Book excerpt

Organizing for Your Brain Type

Finding Your Own Solution to Managing Time, Paper, and Stuff

Lanna Nakone, M.A.; Foreword by Arlene Taylor, Ph.D.

St. Martin's Press

Organizing for Your Brain Type
Chapter OneMaintaining StyleThe heavens themselves, the planets, and this center Observe degree, priority, and place, Insisture, course, proportion, season, form, Office, and custom, in all line of order.--William Shakespeare, Ulysses in Troilus and Cressida, 1.3. 85-88 
Let's start by stroking your ego. You deserve it! You see, your natural style matches societal expectations for the desirable organizational solution and the rest of us have been trying to emulate you throughout the ages. It's true, you are the epitome of efficiency, meticulous systematization, and clarity. Your work environment and home reflect a sense of reasonable order. No clutter. No piles. A place for everything and everything in its place. You are the technique specialist and like to keep yourself up to date with the latest approaches to ensure that you are doing your job well. So join me as you learn how to maximize your strengths and shed some light on new and proven ways to generate more energy, develop more skills, and increase your personal success.Now, take a deep breath. For those of you who scored low in this section, you still use some of this type of methodical thinking for basic survival and efficiency. Although you may not feel comfortable using these skills for too long at a time, take solace in realizing that some of these techniques could give you a leg up, so it's a good idea to get to know this brain type. If a coworker, spouse, child, or friend is one of these amazing organizational types, reading this chapter will help you figure out what makes them tick and how you two can work better together.Okay, Maintaining Style, you tend to prefer having specific steps you can follow, right down to the letter. I assure you, a custom-mademethodology is coming! (Lots of bulleted points are right around the corner. You will be able to easily check them off, one by one, so you can incorporate them immediately into your daily routine.) However, let's first explore the way you do things, and see if we can better understand how you could manage your environment effectively.Relinquish a bit of control and let me support you. I know that that isn't your style. You prefer to have the directions, your car all tuned up, your lunch beside you, a map open, and know exactly what is expected of you once you arrive. Here is your agenda for this chapter:• How your brain type works• Why do you need help?• How to manage your environment in your own style• The details• The strengths and challenges of your brain• Organizing your time• Organizing your home• Organizing your office• Conclusion• Overview of the Maintaining StyleI will help you set up a structure for organizing that will be easy for you to understand, maintain, and--most important--enjoy. Don't worry about how to implement any of these ideas right away. You are likely already a highly productive worker and you may only need to tweak a little of this and that. Ultimately, all of these insights and tools will strengthen your belief in your inherent talents.Even though you like to work alone, we will work together in dissecting some of your daily actions. This will give us insight into how you can shift your perception of what you are doing in order to achieve more ease and calm. This new relaxation will actually enhance your ability to achieve even more in a way that makes you feel confident and powerful.HOW YOUR BRAIN TYPE WORKSOrder and simplification are the first steps toward the master of the subject.--Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain 
Your brain is blessed with the ability to understand work, activities, and life in general by following proven routines. With your linear, structured style, you focus on details and develop effective methods that allow you to manage tasks and complete assignments, checking them off one by one. Your work style isn't about speed, but reflects a methodical approach that usually requires uninterrupted time to get the job done. Being slow-paced, deliberate, and sequential, your brain type prefers doing things in a way that can appear to others as somewhat boring. But who cares, you do it right the first time and would rather take the time to be right than the first one done! Since you tend to be traditional and a somewhat conservative planner, you follow the rules. But that's your innate way, and it works just fine, combined with doing things in the same order, preferably at the same time of day. To you, routine is the proper and precise way to work. As you say, "If you are going to do it, do it right." Which way is right? Your way, of course!You prefer to classify information in either chronological or alphabetical order. You may even have your own organizational system that you've developed and always use. (For example, A, B, C ... 1, 2, 3 ... I, II, III ... . ) You then typically store that information in a neat and conscientious way--since you are the "maintainer of info"--that still provides you with easy, stress-free retrieval when it is urgently requested for a meeting. Being the implementer of planned agendas and guidance, you don't like to just wing it. That would feel very uncomfortable and may even cause you to panic.The tasks you need to perform on any given day are typically listed in your day planner. Being incredibly specific about your time commitments, even weekend time is included, and notes are structured in a step-by-step, timely fashion. You are able to schedule with accuracy,since you've done the same procedures a hundred times and know just how long they take.Uniformity brings you consistency and accuracy--time and time again. Where you feel most comfortable many others feel stifled, or uninspired. By doing what has been previously done, your brain finds comfort and success as you continually use proven techniques. Others see you as productive because you don't waste time trying to reinvent the wheel. You tend to work methodically and are very thorough in all that you do. You find it easier to begin a project when you know how it was done in the past. And depending on your sensory preference, you would either prefer to see it done (visual), read or hear about it (auditory), or participate in a hands-on demonstration (kinesthetic).The two biggest enemies to your comfort zone are interruption and surprise. As a result, change, in any shape or form, can cause stress and may even make you so confused that you find it difficult to get back on track. Your schedule may turn upside down if one thing gets out of place. In managing time, the crux of your dilemma is trying to complete tasks when things around you are hectic and present frequent interruptions. Take a deep breath. And then another. Remember, you are always willing to spend the time to get organized and that you are in control of your surroundings.New things and new approaches can cause you discomfort. You overcome your fear of change when you see that a new procedure has proven effective. It takes a lot for you to move into unknown territory. Therefore, when you are asked to do something new, you may want to ask specific questions that you have written down first. You need first to understand why you are doing it that way, process it, and then do it. You think before you move. That way you are able to gather your wits, get the details straight, and plan a face-to-face meeting.You receive recognition from your family or coworkers most often when you are able to