Tidying Odd Spaces

This weekend I got into the tidying zone. The target was my home and office work desks. Paperwork and other items had gotten out of control and required dedicated attention to resolve. The cleanup also included the desk drawers, which contained all sorts of strange items.

Marie Kondo has through a lot about how to tidy up odd spaces in the house. On her website, she shares tips on how to get those spaces under control. One of the most important steps to clean a drawer or closet is to take everything out.

Taking everything out of junk drawers and other komono hot spots and laying it out provides a fresh view of all the contents. You may find something that was once missing or something you forgot you owned. It is an opportunity for re-acquainting yourself with the objects that live with you and recognizing those that spark joy and those that don’t.

The rationale for this is simple; it takes just as much energy to put the item back in the original spot as it would to simply toss it or place it in a more appropriate location. However, that leads to the question of how to organize these miscellaneous items so that they remain functional and not lost in an out of the way space. Marie’s approach is to compartmentalize.

Komono is hard to contain when not carefully thought through. Organize the contents of a komono drawer by category. When you open it to reach for your scissors or letter opener, have those sharp items live together. Matches and lighters can live together as fire-starters. Grocery list paper and your favorite pencil should be neighbors.

Small items that live in these kinds of komono drawers tend to jostle around every time the drawer is open and closed. Junk drawer organizers and small compartments within help keep like-with-like and protect the drawer from becoming jumbled again.

Review all the steps to tidying odd spaces on the Konmari website.

Decluttering Made Easy

Is your home or workplace cluttered? For most people the answer is an affirmative yes!

For those getting an early jump on spring cleaning, I recently came across advice on the NPR web site about how to get it done effectively. Reporter Andree Tagle interviewed organizing expert Star Hansen who shared ways to organize without the stress. However, before you start clearing away belongings, she believes it is important to understand your clutter.

Hansen says everyone’s clutter tells a personal story. “What becomes clutter and where your clutter accumulates can say a lot about what’s going on with you.”

If you have unwanted piles of stuff accumulating around your house, ask yourself: “What’s making this hard to get rid of?” she says. “A lot of times, the trip-up is from holding on to the past or wanting a different reality than the one we’re living in.”

That blazer that hasn’t fit for years? Maybe it reveals a yearning for your former profession. Those 20 pairs of chopsticks in your kitchen drawer? Maybe they’re speaking to your guilt around waste and sustainability.

When you understand the reasons behind your clutter, says Hansen, it’s a lot easier to know what to keep and what to get rid of.

Hansen also cautions against being too eager to clear it all out in one day. The process takes time.

When it comes to organizing, don’t bite off more than you can chew, says Hansen. If you start off with too big a goal, you might get discouraged if the job takes too long.

So don’t try to revamp your entire garage in one afternoon. Instead, start with something less challenging, like your purse or one single bathroom drawer. Save more complicated items, like tax paperwork, or sentimental items, like family photos and memorabilia, for last. These kinds of organizational projects often take the most time and emotional energy, says Hansen, so you’ll want to build up your decluttering muscle first.

Read three more tips for expert decluttering on the NPR website.

Organizing as Self Care

Did you make a New Year’s resolution last week? If so, I hope you are still living it! One of the most popular resolutions is to get better organized. Whether it is at the home or office, a clear and clean environment helps to focus the mind and ease the spirit.

Maria Kondo’s work focuses on helping people find the peace that comes from an organized space. This week on her website she shared a post titled, Organization is Self-Care. In it, she starts by sharing her insight that getting organized is about more than simply getting things in order.

The words “tidying” and “organizing” often summon images of a well-kept home with a spotless kitchen and neatly curated bookshelves. But committing to getting more organized isn’t just about tidying physical spaces — it can bring you a sense of wellbeing in every aspect of your life. Organization not only supports self-care, it is self-care. 

Later, Kondo shares the benefits that increase your personal energy when living in an organized space.

