Organizing from the Inside Out
Each Xmas holiday starts with this book as it is my bible for organising my office. But please be warned, if you are not prepared to commit 2-3 days in your office doing this or 1-1.5 days per room in your house, then I don’t think this book is for you!
“Organizing from the Inside Out” by Julie Morgenstern (isbn: O-7336-1350-O)
Julie’s philosophy is – organising must accommodate your personality, needs, situation and goals rather than creating systems for systems sake. Julie suggests three straightforward steps:
1. Analysing: Taking Stock
In this step, you need to ask and answer five basic needs-assessment questions:
1.1 What’s working?
Julie says “Identifying and preserving what’s working offers you many advantages. First, it saves you an enormous amount of time and energy. Second, give yourself credit where credit is due (and your self-confidence gets a big boost). Third, by studying what you like about those systems and why they’re so easy for you to maintain – you learn what appeals to you as an individual and what you will want to replicate.”
1.2 What’s not working?
By taking stock of the whole picture is to be sure you solve all the problems, not just some. That is, if only some are fixed, the areas that remain disorganised will soon begin to spill over into your newly ordered areas, causing the whole system to erode before long.
1.3 What items are most essential to you?
If you have a hard time zeroing in on what to keep, imagine that there is a fire in your office and you only have thirty minutes to save your most important items. What would they be? Your answers will tell you what really matters most to you.
1.4 Why do you want to get organised?
By taking the time to articulate what’s driving you to get organised before you start, when you’re at the peak of your motivation, you create your own coaching tool to turn to for inspiration when the going gets tough.
1.5 What’s causing the problem?
Julie acknowledges it is not uncommon to have several causes of clutter but believes these causes stem from three basic points:
1. Technical errors
2. External realities, and the big one…
3. Psychological Obstacles: Hidden, internal forces that make you gravitate toward disorganisation, no matter how much you crave control. Unless you are aware of them, they can lead you to sabotage any system you set up. Through awareness, you can find a way to work around these issues and achieve organising success.
2. Strategising: Creating a Plan of Action
Working without a strategy is like trying to drive across the country with no map, no idea of what your destination looks like, and no sense of how long the trip will take! Julie has 2 secret weapons to assist with this step:
2.1 Using the Kindergarten model of organisation which involves:
a. Dividing the room into activity zones, thus it makes it easy to focus on one activity at a time
b. Sorting items to be used at their activity zone
c. Making it fun to put everything away, use brightly coloured and clearly labelled containers to store activity items in.
d. Creating a visual menu of everything that’s important. For example, if you are using categories for your (electronic or manual) filing, create an index of what goes into what category so other members of your team know where to store items.
2.2 Acknowledging the time that is required. Most people either dramatically overestimate or drastically underestimate the time required. When overestimating the job, means you are likely to procrastinate forever and never get the job started, whereas underestimating the job, means you will start see little or no results and walk away well short of the finish line grumbling “This isn’t worth it. It can’t be done.” Remember my introduction to this book review!
3 Attaching: Getting the Job Done
Even this step requires a methodical approach and Julie recommends the SPACE formula to make it easy:
• Sorting: It is critical that you handle everything. Pick it up and ask yourself: Do I use this? Does this make or cost me money? What category does this belong in? The idea here is to group similar items together
• Purging: Here is where you decide what stuff to get rid of, and how (toss it, give it away, sell it, or put it somewhere else).
• Assigning each item a home: It is important not to be vague and indecisive about where to put items. Consider accessibility, safety, and the zone and sequence it is to be used in.
• Containerise: Container make it easy to keep your categories of items grouped and separated within their assigned zones so that retrieval, cleanup and maintenance is a breeze.
• Equalise: After 2 weeks Julie recommends making an appointment with yourself to evaluate how well your system has been working. “Is everything as easy as you’d like it to be? Are you following your system?”