numbers, creating more wealth and presenting a persistent time management dilemma characterized as balancing work and home. In 1969, we landed on the moon and that was better than drugs, sex and rock and roll. The civil rights movement and the anti-war movement inspired the women’s rights movement and the gay movement. People spent their time not just on making money but on raising their baby-booming families, raising their consciousness and raising the bar on empowerment of all stripes.

Knowledge Work and Time Management

During the 1970s the knowledge worker (KW) emerged. A knowledge worker is someone who creates value by applying judgment to his or her work, not just someone who labors to finish a prescribed task by the hour. The judgment needed was often how to use one’s time to optimize productivity. Sitting at a computer the KW of the 1970s had numerous responsibilities and tools to manage, including multiple telephones that had to be answered because there was no voicemail. Still, it was a relatively disconnected world, and the array of competing tasks was much smaller than it is today. One could still manage their time and actually get something done from beginning to end.

Electronic mail made its appearance, drastically cutting down the interruption of people dropping by the office unannounced. While it decreased long-winded phone calls, email also upped the ante on response time. A prospective client who requested a proposal by mail could expect it in a week. A response to an email request for a proposal shortened it to three days, then two. A phone message could still be courteously responded to in a day. Email required an answer within hours, thus response time was totally revolutionized.

Time Management, Values and Mobility

With all the lip service paid to knowledge work, judged by value and productivity rather than clock-time devotion, people began to work ridiculously long hours. In the 1980s, US corporations faced intense foreign competition and a slowing domestic market. Millions of middle managers were laid off and big business turned to consultants like the Franklin Institute to get more productivity out of a smaller workforce. The Franklin Institute (now called Franklin Covey) is based on Benjamin Franklin’s philosophy that happiness and inner peace do not come from owning things, but from identifying what is important in one’s life. Covey embodied this principle in his 1989 publication, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Unlike the time management books that preceded it with their emphasis on clock-driven efficiencies of the industrial age, Covey’s self-help books connected the management of time with the personal clarification of one’s life purposes, missions, goals and values. Provided with a two pound, three-ring binder, employees dutifully filled out the Day Planner’s planning aids, monthly and annual calendars, personal time management assessments, goal clarifications and personal mission statements to better align their time with their goals even while the work week swelled to over 40 hours a week.

Users of the time management systems were on the move, in planes, on trains, and traveling between offices. Franklin responded with the Pocket Planner that was eventually replaced by a personal digital assistant, most popularly the Blackberry. Devices proliferated and “work anywhere, anytime” was becoming a reality. Desktop computers at work and home were as standard as TVs. Email jumped the corporate fence to the family. Cell phones the size of cats appeared on the scene though without an internet connection.

Time and the Turn of the Century and Beyond

Digital society and the devices that appoint it pose several time management challenges, especially devices with screens. They deliver unmatched productivity, which simply means getting more done in less time. They also gobble up time to generate and respond to texts, tweets, calls, pings, beeps, tags, blogs, comments, friends, fans, emails and other activities associated with ever-expanding, interactive communication and connectivity. The devices meant to help us manage our time sometimes overwhelm us. In 2008, Americans talked, viewed, and listened to media, excluding the workplace, for 1.3 trillion hours, an average of 11 hours per person per day. By 2012, total consumption had increased to 1.46 trillion hours, or an average 13.6 hours per person per day. Time spent on digital activities displaces non-digital, healthful activities like family dinners, socializing with friends, physical exercise, being outdoors, real-time dating, sleep and sex with a real person. Because technology has made it possible to work without walls, bosses, and without regard for geography or time zones, the expectation of work has changed. In the words of Harold Taylor, a foremost authority on time management, “…the time-savings gained by technology have been offset by increases in complexity, choices, interruptions, expectations, stress, delays and errors.”

 

If you want to learn more about how our world has changed into one full of infinite information, constant distractions and boundless stuff, I recommend my book Getting Organized in the Era of Endless: What to Do When Information, Interruption, Work and Stuff are Endless But Time is Not.

 

Other Posts You Might Enjoy

The New Done

What Neuroscience tells us about Getting Organized

 

Calendar of Upcoming Organizing Events

Virtual Chapter of NAPO – August 10, 2015.

