BossWoman ENews |
Combining prosperous work lives and balanced personal lives
My goal is to bring you news, insights, and information about leading a balanced and prosperous life.
In this issue, you'll find:
- Getting Organized
- BossWoman coaching
- Up and coming workshops
1. Getting Organized
“It is time to get organized.”
Or so says all the post-holiday home and office catalogues.
The catalogues are filled with plastic tubs to store your
holiday decorations, calendars to keep track of the New
Year, and handbags that promise to keep all of your handbag
stuff in different compartments so it can’t get mixed up. Of
course we all want to be organized and if these products will
do the trick, then we should race out to the store or pick up
the phone and get them as soon as possible.
Before you buy more junk for your home or office, think about
why you want to get organized, what it would take to get
organized, and, only then, what products it would take to help
you do so. At the start of this new calendar year, BossWoman
eNews will be taking a look at tips and techniques for getting
Why Get Organized?
When I ask audiences in my work-life balance seminars why
they want to be more organized, the most common answer is
“to save time.”
Being organized does save time. Time management studies
found that the average executive spends about one hour a day
searching for missing keys, folders, wallets, and pencils.
That is five hours a week, 250 a year if you work 50 weeks
a year with two weeks off for vacation.
In other words, it takes time and effort to be disorganized.
You have to work at it. If you consider yourself
disorganized, pause to appreciate your accomplishment. Over a
ten year career you have spent 2500 hours looking for stuff
you can’t put your hand on within 5 minutes. If you work a
40 hour work week for 50 weeks a year, 2500 translates into
a year and a quarter of your work life. That’s almost a
mini career by itself.
However, one of the best kept secrets of professional
organizers and organized people everywhere is that it also
takes time to be organized. Depending on how bad things are,
it might take a whole weekend to organize a bedroom closet
or a whole year to organize a lifetime of family photos.
Since both ends of the organized-disorganized continuum take
time, why not just skip these steps and stay messy? Here is
the exciting news from the professional organizers: once you
do get organized, it takes far less time to maintain order
than to maintain chaos. It is the same law of physics that
run cars; it takes more gasoline to get up to a speed than
to maintain that speed. You can maintain your organizational
systems in 15 minutes increments distributed across the week
- 15 minutes to straighten up the house at night so that in
the morning you are greeted by order before you start your
- 15 minutes on Sunday evening to review your up and coming
week and get your calendar and lists in order before you
start the work week.
- 15 minutes on Friday afternoon to review the status of all
your projects and decide what “next steps” are required on
each and when you are going to do them.
With these 15 minute increments, you can eliminate the
hours of searching for stuff. Even if you spend one hour a
week maintaining your organizational structure (50 hours a
year), you will save 200 hours a year.
So here’s the most important question to ask yourself
before you vow that this year you will be more organized:
what will you do with the extra time you save from no
longer living in chaos? Time for your family, time for
more interesting projects in your work, how about time
for yourself? Two hundred hours of extra time a year is
sizable. Being clear about how you will use that extra
time will motivate you to plod through the necessary
tasks to get organized.
The second most common reason that participants list to
be more organized is to cut down on frustration and
increase productivity. Have you ever felt:
- Frustrated by tasks you can’t complete because the
materials are difficult or impossible to find?
- Embarrassed by deadlines missed because there is no
system to keep track of due dates for projects and
because the disorganization takes its toll on getting
projects done in a timely manner.
Being more productive translates into completing desired
tasks quickly so that you can go on to other desired
tasks and have more discretionary time to spend on
leisure and socializing.
The third most important reason people give for
establishing order is that they have gotten overwhelmed
and disgusted with their own bad habits. They are also
fearful of others finding out how disorganized they are.
They may be ashamed of clients/patients/students/
colleagues coming to their offices and judging them as
not professional enough for their roles and
Comments I have heard include:
- I wouldn’t blame them if they fired me. I would
- What this kitchen needs is a good grease fire.
- I can’t bring a date back here so I break up with
people before they invite me to their places.
