Organizing @ Work: Dealing with Co-Workers and Clutter

Posted By on March 23, 2014

© Monkey Business - Fotolia.com

© Monkey Business – Fotolia.com

Note: Happy Monday! Welcome to a new weekly blog series called Organizing @ Work where I will feature tips and strategies to help you with the wild world of work.

In my work as a professional organizer, I’ve had many clients “turned in” by their bosses or co-workers over the years.

It’s an awkward way to start a new work relationship.

These are the clients who are labeled as the office hoarder or are considered too disorganized by those who supervise and work with them.

Does it really matter if a co-worker is disorganized and has more stacks on their desks?

Whether you work in a small or large team, our work impacts the people around us on a daily basis. When one or more person is disorganized in an office setting, the impact trickles down to the rest of the team.

First of all, having a cluttered desk can impact your promotion. According to a 2011 Career Builder study, 28% of employers are less likely to promote someone with a messy work space, and two in five employers say paper piles covering a desk negatively impact what they think of a person.

I think a couple of things are going on with these statistics. First of all, shows like Hoarders and Buried Alive have drawn much needed awareness to hoarding and hoarding behaviors. However, people who have a tendency to be disorganized may being judged more harshly when compared to true hoarders. Not everyone who has stacks of stuff on their desks is a hoarder and have homes filled with dead cats and tunnels.

Secondly, it’s much easier for us to go digital at work and home – even compared to five years ago. With the advent of tablet computers, smartphones, apps and cloud services like Dropbox and Evernote, make it much easier to store, access, and handle your information and photos. It’s easier these days to have fillable online forms, electronic signatures, and PDF’s, and we do most of our communication via email or text. You simply don’t need as much as paper as you used to.

Finally, the sizes of individual workstations are shrinking. According to a Haworth white paper, the International Facility Management Association shows average office spaces in the 1970s were 12 x 12. By the mid-90s, the average shrank to 10 x 10. These days, the average size is 6 x 8. When you have less space, you need to have less stuff. It’s simple physics.

It’s Not Me. It’s Them.

Then again, it could be you. Several times, I’ve seen bosses or co-workers judge someone’s desk by their own organizing standard. If someone is hyper-organized and has practically nothing on their desk, someone with a bin of paper clips and a stack of paper is going to be considered a hoarder.

You may be judging a co-worker or your team member with skewed perception. Instead of looking at their desk, ask yourself:

  • Are they getting their work done in a timely manner?
  • Have they missed any deadlines? Or have they lost a document?
  • If you need something in their office, how long does it take for them to find it?
  • Are they causing co-workers and their boss any delays?
  • Have they renewed their licenses and certifications in a timely fashion?
  • Most importantly, are they violating fire codes and endangering themselves or others by having boxes and piles on the floor or near exits?

So how do you handle a problem like a disorganized co-worker? As a co-worker, there’s not much you can do since you don’t have the power to demand change. Here are a few ways to handle the situation:

  • If you’re sharing an office space, make sure your space isn’t invaded by someone else’s stuff.
  • Model organized behavior by making sure your area is organized and you’re getting work done.
  • Encourage your co-workers to go digital instead of having paper files.
  • Avoid teasing them, and never, ever buy them any sort of organizing tool or book.
  • Focus on deadlines and make sure work is getting done when it’s supposed to get done.
  • Encourage your department to develop department retention policies on how long documents are kept, who keeps them and if they can be kept offsite or digitally. What documents should we keep? What’s historical? What’s important? What’s not important? Everything has a time limit.
  • Have regular “decluttering” days a couple of times throughout the year. Bring in large trash cans and dumpsters, wear jeans and order lunch in.

 

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Let’s Get Some PEP

Posted By on March 17, 2014

My friend Lisa Boesen has always been a bubbly, perky person who sees the optimistic side of everything, and that’s one of the many reasons I love being her friend.

Back in 2009, Lisa and I found ourselves in a new club together. I lost my birthfather Mike, and she lost both of her parents within weeks of each other. Our lunches at the time were like a form of group therapy.