integrate facts and figures with procedures that are already in place. By being able to report sequentially, in projects and correspondence, you can help your superiors "look good" at work. By maintaining and retrieving documents, you help them to make quick and accurate decisions. You offer good value wherever you go. Youmay not appear flashy, but you are the reliable behind-the-scenes person who systematizes routine tasks easily and effortlessly.You also tend to be the quintessential keeper of all the paperwork, facts, figures, and policies in your organization. Thank God, someone knows the rules! When in doubt or need of something, your coworkers or family members always ask you, "Where is the ... ?" And you always know! Your tax returns are filed on time; kids are picked up from school; and Christmas presents arrive before December 25. All of us owe a lot to you. Our world and families depend on you. When I lecture to various CEOs around the world, most of them crave working with someone like you, and other than their intimate partner, you may be the most important asset in their lives.WHY DO YOU NEED HELP?Never before have we had so little time in which to do so much.--Franklin D. Roosevelt 
During the past few years, 60 percent of my clients have been people like you--people who are very well organized but who are very stressed out keeping it all together. We work side by side and enjoy the process of discussing organizational skills. When I work with the rest of my client base, it's a different story. They normally disappear the moment I arrive. They want me to "take care of it" and are unnerved by the process of organizing, period.Why do I work with your type the most? First, you are aware of the fact that so many people depend on you and you need to have everything in good order and easily accessible. Second, you, more than anyone, know the value of organizing, how beneficial it can be to your life, and are therefore willing to spend the time and the money to do it. Third, you are likely to stick to a new set of daily routines if they are explained to you and you see the value in them. You enjoy collecting the "right" supplies and ideas that make organizing work.Learning to maximize your unique organizing talents is the name of the game. Once in a while you may fall into the "working harder and not smarter" category. It's rare, but it happens. Sometimes false deadlines can be a strong motivator for you. This may be due to one of two issues that go hand-in-hand. You are either up against your "perfectionism" or "trying to keep it all together 24/7." Let's briefly examine these two points.First, perfection can be a wonderful motivational tool. But on the dark side it can kill you. Remember Marcy, the office manager at the production company in LA? She is one of the most cautious and deliberate people I have ever met. She knows details like no other--where every penny goes, where to find last year's launch campaign paraphernalia, and so on. She is the blood that runs through the company's veins. Her main organizing problem is that she must do things perfectly all of the time or she won't do them. If the label maker is broken, she won't even think about writing on a file folder tab with a marker (even though her handwriting was impeccable). She will wait until it is fixed and then work like a madwoman getting it all done. Since she doesn't trust anyone else to do the job and her standards are so over the top, she feels stressed most of the time. Even though she prefers to work her regular hours she will put in extra time, but preferably with advance notice, and will worry that it is all done correctly.Second, let's face it, you do receive enormous pressure from most people, at work and at home to keep it all organized and easier for them. It is important for you not to lower your standards even if you have to pick up all the DVDs and put them in order after the kids go to bed. You have to find a balance where things are easy enough to let other people assist you in maintaining your own impeccable standards. This is one of the ways that you can allow other people to contribute without your having to be 100 percent involved all of the time.HOW TO MANAGE YOUR ENVIRONMENT IN YOUR OWN STYLELet all things be done decently and in order.--I Corinthians 14:4 
Yes, you can improve your already well organized office, home, closet, and car. You appreciate that it requires a lot of work to manage all of the tasks in your life from scheduling a tetanus shot for your daughter to finding the folder that your boss needs now. You are probably methodical and somewhat rigid in how you define your space. Storage, therefore, is key: how much to keep and easy access to it. This should be easy for you since you pretty much know where things are at all times anyway. It is just the bulk that is at issue. Remember, your task is to enjoy organizing--something that you do easily and so well.For you, the secret lies in maintenance. Below, you will find strategies you can modify depending on your lifestyle or what is expected of you in job-related tasks. Some things can be done weekly, monthly, or annually rather than daily. For example: daily--incoming mail; monthly--financial/bills; annually--reviewing personal files, bank statements, seasonal clothing, and so on. The process needs to be practical and uniform or you'll burn out in no time. Do what is easy for you, since you are probably going to be the only one maintaining a great deal of information. Some people may see you as a neat freak--everything lined up in order, linear and sequential. You prefer not to share equipment, files, etc., with other people if you can help it. At work it may be helpful to have a file card (an index card works well for this) for people to mark and put in the file drawer when they have removed a file. This can work well in situations that are very paper intensive, as at law firms or real estate offices. In a residential setting it may help to have specific rooms, cupboards, or drawers set up your way, even if that is different from your partner's. Just remember that for you, every object has a place and you may be the person who is expected to return things to their place at the end of the day. There is another important element that can support your unique organizing style: learning how to choose supplies and furniturethat make your life easier. You need no-nonsense solutions. Objects such as computer equipment, various pieces of furniture, storage pieces, and boxes must be practical and stored neatly and in order. Aesthetics are not a huge issue for you. Colorful supplies or snazy gadgets don't make that big of a difference for you. You can work almost anywhere and get the job done. What is crucial is that you must have easy access to the equipment and supplies you use every day.Another crucial point in designing a lifestyle that really works for you is time management. By having time to plan and set up a productive yet reasonable schedule, you will be able to institute step-by-step procedures that help you feel good at the end of the day. Spending the appropriate time to plan out your day will be extremely beneficial. With your reliability and follow-through, you may find some extra free time and maybe even take a break.THE DETAILSGod is in the details.--Ludwig Mies van der Rohe 
