Living Disorganized

My wife Risa and I had a serious talk last Sunday about how we organize our time. She is an educational therapist who works primarily with young people who have difficulty in school. They almost all have trouble organizing their time.

So do I.

Risa is a devotee of lists. I often forget to make mine, and when I do make them, I often lose them. I hold almost everything in my head, which is good because my desk is usually a mess. Fortunately I have a decent memory.

Risa programs her day around her appointments and listed tasks. She sets goals for herself for the week and the month. I also set goals, but they tend to evaporate, to be replaced by new goals, which also float away into my jumbled kaleidoscope of ideas.

Somehow, I do get things done. Graff-Pinkert makes deals. We buy, we sell, we make good machines, we collect money and pay the bills.

I write this column, and sometimes 10,000 people open it, and I think most read it, so I believe my thoughts are organized and relevant.

Yet, I wonder how I do it, being so organizationally challenged. It helps to have an office staff working for me who can compensate for my deficiencies. Risa helps immensely in organizing the house and family responsibilities. She also monitors our social life and keeps track of payments to the cable provider.

She will be taking an online course soon on how to teach folks to organize themselves more efficiently. She needs a person to practice on. I volunteered. I know I will learn from her. I will take good notes. I will discuss the lessons learned with Noah and Rex, who share some of the same issues with time management.

Then I’ll probably lose my damn notes.

Question: Do you have organizational problems? How do you compensate for them?

Share this post

20 thoughts on “Living Disorganized

  1. Tu Diep

    Good topic choice. I am always looking for new ways to stay organized. In doiong so, i find myself never sticking with one way. And eventually being unorganized. Anyhow, I look forward to reading your follow up after being educated by Risa.

  2. Fred

    My desk looks a lot like the one in the picture. For the record, I hate it, but have a difficult time organizing and staying that way. The biggest reason that I can get anything done is I put in a lot of hours on a daily and weekly basis.

  3. Peter @ Polygon

    I’m the organized one in my marriage, my wife not so much. However, she’s the people person who keeps our social life together, me.. not so much. Perhaps there’s an opposites attract feature of some relationships that helps us share the weight of keeping it all together.

  4. Deborah Rudy

    I would love to know more techniques for organizing. I do all right with it, but could use more tips to fine tune what I do. I also have many young friends who are very talented and gifted in ways that cannot be taught, but lack good organizational skills. In fact, i was discussing this with one of their bosses yesterday.It would be a real shame to have that hold them back in their careers. If anyone out their knows about any great books, on-line courses, or training seminars I’d love suggestions. I’ll be checking back here for ideas! Thanks.

  5. Derek

    I’m currently listening to the audio book by David Allen called ‘Making It All Work: Winning at the Game of Work and Business of Life.’ He also wrote ‘Getting Things Done’ or GTD, which was very popular. This helps me a lot with organization – and it motivates me on the drive into work. I suggest picking these up for suggestions. I have even used some of what I learned at home.

  6. Ed Gnifkowski

    Welcome to my world. Wife, daughters, all like to make notes for me which i can never seem to locate after stowing them. Maybe it only seem to be that i’m still the one that has to hold the fabric together.

  7. John Otto

    I think organization has something to do with staying on task which is very difficult since our day is constantly interrupted. I tend to multitask a hundred things at once which at times is stressful but necessary to do what we do.

    We are like Circus plate spinner. If you neglect one it stops spinning, falls and breaks. But what the heck, we could be in the lion cage.

  8. Steve Finkelman

    Why do people consider alternative organizing system a problem or a fault?
    Surprise, you do not have everything in your head. You have it in your space, each item is a que, for a task you’ve done, need to do, or havent finished. Each item in your environs is unique. They have different shapes and locations. It indicates that you have a spacial memory. Other people have a written or verbal memory and like lists and schedules. Each way works for us, it depends on how our internals are organized. We become and stay effective by choosing the right one for our internal mechanisms. On the other hand, choosing or being forced to use a system that doesn’t fit, can kill your productivity. Learn to know yourselves. I Suggest not beating yourselves up to fit in and
    develop tolerance for other people’s styles and methods.

    This kind Of styles are described In the book “The Design of Every Day Things”. Disclaimer, I have a spacial style that I’m happy with, understand and like. I figured out that there is nothing wrong with it, as it works for me. The way I reduce clutter us to finish more things, so I can move them out of site. Another benefit I’ve found is that I can take a side step to a better solution to a problem, rather than miss an oportunity by having a narrow focus.