Lisa had to handle her parents’ estate, and all she had to go on was some mail, a partial list on a legal pad and a pouch with some account information in it. That was it. She equates the search of her parents’ home and records as a “treasure hunt.” It was a long, exhausting process, which can wear on the perkiest of people.

Out of adversity, Lisa found a way to turn the lessons she learned into a positive. She created a blog called The Domestic Administrator where she shares what she’s learned about organizing and managing your home and life. Since she is an excellent cook, she also shares her favorite recipes.

Because of her experience, Lisa decided she needed to create a notebook for her, her husband and stepsons to use in case of emergency. She calls this PEP – Personal Emergency Planning. To help other people with their own PEP planning, Lisa created her Home Management Portfolio, a 54-page workbook where people can write down all of their information to keep in one place for their family members.

Lisa keeps her portfolio as a paper version in a binder. I’ve opted for the digital version of her portfolio.

So why is it important to have your own PEP? I’ll be honest. I know it can be a little weird talking about having stuff prepared in case something happens to you, but it’s one of those grown-up things we need to deal with. Anything can happen to us, our loved ones or our property, and it’s important for your family and friends to have the information they need to help you. Just imagine being in the hospital and needing someone to make sure your bills are paid.

Some of the information captured in the portfolio includes:

  • Utility account information
  • Banking and financial information
  • Auto, home, health and life insurance
  • Magazine subscriptions
  • Key locations

So it’s time for us to get a little peppy. Being a grown-up? That’s still optional.

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Guest Post: Becoming a Productive Writer

Posted By on January 19, 2014

PictureToday’s guest post is from Maria Rachel Hooley, who has written over 30 novels. As part of Get Organized Month, she shares how to make time for writing.

While there are many quotes I could use to describe all the frustrations about writing and not writing and not writing when you want to, “A year from now, you’ll wish you had started today,” by Karen Lamb, seems most fitting because writing, and particularly the writing of novels, is something that requires consistency and devotion, which means writing even when you may not feel like it.   There’s no other way to get the novel finished, and the longer it takes you to commit to it, the longer it’s going to be before you can embark on the writing career you’ve always wanted.

Of course, here’s where a lot of people drag “the muse” into things as an excuse for not writing.  That’s what it is—an excuse.  While what we write may be magic, the process isn’t.  It’s work.  Truthfully, however, the most productive writers follow one simple rule:  apply butt to chair and don’t get up again until you’ve achieved your word count goal.  It has nothing to do with the muse acting like Puck from A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream.  It has to do with training your mind to accomplish the goals you’ve set for yourself and remembering that if writing were easy, everybody would finish a book.

So now let’s look at some tricks and tips to help you get into a writing mindset.