My workshop participants also give this reason as
the fourth most common: they are looking for peace of
mind. They want their systems to run in the background
so that they can occupy their minds with more important
matters. This is a favorite reason given by creative
people like artists and writers. Being greeted by piles
of clothes, last month’s newspapers, and half-eaten
sandwiches shuts down their creative juices. Walking
into a clean uncluttered room frees them to create.
People who give this reason liken the feeling of being
organized to feeling they are living life according
to spiritual principles such as good stewardship of
one’s possessions, sustainability, and Sabbath time.
What are your personal reasons for getting organized?
If you are clear about why you want to get more
organized, your motivation will carry you through the
boring tasks (and they are really, really boring) of
Your Ideal Environment
What is your ideal environment?”
Describe the environment with as many words as you can.
If you don’t know where you are going, how will you know
you are on the right path? Although I often ask coaching
clients to “Describe your ideal life,” it had never
occurred to me to ask that same question about my own
environment until I read “Love It or Lose It: Living
Clutter-Free Forever,” a book on decluttering by
Barbara Hemphill and Maggie Bedrosian. Just as time
management and priority setting gets very easy once
you have a life vision, clutter control gets easier
once you have an environmental vision.
So ask yourself, “What environment best supports who I
am and what I do?” You might find that the gap between
your vision and your current reality is not so wide and
can be narrowed by buying a few plastic tubs and putting
your off season clothes into them.
Or you might find a huge gap. Be warned this questions
could life changing. It could get expensive if you
describe your ideal environment as “with the sound of
the waves outside” and you live in the heart of Kansas.
My description about living in an environment that was
“clean, uncluttered, and aesthetically pleasing” was in
stark contrast to how I was living last year. If you
have been a reader of this newsletter you know that I
have recently chosen to spend time and money to narrow
that gap so that my environment now supports my life.
Here are some additional questions to help you define
how you want to use your environment:
- How much clutter is comfortable for you to live/work in?
You might think everybody wants a house magazine picture
perfect environment but that is not true. Most people
need some “stuff” around them to feel comfortable. For
- Do you like pots and pans hanging from the ceiling in
- Do you like open shelves for your dishes or do you like
- Do you like you office to be filled with books and
- Do you work best with a bulletin board backdrop with a
giant calendar or do you like to face your desk towards
- What styles excite you when you visit other people’s
homes or offices or go to model homes? Do you like
traditional or contemporary or eclectic? What materials
or fabrics are interesting silk, leather, canvas,
- What colors are pleasing for the mood you want to
create? The psychology of color can be overwhelming
but the simplest notion is how you feel about the color.
Are reds and oranges high energy colors for you and
blues and greens soothing or does one red wall in a
camel colored room feel like an interesting focal
point to show off your art work? It is your taste that
Defining your ideal environment gives you something to
work towards. It does not mean you have to throw
everything out and spend lots of time and money
redecorating. It might mean reducing the clutter a bit
or organizing it in an eye-pleasing way. For example,
the human brains reads a collection of little perfume
bottles things as more interesting they are grouped
together on a shelf or a table than when they are
distributed randomly around a room. Simply rearranging
objects in a room can make a significant difference.
Being able to reach the equipment you need to complete
a task saves time and aggravation. For example, if
your bill paying equipment is scattered around, try
grouping it into one or two desk drawers now and worry
later about what fantastic plastic gizmos you need to
purchase to keep everything from rolling around and
Principles of Getting and Staying Organized
I had a bad year the year I turned 30. A beautiful
baby, great husband, nice home, and challenging job
were not leading to the kind of life satisfaction I
thought I should have. The crisis turned out to be a
great opportunity as I struggled to figure out what
was missing. One of my insights was how randomly I was
managing my time. I was going through life being
reactive, just winging it, worried that I would be
found out as one big fraud. In the jargon of the time,
I was “not walking the talk.” There was a huge
disconnect between my “wise professor” self and the
mess that I really was. Once the loose ends of my life
came together into a renewed sense of purpose, I
learned a lot that year that increased my satisfaction
and has informed my personal and work life ever since.
