Many people want to know if I was born organized. The fact is, I was once a notoriously disorganized person, spending half my days searching through piles. I lost everything you could imagine: keys, watches, umbrellas, gloves—I even lost someone’s car once. But somehow, I always seemed to pull things off. By the skin of my teeth, I always made it to events, produced high quality work, pleased my teachers and employers. I felt a bit invincible.
My day of reckoning came when my daughter was three weeks old, and I decided we’d go for her first-ever walk. Before we left, I realized hey, we probably need a few supplies. More than two hours passed as I ran around gathering items. By the time I was packed up, Jessi had fallen asleep. I had missed the moment.
In a fit of determination, I dumped the contents of my overstuffed bag and began organizing. I grouped similar items, got rid of duplicates, and labeled compartments so I’d know at a glance if anything was missing because I never wanted to go through this thinking process again! BAM—I’d organized my first thing. I felt victorious. Liberated. Never again would my child miss an opportunity because I wasn’t ready.
And isn’t that what being organized is all about? It’s about being ready. Ready for the next opportunity, situation or deal. Ready to make a smart decision, seize a chance, or be there for someone in need. Ready to make your unique contribution.
A few years after my own epiphany, I started an organizing business. Twenty-six years later, my company continues to serve the most discriminating clients globally from Harpo and Microsoft to the world’s top financial, legal and consulting firms. Companies bring us in to create archives, maximize space in changing workplaces, train employees in time management, and create a common language around productivity that enhances teamwork, and speeds information retrieval. High-achieving individuals hire us to help them stay ahead of the competition while maintaining a personal life. What all of these clients have in common is the desire to be the best at whatever they do and maximize their time, space, talent and knowledge.
Between my own journey from chaos to order, and the privilege of working with so many extraordinary clients, I have learned three key lessons:
- Organizing is not a talent, it is a skill, that anyone can learn. In fact, small changes in behavior or thinking often have a huge impact.
- Building systems for repeatable processes is one of the greatest investments you can make, repaying you in thousands of hours of freed time, focus and the mental space to tackle more interesting challenges.
- Organizing enhances how we function—it fuels energy, reduces stress, increases the clarity of your thinking, and enriches the quality of each thing you do.