Judith Kolberg will present “Creating Your Digital Estate Plan”. The one-hour presentation will address how to protect your “information afterlife” including transferring digital information to your executor, accounting for digital assets in your estate, and keeping digital mischief-makers out of your stuff.

Institute for Challenging Disorganization (ICD) Annual Conference and Exhibition – September 17-19, 2015, Cleveland, OH.

National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) Annual Conference and Exhibition. May 18-21, 2016, Atlanta, GA

 

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Future Sense and the Rise of Time Management: Part I

Tuesday, June 23, 2015 @ 08:06 AM
posted by admin

The Rise of Time Management | Judith Kolberg, fileheads.net

 

I’m writing this blog in two parts because I feel the new, exciting developments in time management that I really want to write about deserve a historical context. If you hate history, you’ll find Part I a bore. Stand-by for Part II!

In prehistoric society, tomorrow always came, though not everybody survived to see it. An occasional eclipse would shake everyone’s faith about whether the sun would ever shine again, but a few hundred human sacrifices would set everything right. Slowly, a kind of involuntary shaping of the homo-sapien sub-conscious was taking place: a subliminal, rudimentary path towards planning based on future-sense. “As an inherent force in nature and within human beings, planning assumes great significance. It may be the most effective force … and among the most basic compulsions in man,” writes Melville Branch, author of The Planning Imperative in Human Behavior. Future-sense became hard-wired into human beings.

The To-Do List

The organizing skill of planning, and the tools that go with it, the calendar, the schedule and the unsung hero of time management, the to-do list, took their place in history. Amenemhat, the great clerk of the Pharaohs, would use a calendar to chart the phases of the moon and the passage of seasons. But the calendar was past-oriented, commemorating events of the past that tended to repeat. Humans’ mental ability to plan, and their faith in the future, gave rise to a revolutionary planning instrument, the to-do list. No longer did humans merely record, track, or tally events of the past and present. They represented actions to be accomplished in the future.

The Schedule

Agrarian society still had most of us awake with the sun and asleep at sunset in accordance with our circadian rhythms. By the Middle Ages, quality of life improved (unless you were a debtor, a Jew, or had the Black Plague.) Increasingly, people needed to know what time it was. Peasants and farmers could still divide their day by the passage of the sun, but priests and monks who played an active role in village life were responsible for performing daily rituals and communal prayer. This was no small deed. Entire villages had to come together to pray at various times of the day and the monks themselves needed to gather for prayer seven times a day between midnight and lights-out at 9 PM. The to-do list was a beautiful thing but sixth century Benedictine monks would trump it by inventing the schedule.

Much of the scheduling of village and pastoral life was accompanied by bell ringing. Gradually, the schedule seeped out of the monastery and into secular society. The rising merchant class lent itself well to scheduling. There were schedules for ship departures and arrivals, schedules of loading times, schedules for the shifts of labor, schedules for payments due, and schedules for hanging people who missed that deadline.

Clock Time

Life synchronized to bells soon translated nicely into clock-time. Monastic communities kept track of the time by various means including water clocks, sundials, astrolabes, and well-trained body clocks from years of practice. The great race to mechanize timekeeping was on. The first truly mechanical clock appeared late in the thirteenth century and just fifty years later most towns boasted a clock in the town square to regiment church services, regulate working hours, and allow craftsmen to bill by the hour. Time was not yet money because the medieval economy was still 85% subsistence agriculture, but the historical connection between time and money was emerging.

The Great Synchronization

Quality of life at the dawn of America’s Industrial Revolution improved by leaps and bounds. Food production soared, the spread of childhood diseases lessened and as a result, the population exploded. Huge numbers of people needed to be absorbed into the economy. The mass production conducted in factories and mills fit the bill. That infernal bell ringing of the medieval towns and honed clock-time enabled what historian Lewis Mumford called “the great synchronization,” the beat of labor to the tempo of the assembly line. Eli Whitney’s musket assembly line used standardized and interchangeable parts, an innovation that became the gold standard for economizing time until a man named Henry Ford raised the efficiency bar even higher.