While the Innovating Style individual likes the big picture, you are all about the details. You tend to recall facts and figures easier than many others and as a result are able to cut through confusion and chaos time and time again. You look for errors all the time and prefer to give accurate and exact information. The more you approach your life in a detail-oriented fashion, the more likely you will feel that you can manage your surroundings effectively. People rely on you for specific answers, which you like to have at the drop of a hat. Labeling everything accurately, with no mistakes, is important so you can readily access those pieces of paper. Computer labeling or a label maker can help you. Marcy's labels are what most professional organizers want to see when they get to heaven. Perfect-looking: right font, right placement, uniform meaning, completely consistent.THE STRENGTHS AND CHALLENGES OF YOUR BRAINQuietness is indeed a sign of strength.--Franz Kafka 
Here are some typical traits I've observed in people with your brain type. This list will help you understand why some things happen the way they do and why you tend to respond one way or another.Strengths1. Organized--in the traditional sense of the word2. Perfection-driven3. Detailed-oriented4. Accurate5. Practical thinker6. Sequential thinker7. Reliable8. Disciplined9. Serious10. Able to follow and maintain procedures and rules11. Able to think ahead to the next step12. Make decisions methodically based on proven techniques13. Industrious14. Predictable15. Cautious16. Sensible17. Habitual18. Respectful19. Punctual20. Consistent21. Quality-centered22. Responsible23. Good speller24. Able to write legibly25. Loyal26. A team playerChallenges1. Unhappy with disorganization2. Take a long time to make a decision3. Dislike anything new, especially if unproven4. Rigid about routines5. Emotionally closed6. Uncomfortable with unstructured time7. Seen by others as boring or dull due to resistance to change8. Prefer not to share9. Obsessive10. Uncomfortable being interrupted11. Critical12. Isolated13. Narrow-minded14. UnrelentingORGANIZING YOUR TIMEOrder is not pressure, which is imposed on society from without, but an equilibrium, which is set up from within.--José Ortega y Gasset 
Ultimately, time isn't all that challenging for you; you're a natural planner. You rely on a daily calendar and are known to maintain long and very specific to-do lists. If you can spend adequate time preparing for your day in a way that is very specific, using a calendar that is easy to update and carry with you, you will create a successful road map that will garner much success and respect from those around you, especially when you present a detailed plan to manage a project or even record accurate minutes of a board meeting. Since you live by a daily routine, you need sufficient time to finish what you start and to wrap things up.Your big time-related issue is how to combat interruptions. Anything that takes away from your schedule can cause enormous stress and lack of productivity. Remember that a half hour planned is four hours saved. Plan a little time into the schedule for interruptions or getting the most difficult task done when you have the most energy and more time to do it. This will make the interruptions less painful. When you have a plan of attack, you are able to be interrupted, but then you know where to return to. It becomes an important anchor in your day. Then at the end of your day you won't regret having spoken to this person or done something that wasn't on your list.Time is such a tricky subject, but much easier for you than most. For the most part you make it work for, not against you. Below, I discuss some of your Maintaining Style strengths and challenges when it comes to time. Once aware of them, you are apt not only to make changes but also to improve upon my suggestions. That's your style. You'll schedule them into your week and make it happen. Remember, this isn't about giving you more tasks to complete. It is really about giving you the opportunity to do things in the correct fashion so you can feel comfortable throughout the day and enormously satisfied at the end of every day.Strengths• You get things done. Procrastination is not likely. You do it all, whether you like it or not.• Steady, very productive work.• You know your office supplies. The office supply store is a good friend and you take the time to find a PDA planner or wall calendar that works.• Patience is your virtue.• Checklists: Very important and easy for you--whether it's a grocery list or event planning. Use them. They save you lots of time.• Forms--make them, use them, and enjoy them.• You value the time of those around you. But do they value your time? Probably not equally. Think about this. Stick to your schedule rather than conforming to those around you.• Time limits for any given task.• To-do lists for every hour in the day, not just a-week-at-a-glance. Chances are you record these in a book or your electronic database, rather than trying to remember them off the top of your head.• Mid-size, not long-term goals. Though you are very committed once a goal has been established.Challenges• Interruptions: If possible, laminate a sign of some sort--perhaps a hand motioning STOP--to be put up on either a corkboard or your office door. If you work in a cubicle, putting it on the back side of the computer monitor would work. You can even send an e-mail to those around you and let them know when you are working with deadlines. Obviously, at work you will be challenged, but there is always a way around this. Consolidate tasks, so if you are interrupted, you know exactly where to get back to. Here, your passion for punctuality will greatly benefit you.• Telephone: An average incoming call takes 7-12 minutes and an average outgoing call 5-7 minutes. Try to make calls rather than receive them.• Purchase a headset. If anyone can multitask, you can!• Flexibility: Try to stick to your schedule the best you can--I know that makes you happiest--but if things come up, be willing to adapt. Since you always know where you're going, you will be able to return. This can be a difficult issue with colleagues or your family.• Leave time in your life for emergencies. Don't take them personally.• Doing things in a new way. Flexibility can be a good thing. By expanding concepts, skills, and anything else that shines new light on what you do well, you will develop skills that create a good working environment.• Find estimates on how long things take, not just for you but for others. Unless you live and work by yourself, which you probably don't, realize that time for all of the other brain types is a bit of a challenge. It will serve you well in the long run.• Delegation: You would much rather do something yourself without insisting and explaining over and over again and doubting the competenceof the person you are delegating to. Still, you may want to see delegation as an option in the future.• Schedule fun in your calendar. Just a little!Time is the most valuable thing a man can spend.--Theophrastus 
