When you’re inherently disorganized, you often need everything to go perfectly to get work done. Whether it’s an unexpected phone call from your spouse, a crisis with the kids or LOOK! A SQUIRREL! … the slightest distraction and your organizational house of cards will come-a-tumbling down.
As you may have read, I am one of those perpetually disorganized folks. But I’m still able to produce and manage a fairly high volume of work, both for the digital marketing agency where I work and for side projects, writing like this and even personal projects with my kids. The trick is often seeing the organizational party bombs coming and figuring out how to defuse them.
What is an Organizational Party Bomb?
An organizational party bomb is an unexpected event, object or other distraction that disrupts your organization, however lacking it might be. It’s the rock thrown in your still, placid body of water that causes waves and ripples to rock your boat. They can be big or small, annoying or devastating, and anywhere in between.
They can disrupt the organization of your workspace (the cat scampers across, ruining your stacks), your calendar (your daughter has a fever and needs to be picked up from school) or your mind (“Oh Sherrie” comes on the radio and sends you in a deep depression because you never asked Brittany Blair out in high school.)
Did I write that out loud?
Whatever it is that suddenly jars your routine or your day so that you get sidetracked in your efforts,—or worse, you don’t even get started on the project for the day or moment—can be an organizational party bomb. Knowing how to defuse them can’t always solve the problems, but it sure can help.
Defusing Party Bombs of Space
Whether it’s your desk, your kitchen table, or the counter at Starbucks, an organized space helps you focus and think. When a co-worker sits at your spot to eat lunch and moves your notepads, notes and pens around or the break-time Nerf gun war knocked a lava lamp over on your spot, you panic and spend an hour trying to find a place to put your blame and frustration.
While the perfect solution would be to demand a private office with a lock and hermetically seal it shut when you leave, that’s a luxury very few have these days. So how can you defuse that bomb?
- Take a pic of your desk, wall calendar or white board in question when you break for the day or for lunch. It’ll help you put things back that disappear while you’re gone.
- Keep tasks on individual sticky notes, but organize them on your desk. Then number them so if they get jumbled up, you can put them back in order.
- Take 10 minutes at the beginning and end of each day to physically organize your space the way you want it. Diving in head first normally means you’ll get frustrated that you aren’t organized, which leads to our third type of party bomb (below).
Defusing Party Bombs of Time
Well, when your kids are sick, or you have some other kind of family or even client crisis, there’s not a lot you can do. But there are little party bombs that sneak in there, too. A co-worker stops by for a chat while getting coffee, you get sucked into sharing the latest Donald Trump’s hair meme or you get invited to YET. ANOTHER. MEETING.
Respecting your time never seems to be anyone else’s job. The problem, though, is it normally isn’t yours either. When someone throws a wrench into the wheels of your schedule, your organization goes out the window and your sanity is often close behind. Saying “no” and respecting the time you set aside to work is one of the most important things you can do to stay organized and productive.
How can you defuse the party bomb of time?
- Block time on your calendar to be organized. A 10-15 meeting meeting for you to get your stuff together to start and end the day will make a huge difference in how organized you are … and feel.
- Block time on your calendar to work. Most people use their calendar for appointments and meetings. But the most important meetings you have are those with yourself and your projects. Put in 1-3 hour windows in your day, every day, to get work done. Others have less chance of booking you for meetings if they see you’re not available for part of the day.
- Door shut, head down or headphones on. You may not have an office, but you have the ability to show everyone around you’re busy. Put on a set of headphones -- even if you don’t listen to anything -- to visibly queue your colleagues you’re focused and shouldn’t be bothered. If someone approaches you, politely ask them to come back at the end of your work meeting with yourself. They’ll get used to letting you do your work.
Defusing Party Bombs of the Mind
I’m no psychologist, but I’d guess that 90 percent of our organization and productivity problems are more emotional rather than rational issues. Whether we procrastinate, have self-esteem episodes or feel overwhelmed or rushed, our organizational framework suffers. And it’s a domino-effect. You feel rushed, so you skip that morning's 15 minutes of organizational time, you forget to put on your headphones, people walk up and interrupt you … and the cycle begins.
What’s even more frustrating is that you’re smart enough to recognize that when you keep your mind clear and focused and follow the advice here or elsewhere, you stay more on top of things. But your actions don’t mirror your rational mind, do they?
Granted, most people spend years trying to overcome mental and emotional issues. There’s little chance a smart-alek writer can help you in one blog post. But as someone who has spent years in and out of therapy trying to understand his own brain, I can share a few tricks I’ve learned to defuse the party bombs in your mind;.
- Meditate. Just like your 15-minute organization period at the beginning and end of the day, a window of time to calm your mind actually helps. I use an app called Headspace that offers up 15- and 20-minute guided meditations in the form of audio instructions to help you get in touch with your body and mind more readily.
- Get up and take a walk. When your emotions get the best of you, remove yourself from your work, your environment and your problem for a few minutes. Walk outside, do a lap around the building or just stretch your legs a bit while you get a drink of water. A quick reset does wonders to move those emotional boulders from the front and center.
- Build a work-focused music playlist. Music can trigger a lot of emotions and moods. So build a playlist of kickin’ tunes that motivate you to keep grinding it out and are less likely to send you into a free-for-all over a past love. I recommend lots of Metallica here, personally.
What Would You Add?
These are my ideas for how to remove those organizational party bombs. My guess is you have a few tricks of your own. What do you do when someone messes up your space? How about when they eat away at your time? How do you handle the mood swings that sometimes happen through the course of the day? Add your suggestions in the comments. We’ll all be more organized for it.
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