The definition of “organized” has always been having a place for everything and putting everything in its place. This implies that everything is put away. This is fine for half the population–those who favor their left brains. But, for the rest of us who like things out where we can see them, love to wait until the last minute to do things, have several (unfinished) projects all going at once, work best in short bursts rather than doing the same thing all day, and can come up with ten different ways to do something and prefer new to old, the traditional rules of organizing don’t work for us. (In fact, rules in general don’t work for us.) So what is the definition of organizing and how can we achieve it based on our unorthodox approach to things? The real definition of organizing should be: “If you can find what you need when you need it, you are organized.” For meeting planners this may also include having neat piles of papers with a purpose to look more professional in the eyes of others, color coded files to quickly differentiate between speaker, conferences, and priorities, and the use of index cards or Post-It Notes on a bulletin board or large calendar to be able to be fluid and flexible. In a nutshell, we are taking our natural tendencies and working with them rather than fight against them to create a system that works the way we do. Here’s some more specific tips.
VISUAL: If we look at why we do the things we do and understand the meaning behind an action, we can turn what may be seen as a liability into an asset. For example, being visually oriented simply means we don’t want to put things away for fear that we may forget about them. It also could mean we are so busy with projects we don’t want to waste the time putting away something that we will need to work on a gain later in the day. So if we look at this as a strength, what if we took this approach: Pile with a purpose. Make piles based on an event, a client, a speaker, a venue, projects in progress, and so on. Then, create zones on your desk (and other flat surfaces) that make sense. A pile by the door means you need to take those things with you on a trip to a conference. A pile by the phone means you need to make follow-up calls. A pile on top of a filing cabinet means these papers are ready to go to their final resting place. Also, within a pile you can indicate what’s what. If you tape two pieces of paper together and then wrap them around a portion of the pile you can create a “spine” (like a book) and mark that section. Lastly, if you take a piece of card stock (or thick paper) and fold it in half to create a “tent” you can title a pile and make a table of contents. This will impress people who think your piles are just a random mess. Ha! If you really want to “wow” left-brainers put your piles in clear plastic containers with a lid and then . . . wait for it . . . use a label maker to create a category for the contents.
FLEXIBLE: As a meeting planner, you will always have projects in various stages of completion. As they say, your work is never done and things can change in an instant. It’s the same way for speakers. I have found that the best way to stay on top of various deadlines and other details of my speaking schedule is best done the old school way. I have a BIG bulletin board in my office with zones. Since right brainers are multitalented and interested in everything, it’s easy to become overwhelmed. My approach is to limit the amount of things that are priorities by space. If I want to add one more thing, I would have to either complete something else or drop it to make room. Plus, being able to see at a glance what’s going on and what I “feel” like working on is an asset for those of us who like to flit from thing to thing based on our moods. Here’s how to do it: Across the top of a bulletin board label rows with a big header. For me the areas are: “Speaking”, “Writing”, and “Consulting”. Then, using index cards (or Post-It Notes) put the projects under the appropriate heading. On the index card could be the goal you have for that project, deadlines to meet, specific tasks that need to be taken care of, important people and contact information, and so on. You can tack on FedEx tracking slips, business cards, and anything else that relates to that project / meeting quickly and easily. When you are done you get the satisfaction of “checking it off” by removing everything and filing it away. If things change, you can move the cards up or down based on importance (date and/or deadlines).