There are two factors in this book that convinced me it would be useful to just about anyone. Most important is Regina’s approach: she’s known as the Zen Organizer, and her books are all about getting organized with a Zen approach. Don’t worry — that doesn’t mean that she expects readers to get touchy-feely about which drawer their paperclips go into. Instead, Regina’s references to Zen are a matter of focusing on eliminating stress. The philosophy of Zen is about creating calm — an impossibility when you’re stressed out over a messy desk or a disorganized calendar. To reach a more Zen-like state, Regina walks readers through getting rid of some of that stress.
The second factor that makes Regina’s book stand out is the fact that while the book has the word ‘work’ in the title, it takes a holistic approach. Regina makes it clear that a person can’t get his or her work life organized but still be unproductive at home. She quotes a Zen proverb:
…the way a man does one thing is the way he does everything.
Throughout the book, Regina makes a point of giving readers the tools to organize their entire lives, even if their current focus is work. After all, you can’t just stop being organized when you leave the office each evening.
The Twelve Month Guide
One Year to an Organized Work Life is organized in twelve chapters, one for each month. Each chapter is broken down even further into individual weeks. For each month, Regina sets out a work habit and a home habit for readers to work on developing. For January, for example, readers are asked to leave their desks every day for at least five minutes and to make their beds at home.
At first glance, these habits may seem to have little to do with getting yourself organized. Even the work habit is counter-intuitive: you’d think that doing something at your desk is more likely to get your stuff organized faster. But there is a reason behind Regina’s approach. Moving around for five minutes refreshes both your mind and body after hours of staring at paperwork — and knowing that you can step away from your desk for even a few minutes can reduce your stress over trying to deal with everything that has built up.
But why a home habit? The book is about work, right? Regina includes home habits as a part of that holistic approach I mentioned. If your home is more organized and less stressful, making the transition between home and work is that much easier. In both cases, Regina sets forth relatively simple habits. She also provides some simple advice on developing a new habit, including the advice to repeat the same action every day for 21 days to make it habitual.
The Weekly Tasks
In addition to monthly habits, Regina offers small tasks for readers to complete each week. These tasks range from something you can knock out in thirty minutes to something you may need to dedicate two hours to. The tasks vary: some involve setting goals, others cover reviewing your filing system. Regina devotes several pages to each task, making sure to provide readers with all the tools necessary to complete each task as well as explaining why the task will be useful.
We are talking about 52 individual tasks here, as well as 24 habits. It seems like a lot of work. I bet some prospective readers are already wondering whether it’s worth their while to spend the next year with One Year to an Organized Life. I think it can be worth the effort, though: setting out to get organized is very difficult without any kind of roadmap. You have to organize your organizational plans and it’s easy to get discouraged in the process. But Regina’s book lays out a clear approach. It might not be the approach you would have planned for yourself, but eliminating the planning phase can get you on the road to organization a lot faster.
I think Regina’s background has allowed her to create a logical approach to organizing work: she started working as a professional organizer in 1988. While Regina has done a lot of organizing homes, she’s also helped a long list of business professionals get their work under control. While organizing might not be an exact science, Regina has had the opportunity to see what actually works in the real world — and to find out where the pitfalls are. Her book acts as a roadmap around those problems.
Finding the Book
You can find One Year to an Organized Work Life on Amazon, as well as at many brick-and-mortar book stores. It is published by Da Capo Press and weighs in at 304 pages. You can find more information about Regina at her personal website.
While I might not recommend Regina’s book for every reader, I do think it’s a good basic route to getting your work organized. If that’s one of your goals for 2009, One Year to an Organized Work Life will get you going.