Thursday, April 5, 2012

Get it Together: Understanding Your Learning Style to Get Organized Once and For All.

A few months ago, I posted abut my life long challenge with organization. I'm a visual person and if I cannot see it, it doesn't exist. Sad, but true and this makes for a messy desk. All the time! Things have greatly improved though, and I am proud to say, with some help from expert friends and great online apps, my struggle with paperwork is a thing of the past. Just look at that clean desk!!

Portraits To The People 2012

So how in the world did I do it? Well it started with a conversation I had with top Bay Area organizational expert Joshua Zerkel. Josh is the genius behind Creative Living Solutions, San Francisco's top-rated and award winning organizational firm. When interviewing Josh for a piece over at IndieMade, I asked him to share the secret behind finding an organizational system that you can stick with. Josh simply said this, "Systems are not one size fits all, and that's a good thing." Brilliant! The key is to find something that works for YOU. That left me with the question, so what does work for me?

It's funny sometimes how when we are in the business of helping others we sometimes forget that the same rules apply to ourselves. When I was working at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising as the campus psychotherapist, I counseled students everyday about how to manage their time, energy and commitments. One of the recommendations I made over and over again, was for students to have a clear understanding of their learning style. If you know and understand how you process information, you can plan much more easily for how to best complete your work assignments, stay organized and still have some time to breathe.

Applying this to myself has been life changing! Once I took an honest look at how I learn and work, I at least had somewhere to start when it came to finding that organizational technique that was going to stick. To gain a better understanding of my learning and work style I asked myself the following questions:
  • When at a conference, meeting, or class, how do I prefer to receive information? Do I like handouts, PowerPoint presentations, audio recordings, speeches?
  • When I have a deadline, how do I work towards getting it done. Do I work on it for a few minutes or hours each day over a long period of time, or do I work many hours at a time closer to the deadline? Am I last minute? Slow and steady? Or somewhere in between?

These are all questions I would ask my patients, but had never really thought about when it came to Zelma Rose. Turns out the same rules apply. By asking myself these questions I learned that I love handouts, PowerPoint presentations and looking at physical examples when I am learning something new. Safe to say that makes me a visual learner. When I have an upcoming deadline, I prefer to work on the project closer to the due date in longer chunks of time, instead of a little bit at once over a longer time frame. Now I do not leave things until the last minute, that works great for some people, but not for me, I fall somewhere in between up all night before a deadline and slow and steady wins the race. Knowing this about myself gave me some valuable information when it came to seeking out a plan for organization.

Portraits To The People 2012

With these new found clues in hand, I set off to try out some online apps. As I wrote in my last post about organization, I decided to start with Stitch Labs, Outright, Evernote, and Shoeboxed.

I included these online organization systems in my trial because each application allows for multiple customizations. The rules of how, when, and where I input data were up to me. The easy to read charts, reports, and categorizations that each app provide enabled me to work at my own pace and also see as much of my data as possible in a variety of different ways.

It is a few months later and things have been going great! I am hopelessly devoted to Stitch, Outright, Evernote, and Shoeboxed. Instead of having a messy pile of paperwork on my desk that I absolutely must see, I just sign into my online app and all my info is there, beautifully organized. Ahhhhhhh it feels oh so good!!

To read more about how I use Stitch Labs and Outright for Zelma Rose, check out my IndieMade interview and test drive with Stitch and my interview over on Outright's Blog, The Bottom Line.

What are your favorite organizational methods?

How are you going about discovering your learning style?




  1. Right now I would give anything to have a pro come in and get things in my house organized! Sometimes I think packing to move would be a great thing for us!!!!! We still haven't found systems that work for us! Someday I will be organized...

  2. Incredibly helpful post, Lisa!

    I'm a visual person - I love to do lists and am currently stacking things I need to do on my desk! Something so fulfilling with cleaning stuff off of it when a task is completed.