Let’s look at organizing in a new way!
We can get caught up in paying attention to how we want things to be and lose sight of how things actually are. I’ve coached many teens and college students around organizations, and, I, too, thought they were very disorganized. But when I opened my mind, it all changed.
From my MBA and process class, I learned that one starts by mapping out the current system before making adjustments. The exercise can be very insightful and applies both to late teens and young adults. Let me illustrate.
Recently, I was coaching a college student on organizing and cleaning his room. His mother constantly complained to him about the mess. We started talking about how he needed to organize his clothes by hanging them or folding and sticking them in his drawers. This is often a challenge for those with ADHD because it’s a boring task and it has a lot of repetition. When deadlines and penalties were imposed, he would sometimes try to organize his room, but day to day, he struggled to keep it clean. Often he would take a shirt off the hanger, try it on, decide he didn’t want to wear it, then drop it on the floor because, as he acknowledged, he didn’t want the hassle of putting it back on the hanger and hanging it up in his overstuffed closet.
“What is your system to get your shirts back on a hanger?” I asked. He replied that he didn’t have a system. I then asked him to look in his closet and to let me know if he saw any hanging shirts. He replied that roughly 40 shirts were hanging. I responded, “It appears you have a system or you wouldn’t have anything there.” This is when he got his Aha!
He acknowledged that his “system” was to drop the shirts on the floor or in the hamper and eventually his mother would wash and hang them. It was a flawless system. Certainly, his mother’s occasional nagging was a bit uncomfortable, but not negative enough to motivate him to override this “system.”
So, what is the Aha!? At the core of organizing is a choice around motivation and effort. You have a choice:
- Exert effort NOW to put things in their home and make retrieval effortless, i.e., “a place for everything, everything in its place,” or
- You can choose to exert effort LATER when you’re motivated to find what you want, i.e., putting shorts in a drawer takes effort but makes finding them easy, whereas leaving clothes in a pile is effortless up front, but but takes more effort as you search for shorts when you need them.
Notice that the effort in the second option is at the back end, at the point of performance, where the reward is finding your shorts. But the reward is at the front end in the first option because there is less effort required.
Action Steps: Take a page from the business process book and map out existing systems with an eye to recognizing that current “systems” are there for a reason. These systems work efficiently based on your own set of priorities. With this mindset, you can open your mind and incrementally make adjustments, that is, when you witness the impact effort plays in the systems that work, and then focus on new systems that minimize or balance effort. You will see that new, more efficient systems can emerge. Aha!
Open your mind to the possibilities.