Taylorism (Frederick, not Harold)

Frederick Winslow Taylor, meanwhile, figured out how to squeeze every last bit of productivity out of Americans. Taylor’s Principles of Scientific Management, published in 1911, took getting organized to new heights. “Conservation of our national resources is only preliminary to the larger question of national efficiency, the great loss which the whole country is suffering through inefficiency in almost all of our daily acts,” Taylor maintained. “Efficiency experts” with a stopwatch and clipboard standardized every movement of the factory workers to achieve maximize output. Taylor’s principles of scientific management were applied to parenting, home management, government and many areas of life. But Taylorism pushed efficiency too far. Maximizing effect and minimizing effort was a sound goal, but humans are not machines. People revolted against the dehumanizing nature of scientific management which eventually gave rise to labor unions. Nonetheless, scientific management left a great legacy to the history of getting organized including documenting processes, improving the transfer of knowledge among workers, and the evolution of what became known as “best practices.”

The period from World War I through the Roaring Twenties was an era marked by unprecedented industrial growth and modernization. The San Francisco 1915 World’s Fair featured a small model of Henry Ford’s assembly line that turned out one car every 10 minutes for three hours every afternoon. At home the vacuum cleaner, electric iron, and refrigerator helped to economize time. Routines were common: fish dinners on Friday, laundry day on Wednesday, and spring cleaning always began May 1st, regardless of the official start of the season. Although it would not become the law of the land until 1938, many employers were beginning to observe the 40-hour work week based on research that productivity actually declined after 40 hours. Leisure time was now official!

In the next post, I’ll finish off clock-time and then talk about post-clock time theories of time management.

If you want to learn more about how our world has changed into one full of infinite information, constant distractions and boundless stuff, I recommend my book Getting Organized in the Era of Endless: What to Do When Information, Interruption, Work and Stuff are Endless But Time is Not.

 

Other Posts You Might Enjoy

The Starbucks Effect

The New Done

CALENDAR OF UPCOMING ORGANIZING EVENTS

Northern New Jersey Chapter of NAPO –  June 22, 2015.

Judith Kolberg will present “Creating Your Digital Estate Plan”. The one-hour presentation will address how to protect your “information afterlife” including transferring digital information to your executor, accounting for digital assets in your estate, and keeping digital mischief-makers out of your stuff.

Virtual Chapter of NAPO – August 10, 2015.

Judith Kolberg will present “Creating Your Digital Estate Plan”. The one-hour presentation will address how to protect your “information afterlife” including transferring digital information to your executor, accounting for digital assets in your estate, and keeping digital mischief-makers out of your stuff.

Institute for Challenging Disorganization (ICD) Annual Conference and Exhibition – September 17-19, 2015, Cleveland, OH.

National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) Annual Conference and Exhibition. May 18-21, 2016, Atlanta, GA

 

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What Neuroscience tells us about Getting Organized

Monday, October 20, 2014 @ 10:10 AM
posted by admin

Excerpt from the Washington Post

We’ve all heard the conventional wisdom for better managing our time and organizing our professional and personal lives. Don’t try to multitask. Turn the email and Facebook alerts off to help stay focused. Make separate to-do lists for tasks that require a few minutes, a few hours and long-term planning.

But what’s grounded in real evidence and what’s not? In his new book The Organized Mind, Daniel Levitin — a McGill University professor of psychology and behavioral neuroscience — explores how having a basic understanding of the way the brain works can help us think about organizing our homes, our businesses, our time and even our schools in an age of information overload.

Click here to read the interview with Levitin about why multi-tasking never works, what images of good leaders’ brains actually look like, and why email and Twitter are so incredibly addicting.

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An Interview With Judith Kolberg

Friday, September 20, 2013 @ 11:09 AM
posted by admin

BY CLUTTER INTERRUPTED  ·  SEPTEMBER 18, 2013

Did you know…

  • Judith Kolberg’s books have sold over a quarter million copies.
  • There is a sheik in Saudi Arabia who orders many of Judith Kolberg’s books every year.
  • The Institute for Challenging Disorganization (ICD) has a “Judith Kolberg” Award.
  • Judith enjoys woods, oceans and mountains far from her computer.