So here are some lessons from a “recovering messy.”
- Live your life on purpose. Figure out why you are
on the earth and it will become easy to throw out old
files and say “No” to opportunities that sound good
but may not be for you. You won’t see this step on the
TV decluttering and remodeling shows but it is an
important one. If you are one of my students, clients,
or workshop participants you have likely gone through
my process of defining your purpose, mission, and
vision. Without clarity of purpose, your organizing
efforts may result in large folders and closet
containers labeled miscellaneous because you don’t
know what you are supposed to be doing about them. If
you have never gone through the important process of
self-definition prior to trying to get more organized,
send me a note (Susan@BossWoman.org) and I will send
you the steps to writing a purpose statement.
- Skip the archives; go for the “here and now.”
Common sense would suggest that if you decided to get
your files more organized, you should dump all the
files in the middle of the floor and start trying to
find a system. That “all or nothing” techniques scares
most people. They feel numb and paralyzed because the
task is too overwhelming and therefore do none of it.
Instead, start with your present situation and work
backwards. Imagine that the first pile of papers on
your desk is the only one that needs to be organized,
what system would be the best? Set up categories by
how you retrieve that information and use it at the
present time. If you have to find that piece of paper
tomorrow, where you look, what would be most logical
to the way your brain works? Very quickly, you will
have your present materials reachable and useable
for your needs and immediately feel more productive.
Eventually you can work your way backward to all of
your files and organize them using the same logic of
“How I will retrieve and use this information.” You
will probably find what most people find -- 80% of
what is filed is never needed nor used.
Here are some ways to apply the “here and now”
principle to your closet:
- The next time you switch your seasonal clothes
organize most of your closet in a few hours sorting
and purging as you switch the clothes in or out.
Throw out or recycle anything you haven’t used that
season with exceptions for evening wear or special
sports wear like ski garb that you maybe use only
every two years.
- Organize a category at a time, blouses for example
one month and suits the next.
- Every 5 years or so set aside a weekend to pull
everything out, clean the floors thoroughly,
repaint, repair or replace shelves and start over
Next month I continue with more principles of
getting organized including basic principles of
when you most need to get organized, the zone
system of organizing, what equipment to buy, and
how to set up maintenance schedules. Throughout
this year I will be collecting tips for you to
apply to your organizational needs.
Busy professionals don’t have time to create
extensive and expensive organizational systems.
If you are feeling a need to get better organized,
start with the barest minimum. Small changes can
make big differences.
2. BossWoman coaching
About the publisher: Susan Robison, Ph.D. is a
professional coach, speaker, author and seminar
leader. She loves to coach women who want
- work-life balance,
- career transitions,
- building your business or practice,
- time management,
- increasing productivity.
If you are feeling stuck on the way to your ideal
life, give Susan a call for a complementary
half-hour coaching session.
She provides keynotes and seminars to business
and organizations on the topics of:
- leadership strategies for women,
- work-life balance,
She offers her audiences a follow-up coaching
session because she knows that workshops don’t
Contact Susan for your coaching, speaking, or
seminar needs at Susan@BossWoman.org or at
3. Up and coming workshops
I have booked a number of work/life balance workshops
for the winter that are not open to the public.
Contact me if your group needs a speaker on any of the
topics listed above.
I will also be working with Johns Hopkins medical women
faculty on “Playing Well With Others: An Introduction to Communication Skills in the Workplace.”
Date: February 17, 2006
Place: Johns Hopkins
Registration, fee, and directions: Linda Dillon Jones, Ph.D.,
Director, Center for Training and Education: 443-997-6800
Title: “Happiness is an Inside Job: Creating Lives
of Joy, Hope & Grace”
Date: March 3, 2006; Soup 6:00; Speaker 7-7:45
Place: St. Joseph Parish (Sykesville, MD)
Registration, fee, and directions: Andrea Springer
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© Copyright 2006 Susan Robison. All rights reserved.
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