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A Place for Your Stuff - George Carlin

Getting Organized in the Era of Endless

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Posts Tagged ‘organizing’

Closure

Friday, November 25, 2011 @ 11:11 AM
posted by admin

In a world of endlessly available, unlimited information, it is not so easy to know when a job has been completed and has come to closure. If you’re doing research, how do you know when you’re done especially when there is so much more information ‘out there’ that could be incorporated into your findings? How in-depth or thorough does a report need to be before it can be considered done? Unlike other kinds of work, knowledge work requires judgment and experience to determine when you have reached the point of diminishing returns where additional work will not add enough value to justify the cost, effort and time. Closure has come to mean not so much when something is ‘finished” as when the tendency for a continuing effort toward a particular goal actually causes effectiveness to decline after a certain level of result has been achieved.

My client Marsha is in HR, charged with ‘prospecting for the best legal talent available’, one of those knowledge work kind of assignments that can go on forever. “I never knew when enough was enough. I attended recruitment fairs, interacted on social media, prospected at law school events…there just seemed no end to the work.” Meanwhile, all that time prospecting for a new attorney meant the open post continued to go unfilled, the other attorneys had to add more work to their plate, and the yet unhired attorney’s contributions was forestalled. “It’s just not worth it to the company for me to keep trying to find the perfect candidates. I’m done when I prospect what I think are the best 25 candidates a month.”

Another factor that affects closure (finishing or completing something) is the extent to which one is taken off task by an interruption or distraction Each day a typical office employee checks e-mail 50 times and uses instant messaging 77 times, according to RescueTime, a firm that develops time-management and tracking software. So defend your right to concentrate. If you truly need to close the door, turn off the cell, and leave email unattended for 3 hours, do it. A recent Harvard University study of 600 managers found that the most significant factor in their perception of their best work days were the days when they made progress, the days they were able to move work forward to closure. Their findings are in a new book called The Progress Principle by Teresa Amabile and Steven J. Kramer. I have a client who puts yellow crime scene tape across her cubby office opening. She doesn’t have a door but the message is clear. Don’t disturb her till the tape comes down. Many companies have a “no devices in this meetings” policy. Find a place to hide where you can concentrate.

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“I Was Here” – A Universal Organizing Principle

Wednesday, March 9, 2011 @ 12:03 PM
posted by admin

I recently traveled to The Netherlands to address organizers from throughout the region. In Amsterdam, a city crisscrossed by small bridges over canals, I saw graffiti, in particular the ubiquitous “I was here” post written in Dutch. I’ve seen that graffiti expression in every city I have ever been in. One day I was organizing with Mary, a chronically disorganized retired teacher. Teachers have lots of excess stuff, especially older teachers who entered their careers before the internet was commonly utilized. Like many disorganized people, Mary has a lot of incomplete projects. She has kept a great deal of teaching materials now obsolete. She has saved student essays and writing projects, and hundreds of magazines about teachers.  While we were rummaging through her stuff,  I was reminded of that graffiti.

I believe that some people with lots of clutter find it difficult to discard because tossing it out undermines the sentiment “I was here.” I believe they are saying, “I was here. I became a teacher. I influenced all these kids. I did not finish everything I set out to do, but I had dreams.” I believe what looks like simple stacks of papers and piles of stuff to others, is actually the human need to be acknowledged, to say “I was here.” At the conference in The Netherlands, I presented this idea and it was received very well. Perhaps this is a universal organizing principle, that we keep stuff that is representative of our hopes and dreams, efforts and even failures out of a human need to chronicle being here.

If you are similar to Mary, someone whose disorganization is tied up with memories and the past with no room for the future, let this idea sink in. Realize that your clutter makes perfect sense as an attempt to be acknowledged. Then, when you are ready, I encourage you to find a way to honor your dreams and efforts and achievements without drowning yourself in the remnants of them. For instance, Mary and I gathered a few items from her teaching career: a photo of her students, her “best teacher” award, and a framed essay from a favorite student. We put them together on a pretty table with fresh flowers. Then we tossed out all the obsolete materials, and made room for the next chapter in her life. It was not easy. It took time. We had to stop now and then for Mary to process the emotional reactions she had to opening up not just boxes, but memories. She needed to tell stories and relive the past a bit. And retirement, the ending of a an entire career can be tough. But it was worth it. “I can move on now. I’m ready for the next chapter of my life”, Mary observed when we’d gotten things in better order.

You can find more organizing methods like this one that are compassionate and non-judgmental in Conquering Chronic Disorganization . And I look forward to hearing from you on what you might think about the relationship between universal needs and organization/disorganization.

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