I was recently speaking with a new colleague and, after our discussion, she said, “Wow, you’re so organized!” I nearly choked on my coffee. That may have been the first time in my life that I’ve heard someone refer to me as organized. If you read all of the Forbes and Inc. articles of the world’s most successful people and their structured habits and routines, I don’t fall into those categories. But the comment got me thinking about how we define “organization” and judge others based on their habits.
I’ve never been the most organized person. Just ask my mom. When asked to clean my room, I’d open a drawer, dump everything in there, shove my toys in a closet, throw the comforter over the untucked sheets, and boom, I was out the door. My brothers’ sides of the room were neat and meticulous. Everything had its place. Mine looked like a tornado tore through it. But to me, I saw order and calm.
I’m still this way. My wife hates how I make our bed. And I’ve learned how she likes it, so her side is all tucked in and tidy. My side? Not so much. We each have a different definition of how to put away clothes. My drawers and closet are still a little messy. Except for my shoes. They are organized.
My offices, traditionally, make the most organized people cringe. At a previous employer, my boss hired professional organizers to come in and help us arrange our offices and “declutter.” Everyone knew why they were there and we still laugh about it today. As we were spending the whole day creating color-coded files and neat labels for our cabinets, I felt like getting in the fetal position in the corner. I physically felt ill at the time and structure that was bein forced upon me.
This system lasted about a week for me. I’ve tried all of the courses and time-management webinars to try to fit into the “successful people” box and, at my age, I realize that’s not going to happen. And I’m totally fine with it.
I’m getting ready to lead one of my internal client groups through the DISC workshop. (Yes, I’m a newly certified DISC facilitator. Ask me how!) We will focus on our behaviors and communication styles and how we like to operate. Each person is different and we all have dimensions where we are stronger and others where we aren’t as comfortable. And this is an important message. There is no one “right way” of doing things.
I approach each task and project the same way. This way may not be the conventional way others may approach, but it’s a way that works for me. I have learned to have to adapt to different styles depending on my client groups. While detailed spreadsheets and task groups are not my forte, when needed, I can project manage the crap out of it. But I also realize that is not my strength so I make sure I surround myself with those who excel at project management.
While I haven’t been a structured list maker, one colleague uses them religiously and I’m starting to see how it’s helping me with my daily tasks. Just by putting a number by the task has made me see it differently. I feel more accountable to the task. And I know how to communicate better with this person! Just create a list.
As I write this, I realize that I am organized. I see tasks and projects visually and picture what success looks like. While this may not translate to a neat and tidy spreadsheet, I use other forms of documentation like OneNote and the Notes app on my phone. I just don’t let the organization run my life. It’s fluid and allows me to redirect or wing it a bit when the time calls for it. I like that freedom and flexibility.