Clutter Interrupted Radio episode #120 is about adults with chronic disorganization and/or ADD. Judith gives fascinating and helpful information that gives us a sense of hope as she reassures us that there is no shame in chronic disorganization and ADD. She shares strategies and little tricks to implement into your daily life that will help your situation.

You are reading this at this time in your life for a reason!

Click here to hear the interview.

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Newly Released Book by Judith Kolberg

Monday, May 20, 2013 @ 01:05 PM
posted by admin

“Getting Organized in the Era of Endless”

We live in the Era of Endless, confronted by infinite information, incessant interruptions, constant distractions, unending work, and boundless stuff. All this ‘endlessness’ butts up against the one thing that remains intractably finite – TIME. In this book you will find brand new, simple, and effective organizing strategies and solutions appropriate to the Era of Endless. Manage the excesses and downside of endless information, interruption, work, and stuff! And reclaim your time!

Order your book today.

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Decision-Making in the Era of Endless

Monday, August 6, 2012 @ 02:08 PM
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Decision-making is a great life skill. Decisions move myriad little daily tasks along to accomplishment, allow us to make progress on complex projects, and keep us on the path toward goal achievement.

Chronically disorganized (CD) people love the thrill of the hunt for information to help them make a decision, but the activity of actually making decisions — not so much of a thrill there. And now that we are living in the era of endless information, the hunt for information can undermine decision-making even more. Truly, we can search the bottomless pit of information endlessly and still there would be more.

Information Clutter

“I’ve got to decide what my students need to read each semester,” says “Lisa,” a college professor. Lisa prepares her students’ reading list by reading academic journal articles, reviewing e-books, watching videos, listening to podcasts, and reading blogs.

“I love this part, the actual hunting down of information,” Lisa says. “It’s like being on a safari.” She’s so afraid she’ll miss something vital to her students’ education that she endlessly prepares right up to the deadline when the course curriculum and reading list are due. “I run out of time to decide what to include and exclude because I get so caught up in the search. It’s always so stressful.”

Another woman spends as much time researching a new backpack for her child as she does his summer camp.

Quoting psychologist Kent Berridge in an article on Slate, Emily Yoffe writes, “[Information addicts] become obsessively driven to seek [a] reward [on the Internet], even as the reward itself becomes progressively less rewarding once obtained. … [W]e find ourselves letting one Google search lead to another. … ‘[T]he consumption renews the appetite.’

Just sitting in front of a screen can be a burst of a pleasurable mood for some of our clients (a “dopamine squirt,” I’ve heard it called). And then there is all that wonderful “serendipity information,” the accidental and incidental good stuff our chronically disorganized clients encounter on the way to what it is they are looking for.

Are We Done Yet?

Endless information can also cause some people to freeze altogether when it comes to decisions. Many people, CD or not, often choose the default 401(k) plan at work or automatically renew a health insurance policy without considering alternatives because “there is just too much information.”

Endlessly adding data, more information, and inputs leaves us precious little time to stand back; and it is this standing-back, this bit of pull-back, that allows us a little cognitive space for judgment to be applied so we can tell if we’re “done.” Being done is increasingly a moving target when comprehensive information knows no bounds and there are so many decisions to make.

So what are some organizational moves to enhance your ability to make decisions?

  • Research/search in proportion to the consequences or risk. A wrong decision about a backpack has much less consequence than a summer camp, so devote less time to it and be a little more proportional in time and effort based on the risk involved.
  • Set “done” or “enough” ahead of time. Set a quantitative limit (rather than a qualitative limit) to your informational pursuits (for example, three hours of research, three different brands of backpacks, and five camp selections).
  • Pull-back. After amassing information for a project or assignment, plan time to pull back, assess what you have, figure out what’s missing, and fill in the gaps, rather than just going and going.
  • Decision-making “freeze” and default decision-making can be the result of a deadline’s approach. Add more lead time to your projects. It may be hard to estimate how long it takes to search and digest information.
  • Offload serendipity information and save it to the side to look at later so you won’t be distracted from the main search, research, or informational hunt.

And finally, be at peace with your decisions. Making decisions large and small, living with those decisions, and moving onto the next decision is healthy.

