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Productivity & Organizing Myth #6 – I can find anything in my piles.

Productivity & Organizing Myth #6 – I can find anything in my piles.

Myth: Piles of papers or things are organized and people can find anything quickly in those piles. They say, “Believe it or not I know where everything is.”
Reality: It takes a lot of time for people to find specific papers within piles and often they don’t find the papers until they’re no longer needed. This leafing through piles often causes a lot of stress that the user is accustomed to but relieved to eliminate by getting organized in the end. Papers grouped together by topic are the most useful and findable.

Pile

    You know the scene. You walk into an office or cube and see papers everywhere. The piles of papers might be neat – stacked horizontally as individual towers of unknown ‘important stuff.’ The piles of paper might be smeared across the desk leaving no desktop showing and looking like a mound. Usually old piles or special collections were relocated to the floor making it difficult to move about in the space.

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    Sometime you can’t have a meeting in the person’s office because there just isn’t a clear view between you and him or because the visitor’s chair holds the papers related to the last couple of projects.


    When decluttering offices with clients I often hear, “Oh, there it is! I haven’t seen that in a while,” and,”Oh, there it is, I could have used that last week!” Hours before, when we first got together, they said they can find anything then they show the reality ~ they lost things in the piles.

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    Last week we found a folder titled, Review, in Jane’s cubicle. The contents of the folder help her contribute to her annual performance review at work every January. She usually looks at the last couple of years’ goals, objectives, and progress and is ready to write her portion of the review with long-range point of view. But, this year her she had to write it on the fly because that folder was buried under months of completed paperwork. We relocated the Review folder in a file drawer designated for the personal side of her recordkeeping. (That is opposed to the project collateral of her other file drawers.) We labeled the folder more clearly and she will be able to find it in a snap next time she needs it.

    Another frequent result of piling things is ending up owning multiple of them or having to go without. For example, Howard always borrows scissors from Blake since they have a low wall separating their cubes. When decluttering Howard’s space we found scissors ~ they were under the pile of thing in the drawer all along.

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    Some readers will relate in that they have multiples of things because they couldn’t find their thing so bought another. For example, they might have 3 or 4 vegetable peelers. Often I hear of closets with 5 of the same color shirt in basically the same style because the original shirts got hidden in an over-crowded and disorganized closet. In the garage they might have 3 identical hose nozzles.

    The productive solution to this clutter myth is to put like things together, identify the home for the group, label the home, and return items to the home consistently.

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    Previous Myths:

    Susan Sabo is an intrepid traveler who has organized her life to be out of the country for months at a time. Antarctica is the only unvisited continent (so far). She’s the author at www.productivitycafe.com, consults with professionals on improving their personal productivity and presents motivating productivity SOPs & tips (such as how to get home for dinner) to groups.

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    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    No!

    It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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    But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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    What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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    But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

    1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
    2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
    3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
    4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
    5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
    6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
    7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
    8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
    9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
    10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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