You are the epitome of "on time, all the time." You usually know exactly what you are doing, 24/7. Ask yourself, "Can I improve my time management skills?" and "What is ultimately important to me?" You can learn a couple of quick time-saving techniques--ones that will feel comfortable structurally, but that will go beyond the obvious to align you with your deepest values and desires. It's important to have regular work hours, but it's also important to have regular hours for other kinds of activities. You can achieve 100 percent accuracy in repeating routines and can enjoy the repetition as though it is an art form, as long as you decide how it fits into the goals. You understand that practice does make perfect and can build accuracy and success. You are in good company. Franz Kafka worked his regular hours as a clerk for an insurance firm in Prague, and then every night after work he would write for a very specific amount of time. Year in, year out, nothing out of the ordinary. Always specific, exact, and with great attention to detail. Another great thinker, Immanuel Kant, the German philosopher, had a schedule that ran like clockwork. People always knew when it was noon because everyday at 12:00 he would walk in front of town hall, pause, and then continue on his way to the market. Kant was very productive, exhibiting no surprise behavior, but conforming to the rules in a way that worked remarkably well for him. He was very clear in his actions and had the capability to see and follow the necessary steps to get it all done. Let's get going. I know that you, more than any other brain type, can hear the clock ticking.Your CalendarYour ultimate perception of time derives from perceiving it as allotted for a task or project and then breaking it down into step-by-step increments. Obviously you desperately need a calendar that takes into account the whole picture.For any project you are involved in, you must allow some time for unknown factors. You literally need to enter changes, setup time, cleanup time, and whatever else, leaving no stone unturned. It's all about feeling in sync with who you are and opening up to a united front. This is very empowering for you: to take your calendar seriously, sticking to it every day, and yet to remain free for the unexpected. Challenging--but you are tenacious enough to master it!Recently, I helped organize a very talented, enormously dependable individual who is personal assistant to a famous Hollywood personality. (She hired me because she wanted her home office files to be A+. When I arrived, they were already A, but she wanted perfect.) She said that her desk at the office worked efficiently, but she needed to tweak her home files so they would correspond better with the work files. She felt out of control, worried, and ineffective because things were not consolidated when she got home. Scheduling this into her calendar made her uneasy because it was going to be a new process for her. With all of my clients, I let them know that we must work a minimum of four hours together to see any quality results. After the four hours we were almost done, and she had a little work to do on her own. Luckily, she had scheduled two hours of free time that afternoon and could complete her organizing homework without feeling out of sync with her schedule.How Others Perceive Your Use of TimeSince you are pretty predictable, other brain types may view you as being a bit dull and boring. How dare they! But to them it seems like you leave very little room for spontaneity or fun, since almost every second is scheduled. Friends and family might feel a bit stifled and restricted. On a holiday they might perceive a lack of time to just hang out and "get lost." They may ask, "Why do you need to know what you're doing all the time?" Other brain types realize you don't like interruptions. Butyour love of structure and uniformity makes you a loyal, dependable, and very reliable friend, coworker, boss, or mate. This need not be interpreted as limiting. Since you usually know what you are doing and where you are going at all times, your mind is free to think about other things. If the other brain types could learn one thing from you, it would be that structure does allow for freedom. For you, time management is really stress management.Your calendar--whether paper or electronic--must support your natural inclination to be punctual and efficient by avoiding ambiguity and unpredictability. Your love of detail and sequential order--not in subject categories but rather as alphabetized files, chronological order, and step-by-step procedures--needs to be addressed when searching out a workable calendar. Since you prefer more traditional systems, you thrive on respected approaches to organizing your time. You value consistency, accuracy, and predictability both at home and at the office. Therefore, time management is a crucial component in ensuring that you are satisfied. More than any other brain type, you aspire to get everything accomplished as assigned.Let's take your natural inclination and make it work for you. I will provide you with a linear approach to how you organize your time that has been hugely successful for clients with your brain type, from executives and office managers to stay-at-home parents.SchedulingYou will need to have a watch and clock available at all times. Knowing exactly what time of day it is all day long helps keep you calm and on target. Wear a watch and put several clocks in strategic locations. Uniformity works best for you. Nothing trendy or unproven; the more basic or traditional the better. Everything must be written down from your to-do list to schedules in your planner. Then nothing will be forgotten and you will feel thrilled when everything is completed. Another thing to keep in mind is that you need to lay out your schedule either last thing at night or first thing in the morning so you can get all your thoughts onto a piece of paper. Spending fifteen minutes to see that you are headed in the right direction could have numerous payoffs.#1. Day PlannerA day planner is your best friend. No questions asked. Without it, you are lost. How well you schedule things in your calendar and how you keep track of various appointments can either sink or save you. This is the most important investment you can make. Compared to the other brain types, for whom exact minute-to-minute calculations are unnecessary, you perceive a calendar as a necessary appendage to your body. How you survive in this world, how you feel comfortable and nurtured every day, may depend on how you organize your day planner (having chosen the right one) and how you use it in the long run.There are four generic calendar versions:• The typical desk or wall calendar--that works well for general activities in the home or office.• A paper calendar, which is great for those who are not computer-savvy or who prefer handwriting their appointments and contact information.• Various computer programs such as Outlook, Act, Lotus Notes, etc.• Handheld PDAs, which cater to those on the go and working in a corporate environment. You can even hot-sync this to your main computer database software and have one rather than two calendars.Your day planner must include a generic appointment book, a database, and a to-do list. (Goal planning, special password, or ID may be included.)You need to know what is happening 24/7, including weekends and holidays. You may even bring your day planner on holiday--off to Disneyland knowing that from 10:15 to 10:45, "It's a Small World After All," and from 10:46 to 11:30 you are on the Matterhorn Bobsleds, and so on. A client of mine enters everything she does every day of her life in her tiny monthly calendar and keeps it for future reference. She likes to look back and review where she ate, what movie she saw years ago. A bit extreme, but it worked for her. Your day planner should consist of:• A daily page with specific times from when you awake to when you go to bed. Hours on the left-hand column, with a view of the day or week and even month to follow. (You need to decide what works best for you--and that depends on the demands your job places on you.) You need an hour-to-hour calendar, but whether your future follow-up is weekly, monthly, or annually is up to you.