  1.  Establish ultimate goals.  Are you going to write a book you want to see in print?  Do you want a blog to reach out to people with common interests?  Do you want to write a screenplay in the hope of breaking into that market?  Yes, this is all writing, but mentally, you will approach each of these projects a little differently.  Some will require more research.  Others will need time spent on characters and plot.  Whichever project you pursue, set up a realistic deadline to finish the research/prewriting portion before you start writing.   Also set up a realistic goal for finishing the writing of the book.  If you base daily goals on word counts and figure out how long you want the project to be, you can figure out how long it’s going to take.  Notice I used the word Realistic.  The first way to cause yourself grief is to set up goals you can’t achieve.  You want to succeed.
  2.  Set up either page counts or word counts for each day.  Add this to your To-Do List.  If you don’t make your writing a priority, no one else will, either.  Yes, you will probably get complaints from family and friends and maybe even employers, too, but that happens to most of us.  Other people don’t understand why we need to lock ourselves in a room with only a computer for company.  Some are still looking for the DSM-IV TR to diagnose this condition.  They won’t find it.  Even the psychotherapy community knows better than to mess with writers….
  3. Get a calendar or planner and jot down your page count for each day. Highlight that count with one particular color so at the end of the month you can see what you did to further your dream.  This accountability will either make you very happy or make you want to get your butt in gear.
  4. Always have pen and paper handy.  I’ve been known to work on my book for the fifteen minutes I was waiting for “the rest of my life” to work itself out.  Besides, who isn’t sitting at a doctor’s appointment or waiting to pick up kids from somewhere?  This will make the time pass more quickly and give you something to show for it.
  5. Give yourself to inspiration.  For me, it’s movies, music, and books.  When I see a story done well, it makes me want to work, to try to make someone else feel the way I felt when the credits rolled or I finished reading that last novel.  If you don’t feed your creativity, you can’t expect it to produce good stuff.
  6. Network with other writers.  Yes, I know this seems counter-intuitive because it takes more away from the writing time, but even the most introverted writer needs friends who write.  Think of it as cheap therapy.   Sometimes that  “therapy” will keep you writing when nothing else will.  And another pair of eyes on your work can be invaluable.  Someone else can often see the gaping plot hole you manage to miss.
  7. Figure out whether you are a plotter or a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants writer.  This bit of knowledge hit me when I had to ditch ninety pages of a novel and start from scratch because the story was going nowhere.  I’m a die-hard plotter.  If you know which of these writing personalities you are, you’ll find it so much easier to get from point A to point B.  How do you know which you are?  If you don’t want to know the end ahead of time because it ruins things for you, you are probably the latter.  If you care more about the path making sense along the way and you need a schedule to do most things, you are probably a plotter.  While that’s not a hard, fast rule, it is a good general guideline.  Knowing which type you are is important because it will allow you to spend the time where you need to in the pre-writing stage.  Most plotters go for extensive outlines.  If you are a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants writer, you’d do better to spend time knowing your characters really, really well because that’s pretty much the only blueprint you’ll have.
  8.  Set up a Dropbox or other type of cloud back-up.  This will save your sanity when your computer suddenly goes on strike and keeps you from abandoning the novel because it’s too much work to re-write.
  9. Treat writing like any other part of your life.  Give it time and realize that while “Richard Castle” may have a life you envy, that’s not what most writers’ lives are like.  Writing is a second job.  It can be incredibly hard and very frustrating.  Know this going in.
  10. Celebrate your victories.  I reward myself for every book I finish.  It reminds me that no matter what the world may think of my words, I value the creative side of my life.
  11.  Try to have a device that is strictly for writing.  If you decide that this device is only for writing, you will build a habit that gets words out there.  This will help you stay off the Internet when you want to work on a project.  This device doesn’t have to be a laptop.  I actually have a 7 inch Kindle HDX and keyboard that I use for this.  It automatically saves my work to my cloud service so the file is backed up on all my devices.  Conversely, you could set a tablet up for the Internet and dedicate your laptop to writing.
  12. Consider investing in a device that has speech-to-text capabilities.  My Kindle does.  It’s great because sometimes I just don’t want to sit at the keyboard and type but still want to get my word count in.
  13.  The very best thing you can do for writing is start today and stay committed to whatever project you start.  A lot of people will start a book and quit because it gets too hard.  Yes, writing is hard.  That first book is the hardest.  Write through it.  You’ll be surprised at how differently you view the process after you finish, and how many things will fall into line after that.
  14.  Have fun.  Or have heartbreak.  If you don’t feel the words, no one else will, either.
  15.  Remember why you are doing this.  First and foremost, it should be for you.

Maria Rachel Hooley has written over thirty novels, including New Life Incorporated and When Angels Cry.  Her first chapbook of poetry was published by Rose Rock Press in 1999. While her novels typically venture into different genres, the one constant is the theme of redemption.  She lives in Oklahoma with her husband and three children.  If she’s not writing, she’s probably teaching English to high school or college students.

 

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The Small Stuff in Organizing

Posted By on January 10, 2014

© Monkey Business - Fotolia.com

© Monkey Business – Fotolia.com

Imagine a chocolate cake. Now how do you eat cake?