If you are paralyzed by decision-making, live in fear of making a wrong decision, or are obsessed about finding just the right information, seek the advice of an experienced ICD professional organizer or a counselor with anxiety specialization.

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Organizing In Other Countries

Sunday, April 15, 2012 @ 06:04 PM
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Organization and Quality of Life

             Organization is a little like art. We may not always know how to describe it but we know it when we see it. Without ‘organization’ the quality of our lives is diminished. I have been privileged, as a public speaker to travel to Japan and The Netherlands. I have had organizing clients in Bermuda and Costa Rica. And I’ve corresponded regularly with readers of my books in Korea, Brussels, England and Saudi Arabia. Everyone I have spoken with shares the view that quality of life and organization are paired.  “An organizer is uniquely able to influence a client on reaching goals, managing stress, and getting things done” notes Mayumi Takahari, President of the Japanese Association of Life Organizers. Reaching goals, managing stress, and enhancing productivity are at the very heart of a good quality of life. My Bermuda real estate client said, “I want to conduct my business efficiently but not lose sight of old ways that bring us quality of life in Bermuda.” In organizing terms, that meant setting up office hours rather than permitting constant interruptions, and developing routines at work so her fine 18th century home could be dedicated to family and leisure.

Organization and Demographic Shifts    

            The Japanese are known for living and working efficiently in small spaces. The average home is only 983 square feet. They enjoy the planet’s longest life span. It is common to see active 80 and 90-year olds. There are also many baby boomers. Elderly Japanese are increasingly moving into senior community homes. Many middle-age boomers no longer want their parent’s possessions. “Middle aged people and younger prefer to shop at IKEA”, my Japanese/American translator told me. Coping with multi-generational stuff that is no longer wanted or handed-down is an example of how professional organizers are smoothing out these demographic shifts. Demographics in The Netherlands are also shifting. It is common for both household adults to be working. Boomers are sandwiched between the needs of their grown children and elderly parents just like in the US. Affordable housing is in very short supply. And, more and more people are working from home as corporations outsource. Here too, organizers smooth the way helping families and businesses manage projects, time, clutter and space.

 Organizing Makes The World Greener

             The rain forests of Costa Rica with ozone-filled clouds wafting past 2,000 year old trees and bizarrely colored frogs jumping at your feet can turn anyone into an environmentalist. My client, a professor at a Costa Rican university, and I traveled miles to take waste paper from her office to a trade school where it is combined with banana by-products and pressed it into another generation of paper. Recycling, reusing and repurposing is important in small countries were landfills are not an alternative. Even small towns in Japan have modest recycling centers. Charitable-giving, with its roots in the Christian church, is not a big part of Japanese culture. In Holland these charitable thrift stores are common and known as ‘kringloopwinkels.’ “In the Netherlands we are known for frugality”, a leading organizer told me. “Our clients tend to want certain objects completely used up before they are willing to discard them.” Yard sales and garage sales are strictly a US tradition, though flea markets have there origin in Europe. My Dutch colleagues were unfamiliar with consignments stores but Tokyo touts high-end, designer brand consignment stores. Every country has its own reuse, repurpose and recycle methods.  

Organizing Is Universal and Personal At the Same Time

             Organizing has universal appeal, but it is still a fairly personal activity. This is very beneficial to chronically disorganized clients who require one to one assistance. A Japanese organizer asked me, “I am patient while my client learns the organizing process. I believe it is better to wait than rush her. However, it means the organizing takes a very long time. Can you tell me how to manage a client who works so slowly?” Organizers everywhere confront these issues with grace and compassion. The Netherlands, with its long tradition of psychology (think Freud) makes it easy for organizers to connect how the mind works to how people organize. If you are diagnosed with ADD you can get a ‘persoonsgebonden’, a personal budget from the government for services, including organizing services. In Japan, an obstacle to organizing like a neurological disorder or a learning difference might still be considered a personal failing though thanks in part to professional organizers, that is changing. In Bermuda, Costa Rica, and many countries throughout the world, asking for organizing support carries a stigma. Organizers are playing a role in helping to bring that stigma to an end.

 —-This article originally appeared in the March/April 2012 issue of NAPO News.