Each of us has an inner energy source that supports us as we work toward living our ideal lifestyle. It also helps us handle the unexpected with grace and ease. Like all energy, though, we need to keep it charged. Some self-care, such as a restful weekend after a busy social week, helps us recover from difficult periods. Organization as self-care, however, is both proactive and preventative. It keeps us grounded through all of life’s surprises, and it empowers us to live that life fully.

Read the rest of the post on her the KonMari web site.

When Was Your Last Weekly Review?

Life comes at us quickly. As we deal with all the input and projects throughout the week, it is important to dedicate time to regaining a lay of the land. The best way to do so is the Weekly Review.

The Weekly Review is a GTD staple. In fact, David Allen has repeatedly stressed that the review is one of the most important things a knowledge worker can do to stay current and focused. To help practitioners, he had created a guided Weekly Review on his website. The video comes with the following note:

Experience what David Allen calls the “critical success factor” with GTD, by going through a complete GTD Weekly Review. You’ll get a taste of all 11 steps of the process, with helpful advice along the way. Please note that this recording has not been edited to remove the several minutes of silence for you to do each of the 11 parts of the review.

David has repeatedly stressed that the Weekly Review is a “critical success factor” to engrain a GTD practice. What does it involve? The first step is to Get Current:

Gather all accumulated business cards, receipts, and miscellaneous paper-based materials into your in-tray.
Process completely all outstanding paper materials, journal and meeting notes, voicemails, dictation, and emails.
Put in writing and process any uncaptured new projects, action items, waiting fors, someday/maybes, etc.

Read the rest of the article to learn about the other two steps.

If you haven’t done a Weekly Review recently, I encourage you to do so at your earliest opportunity. The clarity that comes from a thorough examination of all your open loops and commitments is time well spent. The result will be more items accomplished with less stress. Now who wouldn’t want that?

Leading Your Team to Productivity

Back at this year’s Florida Library Association annual conference, the FLA Professional Development Committee released a video highlighting productivity practices, tips and tricks from three leaders in the library field. I was included along with Dr. Leo Lo, Dean and Professor of the College of University Libraries and Learning Services and Dr. Vanessa Reyes, Assistant Professor for the School of Information at the University of South Florida.

I was interviewed by Amy Harris, Instruction & Assessment Librarian at Saint Leo University. During my portion of the presentation, I discussed the basic principle of GTD and how to apply them in the workplace.

The full video can be found on YouTube.

Empty Inbox – Less Stress

With the high volumes of incoming email we all receive, it can be very tempting to let them pile up. In fact, most people use their inbox as a workflow management and archival system. This approach is highly inefficient and creates unnecessary stress. Thankfully, there is a simple way to resolve this problem: empty your inbox regularly.

For the past ten years I have enjoyed the clarity of an empty inbox. I was inspired to do this after reading Getting Things Done by David Allen. In the book he provides a simple approach to clearing out the inbox no matter the volume. At the core of his technique is the workflow diagram. In a way, the GTD approach is similar to a plumber who ensures that water remains flowing through pipes.

Photo by Solen Feyissa on Pexels.com

To clear any inbox, there are three important things to understand:

1 – An inbox is only for in: The best use of an inbox is to identify new messages. Once they have been read, they must leave the inbox. No skipping over items. Go through every message from newest to oldest until complete.

2 – Empty it regularly: To cope with the high volumes, it is important to clear the inbox every day. Not only does this prevent serious backlog that can impact your efficiency, it can eliminates the stress which comes when important messages are buried under junk.

3 – Create functional folders to store messages: An “action” folder will hold items you need to respond to as soon as possible. A “waiting for” folder will hold reminders of actions you are waiting for others to do. An “archive” folder will hold all non-actionable messages you need to retain. Finally, be sure to trash as much as you can early to reduce clutter.

If you want to enjoy a less stressful work life, be sure to clear out your inbox every day. I speak from a decade of experience on this point. An empty inbox is an awesome sight to behold.

