2014 - 07.10 - #12  - Managing Chaos

This is one of those blogs where I don’t have the answers. And believe me I’m looking for clues.

First a confession: I’m not a member of the clean desk club. Not that I’m against clean desktops – I like them a lot. I had one on Saturday, May 17th, 2013 at 9:15 pm. It was a wonderful moment.

But I look at my desk today and see an old laptop battery (what to do with that?), a HUGE stack of recycled paper (keeps building up), a video case with the DVD from my recent monologue, a stack of papers with the e-book I’m writing, a bottle of lens cleaner, a tax document I don’t want to forget, a little memento from a colleague in Santa Fe, and a pile of books that I’m reviewing… you get the drift. It takes time to figure out what to do with all that stuff.

And mostly, I always have something I want to do more than clean my desk. Sometimes it’s an urgent work project. Other times, I’d rather garden when the sun is out, or write a poem when it’s not. My desk waits patiently for me to find just the right moment (maybe the next time the power goes out) when I will step away from projects and attend to it.

I’m not touting this as a way to be!

I remember a boss who was running a start-up, and couldn’t understand how I could be Yale educated and yet tolerate chaos. Little did he know! He wanted my desktop to always look organized.

Silly man. He didn’t get that my stacks and piles were a sign that I was deeply engaged in a project.

When I was most creative, my desktop looked chaotic. The “happy-clean-desk-look” meant that I had either finished a project or really hadn’t been doing anything productive and polishing the desk was amusing. (Oh, the days of having people pay you to clean your desk!)

He kept his desk super neat – but the company tanked.

But sometimes the chaos gets to me. Have any ideas?

Here’s where I’m looking for help:

1. Understanding learning styles.

Maybe you’ll call it a cop out but it helps me to know that I’m not crazy – in fact, given my learning and personality styles, I’m pretty normal. One style-ometer that I really like is the Gregorc Learning styles instrument which tells you how you perceive and order your world. In the Gregorc system – you are either random or sequential, and either abstract or concrete. I’m abstract and random. My random side is creative but never remembers to place the same thing in the same place twice. My abstract side gives me the ability to be very intuitive and see invisible possibilities. However, sometimes I don’t see the stuff right in front of me – which is why my husband harps at me when I’m cleaning up the kitchen. “Look at what you’re doing,” he says. He doesn’t understand that I’m busy strategizing the future.

The good thing about knowing your learning style is you stop using those righteous time and self-management systems that were made for obsessive concrete-linear people.

2. Reading David Allen and his Getting Things Done website.

One big idea I took from David Allen is to WRITE THINGS DOWN. I used to keep a lot in my head – so it was as if my mind was constantly on and constantly spinning. Even my computer would complain of such treatment. By writing things down I can close some of those open-ended do-loops in my brain and start organizing things in terms of purpose and projects. David has a lot of great information on his website and blog.

Note to self: write that down!

3. Using Evernote.

Finally, I discovered a place where I can write down all my random thoughts: Evernote. I know that I’m late to the party discovering this web-based software but now I’m a zealous convert!

Evernote let’s me write notes about all the stuff that’s been floating around my mind or my desk: quotes I want to use some day, ideas, deadlines, or the synopsis of a phone call. Those slips of paper floating around my desk can get added right in. And Evernote’s so search-able.

4. Grooving with Jennifer Lee.

I’m just discovering Jennifer Lee and her uber-fun right-brain business planning. She uses color and visuals to organize and plan which seems cool although I haven’t actually done it (no time!) I’m hoping that she’ll have the right-brain approach to de-cluttering my desk.

There’s more to share but I think I’ll hold right now and listen for YOUR ideas. I’m sure you can help. Besides, my handlers tell me that my blogs shouldn’t be too long, and I have a lot of papers to file!

SallySig