By Dr. Karyn

Hello to our DK Leadership Community!

The topic of organization has always been a strong interest of mine. I’ll be honest – I LOVE organizing! The process of purging, sorting and reorganizing drawers, closets, cupboards and desks – I find it energizing and calming. And while some of you may be able to relate to this – my guess is that many others do not. My husband is an example of this alternate viewpoint; he loves the finished product of an organized space – but the process itself he finds tedious, and definitely not energizing.

For years I saw organizing as simply a fun task, something that’s good to do (like exercise) but not necessarily essential.  I never really thought about the positive or negative impacts that being organized or dis-organized might have, or how organization levels can impact a person’s moods, motivation, productivity, performance, creativity and overall emotion management. That all changed for me when I started to read more on the topic…

According to Inc. Magazine, the average person wastes 4 hours each week searching for items (because of disorganization and clutter), resulting in increased stress levels, and reduced creative thinking and productivity!

That article and others like it demonstrated clearly to me that being organized offers many benefits beyond just peace of mind, and we can all benefit from this habit!

When I participated in executive group coaching years ago, one of the simple tasks we were advised to do was to leave our office desk-space completely organized before we left the office every day (all files put away, nothing on the desk). We were taught that not only is it a good organization strategy, but it psychologically signals that you are ready for the next day. This simple 5-minute habit has truly been a game-changer for me!

Similarly, when I first began working with teenagers, I quickly found that the status of their desk (their “work station”) had a strong impact on the likelihood of them wanting to do their homework.  I now know that organization is a critical component for teen motivation, and we spend an entire section of our Dare To Dream Leadership Event on the importance of tidy desks and bedrooms.

So how can we start to get ourselves organized at work and at home? My encouragement is to start small: begin with just 1 simple area such as your work desk OR your home desk. Once you have the routine down, you can apply it to just about any space within your life. And like any great principle, this process will work for everyone – from students to CEO’s!

So for those who want to be more organized, here are my 5 tips:

Tip #1: Block A Chunk Of Uninterrupted Time

I’m a big believer in starting and finishing jobs. So I highly recommend setting aside a chunk of time during which you will not be interrupted so you can power through your ‘Organization’ task. Depending on the status of your desk (home / work) – this could take a couple of hours or more! So turn on your favourite playlist, roll up your sleeves and get started.

Tip #2: Break It Down

Trying to teach my 11-year-old twins these organizational concepts is a great reminder of the importance of having simple sequential steps. When people feel overwhelmed, they often get paralyzed and do nothing. When you have a clear road map with simple action steps, however, you will feel more empowered to take action. Here is my go-to list to break this task down:

Step #1: Take Everything Out & Clean The Space
Step #2: 
Sort Into These 3 Piles: (1) Garbage + (2) Give-Away + (3) Keep
When going through a lot of papers, try to avoid becoming distracted and reading every item (you will quickly burn through your time). Instead, stay focused on simply putting each item in the correct pile and tell yourself you will come back to it later.  For example, I have a file that’s called “Reading To-Do”. It’s a file with several articles / items I want to read when I have time.
Step #3: Put Everything Away Based On The Pile
Put garbage in the trash and give away any extra items the same day – don’t put this off! All of your “Keep” items should now go back in your desk, and the key is that every item (stapler, pens, hole puncher) needs a “home”. If you don’t establish a home for each of these items, your brain won’t know where to put things away next time, which is why our desks start piling up with “stuff”.

Tip #3: Make A List Of Essentials & Go Shopping 🙂

I once heard that to be highly productive, it’s important to have everything at your fingertips when you work. Do you have all your ‘tools’ close-by? Here is what I have at my DKL office as well as my home office: pens / pencils; erasers; stapler; hole puncher; sticky notes; lots of highlighters / liquid paper; binders, paper, binder dividers; a headset (I use this all the time at our office if I need pure quiet); and my luxury item is my own personal printer. Years ago I started noticing how much time I was wasting by getting up from my desk and walking to the shared office printer that was located in another room. So I solved this by buying a simple printer and placing it right beside my desk, both at work and at home.

Don’t forget the big items too: a comfortable chair is extremely important; a light on your desk so you are not straining your eyes; and my other favourite – a great filing cabinet right beside my desk to store all of my “tools”. Remember, your desk is your workshop – and it’s important that you have it all ready to work at when you arrive! So if you are missing anything from your list, you need to go shopping 🙂 .

Tip #4: Create A 5-Min. Habit & Watch Your Energy

Once you have done a thorough organization job – the key now is to maintain it. Keep it simple and quick. Start blocking out the last 5-10 minutes of your work-day to quickly put everything away and back in its “home”. This simple habit is powerful and energizing, and will work wonders for your mental state as well as your productivity when you arrive the next day!

Tip #5: Inspire Yourself

Now that your workspace is organized and functional, it’s important to place a few items on it that inspire you. For many it’s a few pictures of their family and friends, for others it’s flowers or treasured items (trophies or awards). The key is that your space should reflect who you are, and should motivate you and lift your energy!

So there you have it – your blueprint for having an organized workspace! As you start to implement these steps, pay attention to your emotional energy, stress levels, productivity and performance when you are in your “new” space. Many of my clients (from CEO’s to students) get hooked on these steps once they start to experience and recognize the benefits :)!

Your Leadership Coach
Dr. Karyn

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