Archive for June, 2008|Monthly archive page

Are You “Chronically Disorganized”? Probably Not.

by Margaret Lukens, New Leaf + Company LLC

Do you think you may be “chronically disorganized”? Our first impulse might be to laugh and say, oh yes, that describes me perfectly!

It turns out that chronic disorganization (CD) is a technical term rather than a humorous one. It describes, not someone who often can’t find her keys or who pays a bill late twice a year, but someone for whom disorganization is severely reducing their quality of life. CD is marked by its longevity, impact, and resistance to self-help efforts.

This might describe a person in peril of being evicted because of the state of his or her apartment, or who has been unable to file taxes, not to get out of paying them but because gathering the necessary papers is simply impossible. It could be someone who is alienated from family and friends because of problems with organization.

Chronic disorganization may be rooted in varied causes, including traumatic brain injury, obsessive-compulsive disorder, attention deficit disorder, bipolar disorder, and other physical and psychological causes. In other words, it is not the same as the simple overwhelm that we all feel when confronted with too many voices calling for our attention and too little time in the day.

The National Study Group on Chronic Disorganization (NSGCD) was formed to support those for whom disorganization is not just a frustration or a personal foible, but those whose lives are profoundly impacted by disorganization and the inability to overcome it without help.

The NSGCD maintains one of my personal favorite websites. It is, I’m happy to report, a model of order and ease. I’d like especially to invite you to explore the information-rich resource section. (Just resist the urge to print out all the pdf’s, which would create way too much paper clutter!) There you’ll find tons of useful information about chronic disorganization. Especially note the fact sheet which gives common characteristics of CD individuals.

If you recognize yourself, a friend, or family member here, don’t hesitate to contact me for help in locating more resources for this person.

Full disclosure: I earned a Certificate of Study in Chronic Disorganization from the NSGCD several years ago. I believe it is essential for anyone who works with organizing and productivity to understand CD and recognize it when they see it. If you need help, I’ll be happy to point you toward some wonderful people who do this work (I don’t). There are many skilled and compassionate people who can help.

Are you trying to help a chronically disorganized person? Are you chronically disorganized? What has been effective? If you recognize yourself as CD, what do you wish us “average messies” could understand about what it’s like to be truly CD?

Following Through: Just Show Up

by Margaret Lukens, New Leaf + Company LLC

A lot of people want to write a book. Maybe you are one of them.

I spoke with a would-be author recently. She had begun her first book, determined to produce a sample chapter that would dazzle the publishers, who would waltz her across the dance floor to published bliss. Alas, the publishers had two left feet, trampling her dreams of a coherent book that would serve the people she had in mind.

Her goal was derailed. She felt frustration, sadness, even grief. It seemed impossible to once again find the will to move forward. How could she follow through on her intention to write her book?

One way to be true to whatever is within you is to “just show up”. Do the easy part of whatever it is you need to do, and see how far it takes you. Writer’s block is getting in your way? Fine, just sit at your desk doing nothing during your writing time. Don’t’ write, but don’t do anything else, either. No solitaire, no email. Just write or don’t write.

If exercising is one of your goals but you hate everything about actual physical exertion, fine, just go to the gym and be there for your allotted exercise time. When the time is up, leave. Either exercise or don’t, so long as you’re at the gym.

In order for this follow-up technique to be effective, it must be truly okay for you to go to the gym and not do a single rep. Otherwise, you’re going back on the deal that you made with yourself, and who wants to make deals with a cheater?

If you decide you want to quit and abandon your goal, fine. Make an affirmative decision to set that once-important goal aside and choose another. But if that vision still hooks you, follow it by just showing up. Have you tried this? Tell us about it by leaving your comments here.

Following Through: quote

A quote for the day:

Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task. — William James

Following Through: The Pink Poker Solution

If we as humans are “wired” to forget about non-essential projects as readily as a lizard forgets about her eggs, how will I ever learn Spanish before I arrive in Sevilla or get my taxes done before April 14th?

I must shape my circumstances and surroundings to support my goals, to keep my top objectives squeaking more loudly than anything else. There is an art to devising cures to match the challenge.

One of my goals is to keep my office orderly, emptying my paper inbox and my email inbox regularly. It’s a matter of smooth functioning in my office and, as a professional organizer, also a matter of professional integrity. I want to “walk my talk”. Like most of my clients, however, I am inundated with incoming items. How can I improve follow-through on my empty in-box goal?

