Last week, when I took Carson Tate’s productivity style quiz, I learned that I have not one, but three productivity styles: I’m a prioritizer, an arranger, and a visualizer. I’m everything but a planner. I don’t know for certain, but I suspect that most planning tools are made for planners. This is probably part of why so many planning tools just aren’t effective for me.
At the time that I took the quiz, I had slowly been working to re-organize my office. I work from a home office which doubles as our family's laundry room. Until a year ago, I only used it professionally sporadically so my need for it to function well professionally has changed considerably over the last year and as I've taken on more and more professional projects in it, I've found that this small laundry room, which also hosts our family's "business" files (like medical, insurance, and tax records), has just been difficult to keep organized.
I'd outgrown my "systems." and needed bigger, more comprehensive, "industrial" (not really, but professional, anyway) ones that could accommodate my growing business, still hold important family files and allow us to wear clean clothes. Mostly, I needed to de-clutter.
When I read Carson Tate’s suggestions for different productivity styles, one of the things that really struck me is that, because I am part visualizer, I have to be able to see my work to understand what is ongoing and to be mindful of it. In recent months, I’d begun to realize that part of why a lot of computer app systems didn’t work for me is that while they were wonderful for storing information, once I put the information into them, I wasn’t able to continuously, visually access the information in an ongoing way because I only have one, small computer screen. I need to be able to see the information to keep track of it (like a wall calendar).
In fact, my need to be able to see ongoing projects, at its worst, means that my desk piles up with way too much stuff. This is probably typical of many visualizers who Tate says probably haven't seen the surface of their desks in years.
Yet, I absolutely hate paper. Hate it. Hate it. Hate it. And filing is one of my least favorite things to do.
So, inspired by new understanding of why my desktop becomes such a clutter magnet and what I really needed, to be able to visually integrate all of my projects and comprehend my total consulting practice and all of my professional goals without the chaos and clutter of unnecessary, disorganized paper, I took up a book I found while searching for organization solutions, Organize Now!," a planner" by Jennifer Ford Berry.
Jennifer Ford Berry’s planners are actually weekly and monthly lists of tasks and goals. I’m still trying to grasp the organizing principal for the weekly and monthly lists in this planner (which I find a little confusing) but there are some good ideas within. I began my planner, Your Money, Business, & Career, with weeks 26-31, “Organize Your Work Spaces.” You can begin anywhere. You don't have to begin with week 1.
One of my favorite take-away’s has been that Ford Berry argues that we only look at about 20% of the paper we save. This has made me look very closely through my “to be filed” heap (yes, heap, not pile). Do I really want to save this article? Do I really need that document? I’ve asked myself over and over. Most of the time, I’ve answered “No.” and tossed things!
I feel liberated! I’ve been freed from mountains of paper. It’s a great feeling.
Once I began purging paper and moved on to the weeks in Jennifer Ford Berry's Planner on organizing my computer files and backing things up, I also began asking myself a lot of the same questions about electronic documents I was saving. “Do I really want to hang onto this?”
I’m not one to save unnecessarily. I’m pretty good about letting things go—except with information. For some reason, I’m always thinking that I’m going to need information later. The reality is that information is changing so fast. Why hang onto a study from 2012? It’s probably something I can go re-download again if I need to and chances are, I won't. It will probably be outdated and a newer study will be available the next time I need that kind of information.
Because of the very visual way that Kanban boards display plans, I’ve always loved the way that planning tools like Kanbanize and Trello work. One of the things I did was make some very large Kanban boards for my white board along with a large, color-coded editorial calendar. I've used color-systems for as long as I can remember. Green file folders for grants, blue for board, orange for volunteers (as in Tennessee--not that I'm a fan; just that I can remember: orange=volunteers!! Sorry, all you Ole Miss Fans!), etc.
Still haven’t take Carson Tate’s test? You can take the quiz here to learn what your productivity style is! Your challenges may not be my challenges, but whatever they may be, you may be able to unlock the key to liberating yourself from the tyranny of whatever is cluttering your mind or space—whether it's paper or something else—and keeping your from being more productive.
viva la libertÀ!
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