  9. Tom

    Darn it, I was going to suggest David Allen Getting Things Done aka… GTD.. But I’ve got beaten to the post.

    Full Disclosure, I’ve fallen off the GTD bandwagon of late, and I’m feeling the consequences of it. But… I can honestly say, it has had a positive impact for me as far as organization is concerned
    Lloyd good memory is not required for GTD… Actually a major tenant of GTD is to get it out of your head and put it in a retrieval system that you trust. That way your not worrying about what you need to remember which can be a major source of stress. It also forces you to consider the overall goal of what you need to do.

  10. Jeff

    I often say that if I were organized, I would be dangerous. Disorganization and clutter are by far my biggest enemies. As a tool and die maker that has graduated (or perhaps been sentenced) to the office, the transition has been a nightmare. I also agree that the need for multitasking has overwhelmed many of us. I am hoping to mend my evil ways this new year. I would love to read some follow-up on this subject.

  11. Hanktbd

    Getting things done is not nearly as important as getting the right things done. You have been able to get a lot of the right things done or your business would not have thrived. A machine broker must by nature shift directions quickly to take advantage of rapidly evolving opportunities. Find someone to do most of your organizing for you so you can concentrate on taking advantage of those opportunities.

  12. John

    I am a clutter myself and I have a very simple method that works for me.

    I use Microsoft notes for my tasks which I prioritize as what is most important. It is much quicker than using MS tasklist. I do not use post it notes or memo pads for anything. (I converted from a blackberry to an Iphone, slower but acceptable)

    I use a legal pad to record voice mail I need to return

    I let all my email accumulate and I use yahoo desktop search to find whatever historical record I need. (I setup specific spam filters so “stuff” goes in a separate folder I can review / delete). I almost always can find content others in my office are looking for by searching my mail . I scan and either deal with email on the spot or open in my desktop or re-forward.

    Miscellaneous papers are filed in cartons in chronological order. I generally can find what I am looking for by the date.

    Whats on the top of the note list, phone list, email list, paper pile list get noticed, other items can be found easily.

    Its not sexy but I’ve found it works for me.

  13. jax thomas

    gtd is terrible, the system doesnt work. i did the first steps and burned a weekend wasting my time. you end up with many files and no way to know what is where.

    i dont have one thing on my desk. i have a file system set up with letters a-z. i use microsoft outlook tasks, if i need a bin, i put the bin number in outlook and file the paper under the right letter in the file. i am going to start scanning into evernote and go completely paperless. i dont balance many plates, i have a list of what has to be done for the day and i dont go home until that happens. sad, but thats the way the world is. sometimes i go home at 2 pm.

    i cant tell you what a relief it is to not have anything on my mind when i go home. i have an app on my phone that i can speak to and it emails me what i have said to add to my list the next day. if you feel like your trying to keep 2 plates in the air at one time, you owe it to yourself to find a system that works. for me that process is always evolving and it takes a while to get figured out. i dont lose things and i have no problem with deadlines. i KNOW when to say NO. i am the owner of a small shop and wear all the hats.

    i can see anything from work from the car, home or at work.

  14. Emily Halgrimson

    As TMW’s and Lloyd’s right hand organizer for the last 4.5 years, I had to chuckle as I typed this up blog. Just this morning, an intense search of the office for Lloyd’s latest hand-written blog ended at the trash can in his office. Another disaster averted!

  15. Bill

    I actually think a certain amount of disorganization is essential for good decision-making. If it doesn’t percolate back to the top by other means, maybe it wasn’t so important to begin with. A little bit of indecision also means you weren’t so comfortable with the options presented, and time make more options or information available to make a better-informed decision.

    Yes, timely decision-making is critical, but making bad decisions rashly surely is a road to failure…

  16. jimbo

    boy! are we related or what?Here i sit looking at my computer screen and seeing my desk in your office,I am so happy that god made two mistakes instead one; but aha three,the computer!Now we can store everything!Just ahellava lot to do and so little time. i do relate to always occuring different approaches to a doing or accomplishing a solution to problems but tunnel vision sometimes isn’t .No FORDS,LIGHT BULBS,TELEPHONES,IPADS, AND ON AND ON.


Comments are closed.