Manners dictate that you slice the cake and eat the slice bite by bite. If you keep eating the cake slice by slice and bite by bite, you eventually eat the entire cake.

You can use the same approach to organize your physical and digital space. Using 15 to 20 minutes a day can help you make headway on clearing your space. Here are a few examples of tasks you can do in 15 to 20 minutes:

  • Clean out a drawer.
  • Go through a stack of magazines or catalogues. Toss the ones you don’t want.
  • Sort your email by name and go through one letter of the alphabet to delete or file.
  • Look at your sleeveless shirts to see what you no longer wear.
  • Set up your bills – either all or a few – so you can pay them online or automatically.
  • Clean out your wallet.
  • Redeem the change you’ve collected at a coin redemption vendor or your bank.
  • Make a decision about something you’ve been putting off.
  • Unload the dishwasher and reload it.
  • Pick up any clothes off the floor.

You have a great feeling of accomplishment when you do these tiny tasks. It makes a difference and motivates you to continue.

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My Three Words for 2014

Posted By on December 31, 2013

When I first stumbled across Chris Brogan’s posts about using three words to set your intentions for the New Year, I thought it was brilliant.

Instead of writing down a bunch of resolutions, using a word or two or three helps you make decisions about the actions you take. It’s easier to let go and move on when you have a firm boundary.

I also like creating vision boards to help set intentions too. This year, I created a Pinterest board as a digital vision board for 2014.

So without further ado, here are my three words for 2014.

Nourish. This is a big one for me, and it really covers a great deal of ground.  In the coming year, I want all of my actions to nourish my heart, my soul, my relationships, my career, my time and my life.

Like I said, this includes a multitude of things. Basically in 2014, any decisions and actions I take must nourish me in some way. Using the word “nourish” will help me prioritize my choices and boundaries about my health, fitness, self-care and stress management.

Creativity. When it comes to creativity,  I want to do it, follow it, go with it, pursue it, celebrate it, revel in it, embrace it, write it, read it, paint it, love it and respect it.

Gumption.  To me, gumption is similar to fearlessness, momentum, courage, drive, motivation and the simple “get it done.” We all need gumption to get moving. Yes, we may fail, but as Tom Peter said several years ago, “I would have rather a spectacular failure instead of a mediocre success.”

Happy New Year! Let’s be unstoppable and awesome in 2014.

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Need an Organizing Tool? 3-D Print It!

Posted By on November 2, 2013

I first heard of 3-D printing during a webinar about The Future of Work. During the webinar, they showed a video about how they were testing 3-D printers and “living” ink to create an ear prosthetic.

Very cool stuff for a geeky, sci-fi chick like myself.

I work with clinicians and scientists who are always curious and always looking at the latest technology, and they like to see what these gadgets can do. Several researchers I know have 3-D printers at home to see what they can create.

Since our division moved to a new building, our Senior Vice President found the perfect organizing trays for his office. Since the desk trays he found didn’t have label holders, he made his own on his 3-D printer. Each label was sized to hold a slip of paper for his tray names, and he used small nails to fasten them to the trays. He also made a calendar so he can easily see today’s date when he signed paperwork.

I thought both creations were brilliant, and I am enamored by the magical world of 3-D printing. I love the idea of creating your own organizing products when you can’t find what you specifically need. Choose your design, the color, and presto – you have an original organizing tool.

Our Senior VP and other 3-D creators post their creations on the Maker Bot Thingiverse website. Visitors to the website can download the posted patterns to create their versions.

On the Thingiverse site, I found an assortment of organizing tools, including assorted boxes, organizer trays, and cable organizers. Some others that I liked:

One entry on the website was not a printable 3-D design but rather a suggested way to organize your 3-D tools.

It’s going to be exciting and fascinating to see how 3-D printing will continue to evolve in the future – in all aspects of our lives. At some point, we may go to our favorite office supply store and tell them what we need, and they will print out a customized product for us. How cool will that be?

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