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  • Sam B.


I recently heard an episode of Attention Talk Radio and there were some great insights and takeaways that I'd like to share with our readers. This episode was on organization, or more appropriately, on disorganization.

Jeff Copper's first point was to emphasize that everyone (or nearly everyone) has a system - even if you don't recognize it. If your clothes are in a pile - that's a system. If you have stacks of papers - that's a system. It might not be a pretty system and it might not even be an effective system, but it's a system. One thing that stuck out to me was when he said that we expect systems to be pretty - meaning, an organized system should look neat and put-together. But that's actually a fallacy. A system does not have to look pretty in order to be a good or effective.

Do you have piles of stuff and know where things are? That's a non-pretty system, but it might be effective.

ADHD expert Russell Barkley talks about the importance of "point of performance" for people with ADHD. This means that it's actually okay (and very helpful) to have things out as visual reminders. Again, this won't be pretty, but it's effective. A great example is that if you need piles to be effective, you can keep the piles, but you may want to have a curtain cover them up from time-to-time, and then easily uncover when you need access. You aren't breaking down your system of piles; instead, you are managing your system.

Another example of managing your system is to designate work spaces. Your dining room table may be the messy place that accumulates piles for sorting. If that system works, don't stop it. Try a few tactics:

1) You can relabel the dining room table to your sorting table. Now, it's no longer a messy dining table - it's a sorting table.

2) Alternatively, you can buy another table (a cheap folding table from Costco) and make that your sorting table.

The point is that your system needs a sorting table so you cannot blow that piece of it up.

You must also recognize that there are two options to managing a system: you can deal with it up front, or deal with it on the back end. Color coding and organizing can be ways to manage a system up-front - you spend the effort first and then you can quickly get what you need later. While that might be pretty, it does take effort. It is also okay to spend the same effort but do it on the back end. You just need to be okay that that's your way of managing your system. The bottom line is to organize your systems around your point of performance. Often, this has to do with visual cues or systems of reminders.

Don't let randomness be your system. For example, don't wait for the car to break before getting it maintained. You need to set up cues and reminders to accomplish the tasks that need to get done.

For more on this topic, I recommend listening to this recent episode of Attention Talk Radio!

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