• Adequate spacing for quarterly or 30-minute increments rather than hourly appointments, and a daily and weekly glance rather than a weekly and monthly one. The more you are able to pinpoint the exact time, the better. If you work from home, your day planner needs to correspond to the one in the office.• If you travel a lot, a PDA would be more than adequate for all your needs. If you enjoy writing and aren't that technically savvy, a Franklin Covey Planner may be more than enough.• Room to grow and change as the need arises. That may mean extra pages in the back for ideas or additional lists, a memo pad, etc.Remember Marcy, in the Introduction, who ran the entire production company almost by herself? Her day planner was the most impressive I've ever seen. She had an enormous monthly desk calendar that she personally enlarged at Kinko's and filled in herself. She prioritized tasks by color coding them, using a highlighter, and crossing them off in red once completed. Her calendar looked like a piece of art, some colors assigned to different duties. She scheduled personal administrative time and creative administrative time for planning throughout the day. That is key for you, too. This way she felt safe and organized, knowing what was coming next. She continually put things in her calendar as they came up. If she happened, for example, to be taking notes at the company's monthly meeting or receiving a telephone call later that day, she jotted down scheduling information in a small notebook and transferred it to her main calendar later on. This approach allowed her to know what had to be accomplished tomorrow and the rest of the week. It was simple, easy to maintain, plus it provided a record of what she did and where she went. What an inspiration to us all.#2. Your To-do ListThis is your road map for action. With your calendar and this list in hand, you are on your way to record accomplishments. You will be able to jot down errands and other tasks as they occur to you and then add them to your to-do list, which puts the entire system into gear. Depending on your professional situation and whether you have numerous to-do's to accomplish, you can create a specific folder for them and go through them in your downtime. The more specific you are, the better you will be able to track tasks in a way that leaves you rejuvenated and motivated. When you start to feel stressed, chances are it is because you did not give yourself enough time to do the task. Normally, you are on track for getting it all done. But don't forget to breathe and smell the flowers. There is more to life than just checking off your to-do list.A to-do list is the center from which your day unfolds. First, decide what duties you would like to get done, and schedule them in your calendar. The two work hand-in-hand and you can enjoy this process: what to do and when to do it. Try to match up your short-term tasks with your long-term plan. Focus on that particular day, and include everything on the to-do list. Then, you can begin the next day's list with a concrete plan that will encourage you for the rest of the day. Starting with our passion can give us enough energy to get it all done. This brings us to the next topic--prioritization.Priorities are defined by Webster's as putting items in "preceding order of importance." Traditionally, you know what needs to be done, and most of the time you have the ability to accomplish everything. Sometimes you get stressed trying to do this on time. One client had over sixty things on his to-do list when I arrived. I didn't know if I should laugh or cry. He said he was stressed and needed to simplify his life. Really?I encourage you to take your to-do list and rank each item in order of need-to-accomplish. This isn't anything new, but come at it from a place of passion, not from something inauthentic. The point is that once consolidated into the categories below, it is much easier for you to attack specific categories at specific times of the day. I have suggested to executive secretaries that they rank all their tasks as follows:• Must--meaning now or today• Should--meaning later today or this week• Could--meaning whenever free time comes up (chances are this category is just a security blanket and most items never need get done that land in here)• Or, Hot, Warm, Cold ... A, B, C ... 1,2,3 ... Today, Weekly, Monthly, Buffer ... Focus, Free ... whatever motivates you and lets you separate priorities into concrete, usable, easy-to-remember categoriesSet up three baskets or file folders to put all of those various pieces of paper where you can deal with them later, or a vertical file stand that lets you see them easier. (Vertical stands that have ascending steps work great for this. Having a tickler file, something on your desk that "tickles" your memory may change your life!) However, you tend to work better with horizontal in-trays than the other brain preferences. Sometimes, this means doing the difficult thing first and then working down the list. I prefer to tackle some of the more challenging items first thing in the morning and then do a "Could" list of the easy ones so that by noon I've done four to six of the things on my list. Sometimes, it's a case of alternating complex and simple tasks. I strongly advise that you allow no more than fifteen items on your to-do list; ten is more reasonable and reassuring. Everything you do should inspire you to move on, complete something else, and feel rejuvenated.#3. Electronic Organizing• Preferred communication style in the modern world.• You most definitely prefer to communicate with people electronically rather than face-to-face.• Database system for your calendar and all of your contacts. Outlook is easier and more universally used, but ACT is more specific and elaborate. Palm software should not be used--it is not specific and simply not as good for your brain preference.• Get to know your computer software systems. I have witnessed several clients not using these to their full ability and unaware of the elaborate features they have to offer, e.g., you can color certain actionsin Outlook that help you know what is important and what isn't. Contact your company's IT person for further clarification.• Print hard copy as backup. This doesn't mean you have to use it, especially if you enjoy your computer, but it can be filed away. On more than one occasion I've seen clients lose important data due to computer failure. Back up your data regularly.• PDAs are a must if you work outside the home and have a family. Don't forget that your calendar is important to you and you need to have it with you--at all times.• A Rolodex for business cards? No way! Get rid of them (you could donate them to your church). They tend to get too bulky and make you work to find a specific business card. Purchase a business card binder for those contacts that are just professional and for names of contacts that you don't use regularly.#4. PaperFranklin Covey traditional planner, or Avery, Filofax, Day Runner, or Eldon. Any spiral-bound book that is commonly used.• Think of the size above all else before purchasing. Bigger isn't necessarily better. Ask yourself which one fits your purse or briefcase. But keep in mind that smaller isn't better either, because you are overly detailed yet need to carry it around with you.• Quarterly to half hour increments preferred.• Daily and weekly viewing.• Monthly and annually viewing in back.• Desktop calendar is a good idea but hard to take with you.• Binder with business card pockets to be sectioned by category and purged annually.ORGANIZING YOUR HOMEStrength of a nation is derived from the integrity of its homes.--Confucius 
