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Blog: The Language Of Organizing

Organizing is fun and exciting for the same reason it is so challenging and exhausting: it requires you to make decisions.  This is fun and exciting because it empowers you, putting you back in charge of your space, stuff, and time, embracing your ability to decide what belongs (and what doesn't).  But all that deciding takes focus and attention, which can be tiring.  And often the reason the deciding has been postponed is that the decision itself is difficult or laden with emotion.

That's why benchmarking is such a powerful skill for organizing.

My dictionary tells me the word benchmark is a noun meaning a "standard or point of reference."  But I use benchmarking as a verb, an action verb, to describe what happens when you recognize and identify a decision-making pattern.

In the absence of benchmarking, people waste enormous amounts of time touching and thinking about things individually.  But when you have established benchmarks, you can act without having to think hard because you've already set the standard.

For example, last week I worked with a local legislator.  She gets huge quantities of mail, which overwhelm her.  In sorting through the first 6 inches together, I helped her establish several benchmarks which dramatically sped up the rest of the sorting process.

First, she declared that she was satisfied with her current credit cards.  Benchmark:  all card offers went directly to the shredder.  Today as we sorted.  And from now on, period.  They will no longer accumulate because she has set the standard and will ditch them immediately from now on (in fact, we can take her off those lists so she gets fewer solicitations, but that's another story).

Next, she decided that she would answer constituent mail for an hour each on Mondays and Thursdays.  Benchmark:  all constituent inquires went directly into the "Answer Constituents" folder that we created.  Today as we sorted.  And form now on, period.  She has set a standard and those letters will go immediately into their folder until the designated time on her calendar.  After the letter has been answered it no longer needs to be kept, unless it relates to the next benchmark.

Third, she identified 9 core categories of legislative priority and created folders for them.  Benchmark:  all data related to those core categories goes into the relevant folder, where it will live until the committee meetings, at which time it will be reviewed and discarded as necessary.  Once these core categories were clear, over 3 recycling bins of other literature was then easy to toss.  Today as we sorted.  And from now on, period.

You get the idea.  Once you set a standard for a category it frees you from having to decide over and over again with incoming material in that category.  So look for patterns in your decision-making and start benchmarking!  Then enjoy the streamlined process.

posted on: 2/17/2008 3:00:00 PM by Porter Knight
category: General organizing Tips

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The Language Of Organizing

by Porter Knight

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About Porter:

Yes, I love organizing. And I love teaching others how to adopt the skills necessary to become more organized. But you know why I organize? Because what I really love to do is ride horses, hike, practice yoga, swim, read, dance, and spend time with my family (2 boys, husband and dog). Being organized allows me to balance all the aspects of my life so I can enjoy life fully. Since 1996 I have used vivid descriptions of organizing solutions to help make productivity and balance more achievable for thousands of individuals. Jump on board!

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