When friends or colleagues are coming to my office, which is in my home, I have to clean up the papers or risk public embarrassment. To make this goal squeak loud enough to get my attention, I arranged for a group of friends to meet at my home once a month for girls-only “pink poker”. When I have invited half-dozen women, who are my friends and also respected professionals, to my home the last Monday of every month, I have created a firm deadline by which I really must empty my inbox. Spending time with friends is priceless; a more orderly desk that’s easier to maintain every day of the month is a bonus.

I’ve also opened my office for a monthly mastermind group meeting. Inviting guests creates a deadline for my goal where none existed before.

Do you have goals that would come closer to reality if you applied a “pink poker” solution? Commit them to writing here. And stay tuned for more solutions to different kinds of following-through challenges.

Following Through: What’s Wrong With Me?

by Margaret Lukens, New Leaf + Company LLC

Tra dire al fare, c’e in mezzo il mare. (Between saying and doing lies the sea.) — Italian proverb

You have set a goal, and it’s a good one. You know what steps you need to take, at least initially. Maybe you’ve taken one or two of those first steps, but sooner or later you run out of steam. Time passes, and your goal is no closer to reality than it ever was. What’s happening?

Are you a weak-willed wimp? Do you suffer from those character defects your elementary school teacher suggested would bring you down in the end? Is it fear of failure? Fear of success? What is going on?

The fault probably lies with none of the above. It turns out that inconsistent follow-through is a feature of human life, a strength that is also a weakness. In an earlier post I wrote about how it is that my dog always acts immediately on her intentions, while I, sadly, do not always act on mine.

It’s because I, being human, am uniquely adapted to respond to a wide range of specific conditions, while my pooch’s repertoire is much more limited. I can conceive of thousands of possible actions at any given time. My flexibility as I move through the world is dazzling! I can turn nimbly from one top priority (completing my taxes) to another (learning Spanish) every few moments, unless I perceive an immediate threat to my existence, such as a tiger in the trees.

We all learned that “the squeaky wheel gets the grease,” and so it is. I simply respond to the project that is squeaking the loudest at any given moment. But completing my taxes or actually mastering Spanish require concerted effort. How will I ever attain a goal if I constantly flit from one project to another?

We have to find a way to make our important goals “squeak”.

Do you have a method of making your goals “squeak”? How to do help yourself overcome barriers to following through? Don’t procrastinate! Record them here!

Life Simplified: quote

In order to seek one’s own direction, one must simplify the mechanics of ordinary everyday life.
— Plato

Life Simplified: Complex Problems

by Margaret Lukens, New Leaf + Company LLC

I’ve been reading Out of Poverty, what works when traditional approaches fail, by Paul Polak, founder of International Development Enterprises. Polak excels at designing the simplest possible technology to aid the millions of people around the world who live on a dollar a day or less. Though often overlooked or dismissed by career professionals working in the field of third-world development, Polak’s grassroots approach to eradicating poverty is both sensible and hopeful.
canoe on African lake

In the book and in his work he takes care to defend how it is that very simple solutions can address complex problems. As an example he offers the eradication of malaria. Malaria kills one to three million people every year, sickening hundreds of millions more. The life cycle of the disease parasite, both in its human and Anopheles mosquito hosts, is complicated and not fully understood. Disease vectors are tricky, influenced by uncontrollable variables such as rainfall. The solution, it would seem, would have to be equally complicated.

There is one simple, cheap tool that has succeeded in turning the tide in the battle against malaria, an age-old technology adapted with new features. World health professionals have found that bed nets impregnated with insecticide, which cost around $3 US, reduce malaria infection by a whopping 70 percent, and interrupt the disease’s transmission.

What is your experience? Do complex problems require complex solutions? Have you seen complexity get in the way of effective solutions? Do you have a complex productivity problem, like how to get every thing done that you need to do? Please post it here.

Catching Incoming Items: Tools for Shower Thoughts

by Margaret Lukens, New Leaf + Company

When the water spray hits your face, does your brain go into overdrive? Some people get their very best ideas in the shower. Here are two ideas for catching those “shower thoughts”.

At just 4 ½ by 3 ½ inches, the miniature diver’s slate doesn’t have a lot of real estate, but it’s enough to keep some priceless thoughts from going down the drain. The cost at is about $30.

My thanks to Jeri Dansky and her blog Jeri’s Organizing & Decluttering News for this smart idea.

For the real shower-stall Archimedes, here’s another method. Though cheaper, simpler, and more effective than the dive slate, it is not for the fastidious. In fact, I hesitate to share it. Okay, you’ve pried it out of me: keep a supply of Crayola washable markers in the shower and just write on the shower door.

Got any ideas for capturing shower thoughts? Record them here before they evaporate.

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