Monday, November 29, 2010

Progressive Organization

     Well right now, this office is an absolute mess; and for a lot of people looking to start getting a little more organized, there is a TON of clutter getting in the way of what's most important to them.  For me, having a place where I can be creative, find answers at my fingertips, and do extensive brainstorming  is something that would be invaluable. My office is where I can do all that.  The problem is, there are so many papers and CDs and ancient electronics scattered everywhere, that I've become somewhat hindered from being able to do all that, as freely as I would like.
     Recently, I discovered a very inspiring instructor from the University of New South Wales through youtube.  His entire lecture series on first year programming is available there on youtube.  His name is Richard Buckland if you care to know.  Anyway, in following a few of his lectures I came across lecture# 24: eXtreme Programming.

     What is eXtreme Programming?  Simply put, it's a methodology for the organization and implementation of programming projects.  It sets in motion a more powerful way to take control of complex and rapidly changing environments.

     This evening, instead of tackling the 15 some odd things on my to do list, I decided to figure out if there might be a way to use some of the theories I learned from eXtreme Programming to develop a methodology for organizing the crazy variety of topics and office related files in my room.

     So here it is: something I'm calling Progressive Organization. Please keep in mind, this is only a theory and I am just now starting to test it. (There may be other things labeled progressive organization, or it may already have books written about it' I'm really not sure.. so don't consider me the authority here, but I didn't reference any material to come up with this.  This just came off the top of my head.)

     There are 5 basic steps in this theory:

          •  Clean - Clear away the clutter
          •  Design - Define the functions of each area
          •  Target an area - Focus your efforts
          •  Develop a plan - Make a single area work well with all it's functions
          •  Carry out the plan - Don't just sit there! Get to work!

     Ok so now that I've completely bored the average person out of their mind with the basic gobbledygook, what does it all mean?

     Get rid of EVERYTHING that does not have a specific purpose.  This part I know works very well because I've used it before.  Find a place to temporarily drop things, a place somewhere that things won't be in the way.  Then begin moving everything you aren't using, or aren't planning on using out of the area or room that you are organizing.  Put stacks of papers in boxes to go through them later, pick up everything that you don't have a place for and move it to the temporary storage place.

     Now you should have a pretty clean environment to work with, but you may not have long to get things working depending on where your temporary storage is, so you might have to get to work with the next few stages.  The design stage is where you will break down the functions of each and every part of the room.  This can be done in your head, or written down if you prefer.  The idea is to know exactly how the room will function.  Think of everything that comes in and everything that goes out.  Have places for everything you can imagine you would need a place for.

Target an area
     Pick one function and develop it.  Say for instance your mail:  mail comes in, typically a small stack at a time, gets opened, and some gets stored and the rest discarded.  This is one function.  There are many functions in an office, and every room of a house usually has multiple functions when you think about it.  A kitchen has a cereal function: buy cereal, store cereal, eat cereal, discard cereal, and at some point in time, you write down the particular cereal that you need to buy because you're getting low... and the cycle starts over.  At this step (Target an area), you must choose a particular function, and begin to make it work.  Which brings me to the next step.

Develop a plan
     So you picked the filing system.  Good choice☺  That's what I started with too.  So now it's time to make it work.  But there's so much to it!  How can I organize so many different papers into files and folders and categories???  This is why development is it's own step.  Some functions only need a little thought and you'll have it working and get very excited about implementing it.  Other functions you might dread even after you've figured out how to make it work.  In the case of my filing system, this stage is much like designing a database... very tedious and annoying.  I grouped my system into four categories because that's what made sense for the kinds of papers I will be filing.  Business, Records, School, and Study.  Business will be anything to do with web designs or projects or even this blog.  Records will be any records, receipts, finances, school stuff etc.  School is self explanatory and study is any experiments, research, thoughts and ideas that might pertain to something I'm learning.  The file system will get broken down further in the next step.

Carry out the plan
     See, I already procrastiNATEd... the file system should have been broken down in the development stage... but here I am standing in front of my filing cabinets thinking of how exciting the next episode of Burn Notice will be, and how much more fun it would be to watch it on Hulu than it would be to actually figure this out.  This stage is by far the most difficult for me because I'm easily distracted.  This stage is all about follow through.  What good is a fully developed plan without ever putting it in action?  Ok so you have a great idea and it can be used for theory to help someone else do something better.  But who will consider your ideas if you never succeed?  In order for anything to work, there has to be work and effort behind it.  A great mechanic once told me, WAKE UP! This is reality! Get to work and quit wining.  Life isn't a free ride, you have to push to get things done. (not in so many words), but that helped me to see that priorities and dedication are key to succeeding at anything, even if all you want to do is support and raise a family in a decent neighborhood.

     Once you've gone through one itteration of this process, you begin again.  For long term projects, you start at the beginning.  For short term projects, you start at step 2 or 3.  The process continues until you have a very well working system.  Then you can continue refining your functions to infinity, which may help at first, but it could hurt your system in the long run if you delve too deep into every specific movement of a particular room or process. (I hope that made sense...)

     Progressive Organization is intended to flow and be flexible enough to deal with complex organizational issues. So what are your thoughts on this idea?  Is it close to anything you've read before?  Do you have better ideas?  Please share them in the comments.

     After a little of the first step... here's a pic of my office.  Keep in mind that in order for everything here to work well, there is more than just looks to consider.  Organization and implementation are key to making my world tick.

1 comment:

Danit. said...

Hello Nate. This is Dani Pinyol.
I hope you're doing great.

I've enjoyed very much reading this post. I'm a college student now, so more than ever organization is probably the most important issue I've gotta work out. This post's been for me the verbalization of what I've been trying to do since the beginning of this school year; in other words, you have expressed my objectives concerning organization. It's certainly been as well a great encouragement to keep on going and putting away laziness and useless distractions.

And that's all I wanted to say. Hope I can hear from you soon. Greetings from Spain to your family. God bless.