Styles of Organizing

“Organized people are just too lazy to look for things.” – Bertrand Russell

Have you ever set up an organizing system only to abandon it because it doesn’t work well, and then try to set up a different system? And then another system and so on and so on.  Many of my clients struggle with finding and sticking to a system for managing all of the tasks and projects in their world at any one time.  We all know that if you don’t have solid organizing systems, you spend much more time than you should trying to figure out what you should be doing next.

Sometimes the failure of a system is just because you didn’t stick with it long enough for it to become a habit.  However, the other reason an organizing system can fail is because you didn’t take your organizing style into consideration when you chose your system. Perhaps you saw a friend or colleague using a system and you figured if it worked for them then it would work for you? Often not the best way to choose a system.

Let’s take a step back then and look at organizing style. The most basic differentiation is between visual and nonvisual styles.  Those who organize visually are sometimes referred to as pilers and those of us who are nonvisual are filers.   The first thing to keep in mind is that there is nothing wrong with being a visual organizer. Sometimes people who pile think they should put everything away because it looks “messier” if they don’t.  If nicely labelled and organized piles work for you, then go with it.  Don’t try to adopt organizing systems used by your filer friends.  Interestingly enough, those who are stringent filers and have everything put away, often give the impression that they have nothing to do.  So, since you can’t win either way, do what works for you.

Just to confuse the issue, many of us are a combination of both styles.  If you have some piler and some filer tendencies, you will usually have a small pile of all the things you need to take care of or work on this week, and everything else is put away.  

There is a slightly deeper analysis of organizing style where we determine if you are visual, spatial or sequential in the way you organize and remember things.  The most powerful question you can ask yourself here is, “When I am looking for something I have misplaced do I ask myself: Where did I see it? Where did I put it? or When did I last have it?”  If you are visual, you know where you last saw something and need to have all important items visible.  If you are more spatial, you will remember where in space you put something and like to work from a clear area and have all your supplies around you.  If you remember when you last had an item, then you organize things sequentially and like to keep things organized in sequence by date.

So, before you design a new organizing system for yourself, be sure to think about your organizing style and whatever you do, don’t fight it!

What type of an organizer are you?

One comment

  1. I thought that I learned to be a filer when I worked for a company that required us to clear everything off our desks at the end of each day. However, I worked there for less than a year over 30 years ago and the habit has followed me ever since, so I guess it was always my natural tendency. I just needed someone to show me the way!

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