Your home is traditionally seen as being very well organized. As you are reading this section, you probably occasionally look up and glance around at your surroundings--which are in great shape--and smile. You enjoy putting things in their place, filing, (even making labels for anyone who needs them), and using the various containers you store belongings in. Typical books on organizing that stress a similar formula such as "Eliminate, Organize, Containerize, and Strategize" work for you and really no one else! You think systematically. That is a great attribute in setting up a traditional organizing system.Some of your favorite tasks appear very routine, nothing fancy: paying bills, buying groceries, folding your clothes, organizing, cooking, and so on. Your traditional routines, like paying bills on Thursday night, shopping for groceries on Sunday afternoon, and folding your clothes immediately out of the dryer, ensure that your home is well organized from top to bottom. Your version of creativity is being organized.Your main fundamental questions on the home front are: "How much to keep?" and "Where to keep it?" Storage is a key element. Since you are likely to maintain all of your family's needs, not just for today but also what they may need for tomorrow, such as memorabilia, off-season items, and so on, you have to remember where you put them. That is why having a master list for storage, or even a record of where you can locate a certain piece of paper, just as they have in a library, can be beneficial. When someone in your home needs something, you are the person they likely come looking for. If you are not home, things are so well laid out that they will hopefully have no trouble finding it.Try to maintain a system that can be effective for several years--perhaps indefinitely, depending on the different things that happen in your life, such as moving, having a child, and so on. Life changes canchallenge your well-crafted organizing system. If you are planning any major changes, such as relocating or having a baby, keep them in mind before setting up your organizing system and reserve additional space in your garage, dresser drawers, or filing cabinets.Purging--eliminating things--can be a challenge for you. Don't keep everything; be discriminating as this will be easier on you in the long run. Set up perimeters of how long you need something before you start to purge that area. Most often, you keep things you perceive as useful. However, try to donate unnecessary residential goods to various charities or recycling centers; in most states you can receive tax deductions. It is a win-win situation.Allan kept every tax return he had ever filed, along with the relevant paperwork, in cardboard banker's boxes. He was in his late sixties and moving to be closer to his grandkids in Florida. For many years he paid the price of a storage unit, over $200 a month, to store more than fifty boxes that could have been shredded years earlier. I suggested he consult with an accountant. It turned out that he found out he only needed to keep information for a certain number of years. Once he knew that, he had no problem disposing of past paper. His money could now be spent on his grandchildren instead of a storage unit!Your ability to manage your environment may appear to the other brain types as overly neat, anal, perfect--even stifling. But for you it is just right. Since you don't do well under stress, you cope better when you are master of your surroundings. You can become frustrated when you have to find things (scrambling through the house to find the theater tickets for that evening's performance), since it isn't planned in your schedule to have to look for something.Another key factor in keeping things organized at home and in the office is to spend the time labeling things nicely, neatly, so that they are easy for you to retrieve even if they are on a high shelf or at the back of a filing cabinet. You are a master at legibility--a black marker may do the trick. Or you might prefer to purchase a label maker. Computer labels work, too, and you are probably really good at that. But they work better for creating an entire filing system than when used to label just one box. Labeling has to be done in order for you to finish the process.For you, this aesthetic dimension is just as important as what you are putting away for easy retrieval. You're the only brain type that thrives on this. One client told me that when she died, in her coffin would be her dog's ashes and her label maker!You need little time to relax. You like to make things perfect--to work, tidy up, put things away. The risk is that you may do and do and do until you fall into bed exhausted, just sinking down after a hard day keeping it all together. Organizing in a way that builds on your strengths will prevent you from burning out. When a system works for you for years, you are less likely to try to change things and implement something new and original. But there are engaging time-saving techniques. Keep an open mind. Here are a few specific ideas.#1. DesignSet thine house in order.--II Kings 20:1 
Design is better known as "space planning" to a professional organizer. Utilitarianism is your prime concern, with extra space for storage items where aesthetics come in second: purpose and function over style and pattern. If you feel comfortable in a room, you will stay and get the necessary things done. Being conscious of this will make organizing easier. But the simpler the better. For example, metal filing cabinets may look more industrial than wicker basket filing boxes, but they will neatly contain your files and make you happier in the long run. You store a lot of information, and having a design structure will prove enormously beneficial in your daily routine.Use subdued tones--maybe two-toned as you don't like anything too flashy. Muted colors are good so that you are able to concentrate on a particular task and not be distracted. When going through a store, look for objects that are brown, dark gray, or black, solid and square. Think angular, not round or cushiony. Function rather than flare dictates your design preferences, and you are not anxious to rearrange. An example of this could be purchasing a coffee table. Choosing one with enclosedstorage--where you can't see what's in the drawers--would be a plus for you. Think about function over design and you will come out a winner.Your furniture and the flow of your living space must be properly set up at the beginning because what you keep can be challenging to move when the volume increases over time. So, you first must examine what the task or activity is, then design your space with the appropriate gadgets. Assess the situation at hand before the carpenters arrive. Knowing how much you have and how much you really need to store is pivotal when purchasing new accessories for the home. You not only have things to store but need to get things done in the most efficient, timely manner possible.When you purchase electronic gadgets, you need to understand them clearly to max out their benefit. Spend time to get familiar with how things work (i.e., what cycle your delicate clothes should be subjected to, what temperature will wash your Tupperware). Again, this will make you feel comfortable in your surroundings.