Desk organizing tips and…do I have ADD?

Fashion Workshop

05 Mar Desk organizing tips and…do I have ADD?

OK, I am going to plunge right in and making desk organizing tips our topic for today. I feel a bit feisty, so I am going to propose a few ideas that some of my colleagues might not agree with…

First off, I want to remind you that not everyone has the same way of processing information from their environment. Many people who find themselves with clutter on their desk are challenged in one of two ways:

  1. They are perfectionists and criticize themselves terribly if their desk is not perfectly clear; they set an unrealistic standard for themselves that is impossible to reach or maintain, so they give up and the piles take over.
  2. They are “visual” people, those who function better when they can see and relate directly to the item, usually by having it right in front of them, rather than in some hard-to-find file.

Systems Theory

Here’s what I have come to over the years: I think it’s important and maybe even comforting to understand that if a system works for you, and it doesn’t infringe on anyone else’s space, then your desk can look however it looks. The crucial thing is that it works. Getting to this realization takes a large dose of self-honesty— are you just saying it works because you don’t want to deal with it, or does it genuinely work for you? Only you can be the judge.

I have tried many different systems to keep my own desk looking organized, but the reality is, when things are put away, I don’t see them and I forget all about them and important stuff falls through the cracks. As a result, I have developed an ever-evolving “system” that works well for me. Some people might call my desk messy…but I prefer to call it dynamic. (sounds a lot more professional, doesn’t it?)

My desk is a tool I use when I am working on projects that are sometimes short term, sometimes long term and because I have learned to be at peace with how my mind works, I recognize that I need visual cues around me and easy access to many documents all at once. It’s possible that I have ADD, but I have never let that get in my way. So what if I do? Lots of successful people have found the way to win (and win big!) with the gift of being a “hunter”, as Thom Hartmann calls us in his groundbreaking book, ADD: A Different Perception. For Hartmann, being a hunter is not a deficit, it’s a particular way of relating to the world around you. Not better, not worse than another way, but, he says, our culture (especially our school system) is not set up to reward the hunters, so often we learn to carry shame and judgment that holds us back. We are the unruly and creative and the outliers and what most people think of as “organized” just doesn’t apply to us. And I am ok with that.

For me, being a hunter just means I can multi-task well and that it is a rare bird that can keep up with me. The bottom line trick is knowing your capabilities, strengths and weaknesses and accommodating your environment to play to them, without judgment. Without judgment.

Back to me and my little desk world. My strategy is to leave everything out in the open, so I can glance around to see what I can/am supposed to be doing next. I don’t keep all the business cards I have accumulated on my desk, just those of the people that I want to call in the next few weeks. I go through every pile every few days and lo and behold some of those papers and contacts I once thought were so important way back at the beginning of the week, now are able to make their way into the “circular file”. Either that, or I actually take action on them! In this way (and I am not saying this works for everyone, it does for me), my desk becomes my to do list. Very effective.

What I am saying is don’t judge your system by any standard other than if it works for you, in your specific environment with your specific parameters. If not, can you tweak part of it to make it work better? A system, by it’s very nature, is dynamic, never static. Static system = stagnant system= death. (Like algae in a pond or fat in your arteries).

Create policies for your desk.

What does that mean? That means decide how long you are going to keep things, kind of like a personal information retention schedule and stick to it. If you haven’t called that person you met at the chamber meeting in three months, unless they have been in Timbuktu for that period of time, chances are, you are not going to! Toss.

Only keep things on your desk that are hot and active, meaning projects and activities that you will be attending to in the next week or so. If you have been shuffling that same pile of papers around pertaining to a certain project for months, maybe it’s time to take the project off your plate. If it doesn’t inspire you, you can delegate it, shelve it (if that makes you feel better) or actually let it go. Keeping it serves no one and actually drains you of energy.

If you don’t love it, it’s clutter. That’s my mantra and it ought to be yours.

Have you heard of the concept of  gradual improvement? I heard about years ago and have applied it ever since. The point behind gradual improvement is that you keep making small tweaks in your systems as you go along, and when it’s a success, build on that. That’s what I’ve been doing, being patient with myself and really paying attention to how far I’ve come, rather than living in the overwhelm of how much I haven’t done. Works for me!

I’d love to hear your comments, questions, rants and raves, so…let me know what’s on your mind.

Remember, I am on your team!

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((¸¸.·´  ..·´   Jessica -:¦:-

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