Getting Organized for Artistics (and everyone else)

January 23, 2008 at 3:14 pm | Posted in Bria, career, life, management, time management, writing | 2 Comments
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The first thing I’d like to clear up is the organization. Being organized does not equal being neat.

I have seen many managers who keep a clean desk and are yet the least organized people in the company. Conversely, sometimes the person with the most chaotic office is the most organized.

Here’s the question: Can you find it or do things get lost or slip through the cracks.

The new year comes and people generally want to do one of three things: Lose weight, Get out of debt, or Get Organized.

OK, STOP! Do not rush out to ikea or Staples to purchase every organizing gadget that catches your eye – Filing systems, organizers, sorters, planners. . . .so many fun things. And yet, just because it sells well and looks nice does not mean it’s your friend.

So, how do you get organized?

The first step is to figure out how you work. Let’s take keeping a planner as our example. I have to versions of work habits to rely on depending on what the company I’m consulting with is like.

The first version is your standard Franklin Covey organizing conventions– this is the one most people are familiar with – prioritize your to do list, put it in order, schedule them.

The second version is something called Do It Now. Sounds like it could never work, right? But I’ve worked in environments where I was doing less project work and more coaching/consulting – things turned at the drop of a hat, people waited until issues became emergencies, the company may be international and you know if you don’t talk to that person in Asia now, you aren’t sure when you’ll get another chance.

So, which works best in your environment?

Now, lets talk about spatial organizing? If you hate filing – filing isn’t going to work for you. Some people stack and need little shelves, others file and need an extra cabinet – one of my friends stole a brilliant idea from his auto shop. He clipped all the pertinent info, contacts, timelines, etc for each project with a large binder clip. Then he put stickpins in the wall and hung each project on a stickpin. The next one in line was the next priority. Nothing was lost, nothing fell through the cracks and he kept with my one simple rule:

The Hit By A Bus rule.

I don’t care if my mangers’ offices look like a tornado hit them – if they’re messy and that’s how they get the most done, fine (as long as clients don’t see it.) BUT, if there’s an emergency, the immediate work or contacts must be easily found. I need to know where things stand, what needs to be done, and who to contact.

OK, but what about all this stuff I’ve bought over the years – I don’t want it to go to waste.

A couple years ago I through a party – sorry, I didn’t know you then or I would have invited you. It was a swap party, with a twist.

Everyone had to do a look at their organizing tools, put aside everything that wasn’t working for them, and make a list of what would work for them.

They all joined me for pizza and tool swapping. You had to leave what wasn’t working and you could only take stuff that was on your list – The party was a hit. The success of the new tools was a hit. Everything left over got donated – WHY? Because trying to work with the wrong organizing tools is as useless as trying to fix a car with a plane tool kit – it slows you down and creates more work than it solves.

So, what issues are you struggling with organizing?

Get them out there, out of the way and then Go Write,


The Order Of Things – Time Management

January 2, 2008 at 12:29 pm | Posted in Bria, career, goal setting, goals, life, management, time management, writing | 4 Comments
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In my non-writing life I do a lot of Management Training (as well as personal and professional growth development and classes) so with the new year upon us, I thought I’d bring a little of that knowledge to this corner of the world.

This is an exercise usually done on the spot – It should take you no more than 12 minutes. To get the most out of it, don’t think too much, just go with what feels right. If you don’t have time to do this now, come back or print it out, but don’t read ahead.

What you need: Pen and Paper – turn the paper horizontal and make 3 columns of 10 rows.

STEP ONE:  In the first column write down the ten most important things in your life right now. Don’t worry about the order, but do try to make them clear. For example:

“Friends” is not a very clear category. What’s a friend versus an acquaintance? Do you mean a close group or a couple of people? Maybe the most important are only your closest two friends even though you love all your friends.

Some other categories I’ve seen: husband, children, faith, learning, exercise, health, writing, work . . . you get the picture –

Your list can have as few as you want, but now more than 10. Play with the list till your comfortable – – – erase / cross-out and rewrite until you’re comfortable with your list.

Once you’ve COMPLETED Step One, move on to Step Two.

STEP TWO:  Now take the list you came up with and put them in order of importance – the top one being most important.

Once you’ve COMPELTED Step Two, move on to Step Three.

STEP THREE: Using the same list, put it in order from what takes up the MOST TIME WEEKLY to the LEAST TIME.

You’ll notice right away that while work may not be near the top of your “Important” list, it may top your “Time” list. This is normal, work is general a set number of hours and that’s part of life, but let’s look at the rest of your list.

What type of trend do you see? If you’re prioritizing your personal life well, the Important list and the Time list will look pretty similar. If they don’t it’s time to ask yourself some tough questions.

What if one of the top things on your Important list is at the bottom of your Time list? This might be where it belongs, but are you sure?

Let’s think about writing as our example – I did this exercise with some writers, not long ago, most of which were moms AND worked outside the home. Right there most of their time belongs to other things. Some of them managed to still have Writing as one of their top 4 on the Time list – I know you won’t be surprised to hear that this group constituted most of the published authors.

As a group, we shared tips and brainstormed other ways to move Writing (and other Important categories) higher on the Time list:

  • Writing at games/rehearsals/practices
  • Speaking into a digital recorder on your way to pick-up kids
  • Keep a notebook in your bag – think your story through while shopping. Write down your notes while standing in line
  • Give up Television – Or cut back. When everyone else is involved in your favorite sitcom, that’s 30 minutes of time to write
  • Keep a notebook by your bed. One author said the five minutes before she gets up in the morning is often the most productive – her body has quit needing the alarm to wake her now that she’s excited about her morning routine
  • Have an accountability partner – how many days in a row can you have an email/phone conversation where you say “I wrote nothing” before you start finding 5 minute chinks of time

One of the first things people ask me when I sit down to teach or discuss time management with them is how I fit in so much more than them. The answer is: “I don’t.” That’s the honest truth. But I have started fitting in more of the right things.

The thing most people don’t understand about Time Management is this, it’s often Priority Management.

To a successful manager, this becomes second nature at work, but she’ll often leave the skill at the office door. If you aren’t clear what your priorities are, then you aren’t sure what to spend time on, then you aren’t sure how to balance that time.

I’m not saying it’s easy. I’m sure everyone reading this is saying, “Yeah, but you don’t know what my day is like.”

You’re right. I don’t. But the honest truth is every person can say that. Life is too short to grudge your way through. If you want to enjoy this one chance we have, know what you want out of life and put it on your list.

I do this exercise myself every 6 months – after the first 2 years, I was pleased to see that prioritizing my life had become more of a habit than a chore. I’m doing more of what I love and less of what I tolerate.

Oh, and book one is done.

In two weeks the Heartlettes will be blogging about Time Management. We’d love to hear your own personal tips.

And then, get organized and Go Write!

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