#2. StorageStorage can be a problem. One of the many organizing rules is, "One in and one out." But you already know this! The problem you encounter will be how long you need to keep things and what kind of storage is appropriate for the size of the items.Purging can pose difficulties for the best of us, but you tend to have little emotional attachment to things. Having predetermined criteria and familiarizing yourself with them makes the task more logical and you will be more sure of yourself and what you are doing. Check your policy and procedure manuals, or ask someone like your accountant about what it is required that you keep--say for tax-related issues.Once you have determined on what you wish to keep, built-in, closed, and fixed storage will benefit your style the most. You are likely to measure things to a T, knowing how much of this and that you have and where you want to put it.• Built-ins--may cost a little more money, but last a very long time. Normally they can easily be added onto and look fantastic!• Closed--like a closet door, or a curtain. Here you don't have to see what you have, since normally you have a pretty great idea where things are.• Fixed storage--storage that is created for one purpose--e.g., a shelf that pops up for your blender or ironing board.Most drawers work best with divided storage. Use the hooking drawer dividers that come in a multitude of sizes; or the drawer dividers that you actually measure to fit your drawers, made for every type of item. The various drawers in the kitchen may take time to set up but will be more accurate for those unusual-sized corkscrews, baking paraphernalia, and other seldom-used items. It is very easy to work. You could also purchase plastic strips that can be cut to fit any drawer. They come in different heights from 1/2 to 11/2 inches and you only have to cut the length to make it work. Stackable baskets work quite nicely for drawers as well as cupboard storage and can be labeled on the side. If money is an issue, try to use an old shoe box for larger items and an old check box for little things. There are many ways to get organized without having to spend an enormous amount of money.Plastic boxes are my absolute favorite. Cardboard storage is on its way out. They are of clear, lightweight plastic that prevents mold and mildew. They come in a variety of sizes:• 6 qt--Shoes, crayons• 16 qt--Dishes• 32 qt--Linens, records• 66 qt--Seasonal decorations.• 90 qt--Ski clothingThese boxes are amazing for many reasons. They can store an enormous amount of family items without being burdensome to move around. They have snapping handles that open easily. They come in many sizes and can be stacked one on top of another. A must for long-term storage of any kind. They are great for you and your Innovative Style friend, who likes to stack all of his belongings. Remember, it is great to stick to onebrandname--never buy organizing paraphernalia on a whim. Think before you buy!Depending on your space, clothing may either have to be rotated after every season or stored in perfect order, light to dark, short to long, and so on. This requires a lot of maintenance but looks great. Clothing that needs to be hung can be stored in plastic or cloth with a cedar block.I have yet to be in a home where memorabilia wasn't a huge issue. Again, store items, such as your college jacket or a box that once held something meaningful, in plastic boxes. They are relatively inexpensive, lightweight, and can hold high school yearbooks in a container as big as a banker's box. Also, it is ideal to keep negatives in a safety deposit box. You probably already have a box where you put the photos and the negatives together. One company, University Products, has created archival storage that is just superb: they have fantastic boxes to store photos in and you could easily fit a year of family photos into one box, rather than multiple boxes that could get lost. Family members can each have their own box or sort chronologically. You can create archives that are easy to maintain. Take charge in this area ASAP, otherwise it takes a very long time to catch up. Perhaps you could with the current items and work your way back, in case you already are behind!It is crucial that these boxes are labeled in the same corner on both sides. There is nothing more annoying then taking the time to get organized, labeling a box to store someplace, and then realizing it can only be stored one way--the side the label isn't on! Go figure! Sure, many labels are removable. I simply would rather label both sides and be ready for action. Remember, consolidation at this stage comes in handy. Labeling storage boxes, cupboards, and shelves can help every family member, regardless of their brain type.#3. Paper"The little things are infinitely the most important."--Sherlock Holmes 
Paper is a challenge for most of us. You may already have systems in place such as accordion files for seasonal papers--taxes andmemorabilia--regular file folders with matching hanging files prepared with matching tabs to ensure easily classification and upkeep. Can I move in with you? Just kidding! Since you are so adept at this, more than likely you also have extra systems in the back for future use. Labeling, again, is an important step for you and creating a centralized filing system at home can be rewarding and validating. To be honest, it is an essential component in your happiness. (I would recommend that you create a similar filing system to the one you have at work--same colors, tabs, sizes, etc. The more uniformity the better.) But if you can, try to go letter, not legal; you will save so much more space. If your file cabinet is legal-sized. Switch the brackets to fit lettersize. Avoid using legal hanging files with letter interior files. A few quick and important points for you:• Since you tend to store a lot of things, use binder clips rather than paperclips for paper in a file folder. Paperclips tend to get caught and if you refer to your papers a lot, they can be bothersome.• Two-inch for files. If larger, they are too thick; you must subdivide.• Two-inch bottom hanging files for larger items. Rather than opening a file drawer to find different heights that make it difficult to see what is behind, this is a great solution.• Accordion hanging files are very appropriate for you as they easily contain various paper sizes.• Either use 2- or 3-inch tabs.• Tabs should be located at the front of the hanging folder. Otherwise, when a document gets bulky, you will be unable to see the tab that is in back.• Spending time zigzagging title tabs would be great for you. There's nothing like looking at a beautiful filing system, and you would have no trouble maintaining it. (Other brain types--don't even think about it!)• Schedule regular maintenance appointments for paper documents--biannually would be sufficient. And once you've gotten things in control, annually would be fine.