Monday, January 17, 2011

Organization Speech, part 2

Another common piece of advice regarding organization is that we should prepare for the day the night before.

We’ve all heard that we should pack the backpacks & lunches, choose & maybe even layout our clothes, and gather all the necessary paperwork the night before to make the next day go smoothly.

I don’t know about you, but that’s a tough one for me to follow through on most of the time. Once we get dinner done and cleaned up, kid’s bathed, brushed and tucked in, all we want to do is have some quiet time to ourselves.

We may know it’s only going to take 15-20 minutes to actually get everything ready, but we tell ourselves we’ll have that time in the morning. By morning I’m usually questioning my sanity for not having those things completed, but then I stumbled upon a new way of looking at my day.

The Jewish day begins at sundown, rather than in the middle of the night for us. For a while I put into practice this mental shift and it made it easier for me to prepare for the morning.

I utilize the half hour or so of cooking time prior to eating dinner to get the kids to pick up toys and schoolwork. Then they pack any necessary bags for the next day and put them near the front door. By the time dinner is cleaned up, the preparations for morning are complete and we can all enjoy leisure time together.

I don’t know if the mental shift of defining a 24 hour period will help you, but it is a different way to think about your day.

The popular wisdom of today says look at what doesn’t work and fix it, right? Buy a new tool or gadget to solve your organizational dilemma. There are a variety of solutions for every task imagined, but maybe the answer to your problem could be found in something in which you already succeed.

Everyone in this room is great at some skill that falls under life-management or organization.

Maybe you're rarely late, maybe you only have today’s email in your inbox (please share!), maybe you never miss someone’s birthday or Dr. appts, maybe your craft/hobby is efficiently organized, maybe you get a homemade dinner on the table each night, maybe your house gets cleaned regularly, maybe others depend on your in a crisis, or maybe you have no problem mending clothes. (Does anyone else's children outgrow their clothes in the mending pile?)

Everyone does something well! Think about what it is that you do well.

Spend time thinking about “why” it works for you. Is the time of day good? Do you have a designated place? Do you allow yourself extra time? What is it that makes it easy for you to succeed? Then borrow the successful element and apply it to a trouble spot.

For example, many years ago I used a professional librarian’s filing system in my home. Everything was neatly filed in coded folders and the contents could come and go without any disruption to the system. It was a beautiful masterpiece, but it didn’t work very well for me. To find what I needed, I had to use the master list at the beginning of each category, which proved to be tedious. I ended up memorizing the codes of my frequently pulled folders just to get to them quickly.

A few years into this system, I was introduced to a home décor 3-ring binder idea. I created a visual party of color and ideas by clipping magazine pictures and affixing them to paper in 3-ring binders. I added page protectors for drop-in items, and had the time of my life dreaming about decorating projects.

One day in frustration as I rummaged through a certain section of files, I thought, “This would work so much better in a 3-ring binder.” I borrowed the success of something that worked for me and applied it to a trouble spot. It proved to be genius and now MOST of my paperwork is tucked away in labeled 3-ring binders. I have binders for co-op, work, Christmas, home décor, forms, address/phone directories, recipes, devotions/prayer and several others.

I have often applied this idea to find other solutions and it has worked time and time again. Remember, you’re organizing for the way you live not living for the way you organize!

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