Declutter your Life

Did you get any presents over the holidays? Between gift exchanges, Secret Santa, and surprise items, no doubt your home is filled with lots of extra stuff. Now that the holidays are in the rear view mirror, it is the perfect time to consider to declutter. The challenge is where to start.

This topic was tackled by Ashley Abramson in a recent article on the getpocket web site. Titled How To Declutter Your Life in 15 Steps, she give suggestions to tidy up and clear out both for physical and electronic spaces. Her first step is to focus on the trash!

This is the fun part. Before you can organize the items you want to keep around, you literally need to trash the stuff that doesn’t belong. To begin the process of decluttering your home, walk through each room with a trash bag. Be ruthless with all the knick knacks, papers, and crusty cosmetics that are occupying valuable space. Of course, if there’s anything you can donate or recycle, keep that in a separate pile.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Abramson does not neglect our digital world either. In fact, she starts out by suggesting something that all too many of us forget to do: back everything up!

Backing up photos and important documents not only speeds up your device and frees up memory; it also ensures that if your phone or computer crashes, your information (and memories!) are safe. Enter cloud storage. Take some time to backup the files you want to save on iCloud, Google Photos, or a paid cloud service with more storage space. You can also set your device to automatically back your files up periodically.

Read the rest of her suggestions to declutter your life on the getpocket web site.

Tidy the Home Office

Are you working from home all the time or a few days a week?

The pandemic radically altered the way we approach work. Many people no longer commute and instead work from a home office. This can be a great arrangement since it cuts out commutes and coworker distractions. However, setting up a home office to make it a welcoming productive space can be tricky. Is there a way to do it well?

Marie Kondo, creator of the KonMari Method, recently offered advice on her blog about how to tidy the home office space. She first explains that you should set an intention for how you want the home office to look and feel. Next is her signature move, discarding!

Go through your desk drawers and toss out old receipts, corral loose change, and recycle catalogs or other paper items that are no longer needed. When it comes to more sentimental items, such as photos or notes from friends and relatives, express gratitude for these belongings and their significance and then let go—Marie sends off such items using salt

Read the rest of her advice for your home office on the KonMari web site.

Think Like a Chef!

Have you ever had a day when new information, emails, and calls were flying at you in record speed? The nature of knowledge work is that we move between times of quiet and reflection to periods of rapid action. It is in those hectic times that we can easily fall behind and get flustered. So to master those busy periods it is helpful to consider another profession that works on rapid deadlines and continuous input: Chefs!

In a recent blog post, Tiago Forte examined the work environment that chefs create in their kitchens to handle the daily dinner orders. It is called mise-en-place. Tiago describes it this way.

Mise-en-place is about bringing together all the tools a chef needs in close proximity, prepped for immediate use, so that they can just execute – quickly, consistently, and sustainably.

Observing the way that chefs work to handle the flow of orders, Tiago highlights six principles that he believes can be applied to knowledge work. The first is sequence. As Tiago describes:

In a kitchen, sequence is everything.

The biochemical realities of food demand it: the meat can’t go onto the chopping block if it’s frozen; the pasta won’t absorb the sauce unless it’s been cooked; the garlic can’t be added until it’s been chopped.

In knowledge work, the importance of sequence isn’t always so clear. Does it really matter whether you send that email or write up that report first? It often feels like we should be doing everything immediately and all at once.

But consider that we can never do more than one thing at a time. The flow of time is linear, which means at some point, even our most complex thinking and planning has to get distilled down to a simple, linear to-do list: what comes first, what comes next, and what comes after that.

Once we realize the importance of sequence, it becomes apparent that not all moments are created equal: the first tasks matter much more than the later ones. In a kitchen, the few seconds it takes to start heating up a pan or start defrosting the chicken will have the biggest impact on the overall timeline, because these steps can’t be accelerated. They take as much time as they take.

Discover the other five principles by reading Tiago’s post.