• Get to know your local office supply store and what works for you. Time well spent.A desk is essential. A filing cabinet either in your home office or in the garage would also reflect the order you crave, especially when it comes to paper. You must ascertain what size filing you prefer. Since you keep a multitude of documents, it is best to have a lateral filing cabinet where files can be easily stored. I'm a fan of letter file folders because they are easier to handle, but in your particular case legal files could be preferable. At home, a letter filing cabinet is preferable.Color coding may or may not work for you. It could serve just as well to use the army green hanging file with the manila file folders. It is less overall maintenance in the long run, and normally every filing cabinet drawer will be subject specific enough for you to retrieve a certain document. Remember, finding documents isn't an issue for you. Many professional organizers suggest that if there is one piece of paper in each hanging file, your system isn't working. However, you can handle this and wouldn't find it at all frustrating. But you will eventually need more filing cabinet space then the other brain types, since you are apt to use each hanging file for each item and they take up more room. That's fine if you have the space for it.It is very convenient to specify a place to drop off incoming mail and parcels at home--an actual location with a recycling bin and a shredder close at hand, too. You tend to try to file paper in your home office or your tickler filing system immediately; however, a basket may be more efficient. This could seem strange at first, but in time you may like the feeling of being relaxed and not having to file things the moment you come home. You naturally enjoy organizing; but creating a specific place and time for those activities in your calendar can give you more room to enjoy your passions in life. Avoid being a slave to the organizing component of maintenance. You will never feel caught up completely. This is all about feeling better about yourself, not worse.Identifying which papers to keep is part of effective maintenance. Be careful about purging when it comes to catalogues, magazines, or paperwork in general. This may sound strange, especially coming from a professional organizer, but I've met people who have thrown something out and needed it moments later. If you have qualms about throwing something out, keep it for a few days or weeks, write the date on the front and then purge. It can be frustrating trying to recreate something orspending the time to go online or to the library to find some information you just tossed out. Purging is a good thing, but only when performed with a plan, as you know.The storing of various papers depends on how you use them daily. Obviously, on your desk is a place for "active" files. Your storage files, or "archival" files, can either be stored in a filing cabinet or a banker's box by your desk. Storage is pretty simple. But it must be gone through periodically to determine if what you are storing is still important to you.Lastly, you do well with written lists, which truly maximize your efficiency. You keep things moving forward by having lists that you can quickly check off--tracking what you did and what must still be done to ensure you won't forget anything. Periodically, you must update these lists, including database, calendar, and any other directories you use.ORGANIZING YOUR OFFICENot long ago when I walked into the Napa Valley Register office, I noticed part of it was organized one way and the rest another way. Some cubicles were exceptionally neat, and I just knew that they managed reference material effectively. A typical desk boasted matched containers, staples, pens, pencils, paperclips. Everything was in its place: calendar on one side, timer in front, a to-do list placed on the arm of the computer, and traditional music playing in the background.For you, an office is a place to work. And work with few interruptions. Let's review your work style and then create an organizing system that supports that. You:• Prefer written forms of communication and are more likely to focus on policies and procedures for mediating a conflict than personal feelings.• Need time to review important documents.• Are likely to read instructions slowly before operating any new equipment or beginning a new assignment.• Need more time in staff meetings to digest the information and then put it to use.• Need specifics in doing a new task that you haven't performed before.• Like to think and have a plan before you jump.• Think rules are important and define undertakings at work.• Are notorious for completing assignments on time.• Thrive on routines and need an organizing system that supports them.• Prefer regular hours, similar jobs, day in day out.• Need machines that are productive and efficient.• Enjoy compiling, recording, and maintaining papers and documents.• Like to work with things rather than ideas.• Achieve enormous satisfaction when your skills match the tasks to be accomplished.Your own office needs to have all the amenities for getting the job done, minimizing clutter so that you are able to create reports, keep the minutes of meetings, mistake-free. You are less concerned with appearance and more with performance. Staying simple yet practical is the best organizing style for you. Having technological gadgets at your fingertips and extra office supplies in your office rather than the supply room can help create an environment of efficiency and control. Having extra filing folders in the back of your file drawer, ready to go, would be one of the solutions.Review your daily schedule throughout the day or at least at the end of each day. You excel at getting things done on time. Just take time to smell the roses, and be jubilant about your talents.#1. Electronic OrganizingComputer organizing can match your talents and be something you really enjoy doing. Your methodical reasoning and ability to organize in a sequential manner give you the capacity to master a variety of databases, from something like Outlook to more complex entry systems such as Act to financial and spreadsheet software such as QuickBooks and Excel. Name it and you can do it! Backing up daily, you are also willing to spend time learning the steps required for a specific program. Yourcomputer can become an appendage, a friend, something you rely on, that gives you immediate support when you need to find an item pronto. More than likely, you also interact with your computer quickly. For example, if you receive an e-mail, it's quite probable you will either respond or relocate it to an electronic file folder immediately. You are not the type that prints stuff out unnecessarily.Whether it is researching an item on the Web, shopping online, or communicating with friends and coworkers, you enjoy staying on top of things. Which approaches can best optimize your electronic organizing strategies? Since you are ultimately the one who maintains the electronic files (you are probably the residential office Excel expert), computer proficiency is a given. The more you can finesse how you store and retrieve documents, the better. E-mail communication was made for you. You thrive and actually are more relaxed using this method than most.Clear-cut classification systems, as in your paper filing systems, must be created first or printed out as a reminder of exactly where to find things. It is more difficult finding a document that is lost electronically than a hard copy. Since you tend to keep the most and your colleagues tend to come to you when they need something, be very careful how you categorize your electronic files. Since you tend to be discriminating when it comes to what you do and don't need, you probably devote scheduled time to selecting what software is best for each organizational challenge. Receiving so many e-mails and documents daily, it is necessary not only to file well but also to purge well. Give yourself the gift of a monthly purge of electronic documents. By scheduling this into your calendar, you will save time down the line, guaranteed, especially when one of your superiors needs something important at the drop of a hat. With less stuff, what's important will be easier to access.CONCLUSIONAll things are not only in a constant stat Lanna Nakone is a professional organizer and consultant. Her business, Organized World, boasts clients from corporations and busy executives to homemakers. A member of the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO), she runs workshops and does extensive lecturing for The Executive Committee Worldwide (T.E.C.). She lives in St. Helena, California.