Are you organized?
It’s not uncommon to listen to people and realize they aren’t in touch with the reality of their situation. We all know the good-looking guy or beautiful gal who has no clue he or she is gorgeous. We all know people who are gifted in some way and don’t realize it because the skill comes naturally to them. “It’s no big deal” is their motto. You won’t be shocked to learn that I know people who are extremely organized and don’t recognize they have the skill. They miss the connection between the places where they are incredibly organized and the places where they simply haven’t applied the skill they use so beautifully elsewhere. Is this you? Let me introduce you to a client of mine and see if you identify with her situation.
My client Olivia works in finance. She has a relationship with numbers that I envy. Ask her to explain complex financial issues and she’ll break them down for you in an easy to comprehend way that will have you wondering how you missed the obvious. Spreadsheets are her friend. Take a trip with Olivia and her love of maps, incredible sense of direction and inquisitive mind come to the fore. She’d be the perfect professional tour guide. Ask Olivia to organize a project at work and she’ll have it all done in short order including complex flow charts she can’t imagine everyone not grasping with ease. Olivia has an extremely organized brain and way of dealing with life. That is until you look at her environment. It’s in chaos.
The woman who can make decisions out in the world with ease, accuracy and flair gets clutched when she crosses her own threshold. Intellectual accomplishment was more highly prized in her home of origin than a tidy sock drawer so as she acquired the skill of organizing she never thought to apply it to her physical environment. Let’s see if you are like Olivia and organized without realizing it. See how many “Yes! That’s me!” responses you have to the following questions:
• At work I always volunteer to spearhead new projects. I can listen to all the goals, details and requests and know exactly how to proceed.
• For our family vacation I am the one who does all the planning. I love to pour over guidebooks and maps and figure out the best attractions and the most desirable route.
• I love to clip coupons and shop sales. I never pay retail for anything especially big-ticket items. I even enjoy car shopping for friends: the research excites me!
• I’m a big craft person. I love to sew, needlepoint and quilt. I enjoy the whole process: picking out my project, shopping for the right products and making something unique.
• My home is in chaos but my volunteer projects are all in order. Why stop to organize my pantry or my clothes closet when there are children, dogs or wildlife in need of help?
• When it comes to refinancing a mortgage or filing taxes I am the go to person in my family. I love numbers because they are so logical! Numbers never lie.
• I can’t find a thing in my closet but boy is my music organized. I’m always working on new pieces for the piano (guitar, flute or whatever instrument you play).
• I live with stacks of paper but my exercise regime is fine-tuned! I love to practice (tennis, running, swimming or whatever sport you fancy). Who has time to organize my paper piles when I could be advancing in my sport?
I could go on but you get the point. Did you find yourself in one or two of these examples? As you read the list I hope the light of recognition went on and you thought of some aspect of your life that is very organized. In fact it’s organized because you love working with those elements. In every case a person is looking at the whole situation and then unconsciously working The Magic Formula to gain control and have the best experience. What is The Magic Formula? You Eliminate what you don’t need or want; you Categorize the elements or items you are keeping and then you Organize those categories so that the finished project looks beautiful, is easy to maintain based on your personality and is totally functional. Exactly how you work the Formula (the elements change but the steps never do) is described in detail in my book One Year to an Organized Life. You can make lasting changes in your environment over time and be the master of the skill of organizing if you follow my directions.
The Flip Side of the Coin
Every so often I run into a client or friend who thinks they are very organized when in fact they are far from it. Let me tell you about Carolyn. She lives in a chaotic whirl of stuff because there are simply not enough hours in the day to get everything done. You’ve heard of the full plate? Carolyn has an overflowing platter! Even an uber-organized person would have a difficult time fulfilling all of her commitments. Here are some of Carolyn’s habits that get her into trouble. See how many times you exclaim: “Me too!”
• Carolyn can’t say ‘No.’ If you ask her for anything or to do something the response will be ‘Yes!’
• She has no clue how long tasks take and so inappropriate blocks of time are set-aside for everything on her To Do list.
• Carolyn gets lost in the micro universe where even the tiniest detail must be fretted over for days. The house could be burning down around her and all Carolyn would know is that she has to scour the kitchen sink until it shines like new.
• Since there aren’t enough hours in the day to fulfill her commitments Carolyn is up till all hours of the night working on projects. Being sleep deprived and exhausted however takes a toll on her body so it takes twice as long to complete tasks and they are never done to the best of her ability.
• Carolyn has no sense of priorities. The most recent request or the least important are as likely to be at the top of her To Do list as the most urgent.
• If a simple task or project can be made complex, Carolyn will find a way to accomplish that goal. A five-minute task can take hours when entrusted to her care.
Do you see yourself in Carolyn? She’s a fairly common personality type. It gives her (unconscious) pleasure to complain about her workload and all the people who depend on her. When people look at her face they see the effects of sleep depravation and fast food. ‘Poor woman! She does so much for others!” If this is your story remember you are free to change it. Here are a few tips to get you started on the road to recovery from out of control co-dependency and low self-esteem:
• Learn to say ‘no’ and your ‘yes’ responses will be more valuable to those who ask for your help.
• Sit down and chart how much time your typical activities take you and then start eliminating the things that keep you up till 3 am.
• Delegate tasks to responsible, capable individuals and be a great mentor: explain in detail what you want and expect. Very often others ‘fail’ us because they don’t have a clear idea of what we need and want.
• Make a commitment to healthy food, moderate exercise and lots of water consumption. A well-fed, hydrated body and brain make better, faster decisions than a body and brain that are starved for nutrients. I say it all the time: decisions are the fuel that runs the Organizing Train.
• Finally ask yourself when and why you started playing the Martyr? Did you learn it in your home of origin or did it develop as a coping mechanism over time? This type of behavior sets us up to fail and disappoint others.
Take a more proactive route and be truly organized. It starts the first time you say ‘No!’ If you’re the person with no time I invite you to read The 8-Minute Organizer. It's the guide I wrote for those who want the results without making a big investment of time, money or energy. Once you get started you will wonder how or why you ever lived an over extended, self-destructive life. And if you’re a parent that’s not a lesson you want your kids to embrace.