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How To ‘Stop’ In an Era of Endless

Tuesday, April 10, 2012 @ 06:04 AM
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My client, Lisa does not know how to stop. Lisa is a 39-year old university professor.  Like most professors, when it is time to prepare her student’s reading list, she reviews hundreds of books and academic journal articles. That was overwhelming enough, but to ‘keep up’ now, she also has to go through videos, podcasts, and blogs. “I’m afraid I’ll miss something really vital to their education”, Lisa says. She researches and prepares, prepares and researches until the final deadline for submitting the reading list looms close and large. “I have no idea when to stop because I have no idea when I’m done,” Lisa confesses.

It’s a common complaint these days. In the era of endless, information is infinite, but time is not. Time is finite. So at some point quantity has to be qualified.  What is a sufficient quantity to sift thru? How much is enough to qualitatively satisfy a need? It’s increasingly difficult to know.  Too Big To Know by David Weinberger traces the history of facts as they evolved from scarce, isolated foundations of finite bodies of knowledge to the present day where knowledge and facts are common, group-oriented, and readily available.  The concept of rare has gone away in an era of endless when things are equally and endlessly available.

If you find it difficult to stop, here are some tactics you can use:

  • Practice the Law of Diminishing Returns which is the tendency for a continuing effort toward a particular goal to decline in effectiveness after a certain level of result has been achieved. Or, as a client in Houston once put it, Stop when the lemonade ain’t worth the squeeze.

My client Debra is an HR director for a law firm. Her job is to find qualified prospective attorneys to work for the firm. The longer she keeps looking, the more the open post continues to go unfulfilled. The other attorneys have to add more work to their plate to cover for the unfulfilled position, and the as-yet unhired attorney’s contributions are forestalled. Debra says, “It’s just not worth it to the company for me to keep going and going and going with my recruitment efforts.”

  • Spell ‘done’ out ahead of time. Debra decided to prospect the 10 best candidates as a result of her best efforts exerted over 30 days. Any more effort applied actually diminishes the return.
  • Keep in mind that progress towards closure is a quality of life issue. It is good for your mental health to complete things. David Allen, of Getting Things Done fame rightly observes that, “When we spend a lot of psychic energy on half-closed loops, on things left undone, we waste time and energy that could be put to better use elsewhere.”
  • Ask yourself, outloud, what are the 2 things I can do right now to bring this task/project to closure, to get it off my to do list? It might be to make a call, find something on the web, get a question answered, or take even a small action towards closure.
  • Close before you open especially in the morning.  Finishing something early in the day builds a “meaning reservoir”, an expert on obsessive behavior once told me. Completing just one thing early in the day can give meaning to the entire day.
  • Focus on one or two big wins for the day.
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New Classes of Information

Tuesday, March 27, 2012 @ 09:03 AM
posted by admin

Are you confused about what information to keep? How to keep it and for how long? Digital society has given rise to entirely new classes of information that require us to make more and more deliberate us decisions about our ‘stuff’. If you don’t decide, you let the deluge of information overwhelm you. Consider bank statements, for instance. Hard copy or digital or both? Hard copy gives you that ease of viewing without ever being near a computer (assuming your bank statements are well-organized), and are permanent unless you have a major fire in your home but they do take up space. Digital copies are neatly organized and invisibly stored but only accessible with a computer. Also, many banks are putting a limit on how long they’ll keep your digital data. Both versions, digital and hard, seems a bit exccessive. And so it goes, for every document and bit of information you encounter.

New Classes of Information                          Sample______________________

Born digital/stays digital                 E-greeting cards 

Born digital/tangible twin set        Electronic legal document, printed and signed

Born digital/selective tangible       E-mail

Born tangible/stays tangible           Greeting cards received by snail mail

Born tangible/digital twin set         Heritage photos with no negatives that are scanned

Born tangible/selective digital       Business cards

In the book Delete: The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age, the author, Viktor Mayer-Schonberger predicts photos and documents will soon come with self-determined expiration dates and the capacity to self-destruct. Remind anybody of Mission Impossible? Until then, I highley recommend, given our digital society, that you proactively determine which documents are in which class. Those decisions will then guide you about storage, retention and disposal. But if you’re still overwhelmed, contact a local professional organizer to give you a hand.

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