Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Still A Mess?

Well, you can look in the Inquirer's Business section today and see the latest picture of my desk. It doesn't look much different and I am not sure whether I am making progress or not.

Yesterday, I visited Trina Lewis, the overwhelmed human resources manager who won our Inquirer Confess Your Mess contest. She's making progress and is thrilled with the changes. So are the other two folks we have been following, Jamie Joffe, the publicist who can handle her clients, but not her business, and Norie Wisniewski, the nonprofit executive director who was burdened by hidden disorganization.

Everyone looks better and feels better.

As for me, I can't tell. I'm certainly happy my emails are down to 550 from 4,300. I've emptied three file drawers completely and organized another one. I've culled story ideas that were 10 years old. Many were good, but realistically, I won't do them, because they are no longer pertain to my writing responsibilities at the paper. I've devised some new tickler systems and have been using them. Every day I get a step closer to figuring out how to handle my phone contacts, which, although organized, should be upgraded, given its importance to my work. But my desk is still messy.

So what's my problem? Or, do I even have a problem?

One obstacle is that I am completely skeptical of everything and everyone. Some of it has to do with being a reporter. Our job is to ask questions and question assumptions. Do that for 30 years and it gets hardwired into your psyche. The other day, for example, Trina's organizer, Barbara Bergeron, told her to abandon a system that she has used successfully for years in favor of another. Trina didn't even ask why. She just nodded. Maybe that's OK for Trina, but that's not OK for me. Convince me. I can be convinced, but not through just a random spouting of truisms. I've reached my lifetime limit on those.

When my organizer, Jeanine Baron, tells me to do something, I question it. She gave me a perfectly fine project management chart, with color-coded bars, to tell me what I should do to dig out. I think if I were in business, I'd be enthusiastic about this sheet and impressed by the various bars and time lines. I'm not. The best meaning is that she took the time to do it, and that's what I appreciate more than anything -- the good vibe she is sending my way. She wants me to have color-coded "project boxes" on my desk, so everything matches. Again, yikes. I don't like regimentation, but then again, I don't like chaos. Too many internal conflicts.

One thing that I am determined about is that this change will be fundamental. I am not content to have a clean desk for a picture just to slide into chaos in a month or two. This has to be real and it has to last. I'm working it... I guess we'll see.


Anonymous KAB said...


I am very empathic to your quest as I am someone who also "appears disorganized" but claims not to be. I would love help but I also know that getting help would require admitting that I have a problem...which I don't (or so I thought.)

1:26 PM  
Anonymous kab said...

I forgot to wish you luck. :)
Kudos to you for doing this!!

I can't wait to hear how it turns out.

1:27 PM  
Blogger thayer said...

its the letting go that is challenging for many of us.
if that file is something you have not touched or looked at for x(let your organizer decide)amount of time,toss it...make sure you have supervision so you are not tempted to trash pick you own trash.
as for INCOMPLETES,those materials,papers, ideas the are in terminal gestation,never to be born, save just the idea (not the papers and articles)somewhere compact, a tickler file, it can be a computer folder, or in my case its a special little white board just for that purpose.its much easier to delete and add to that than to purge files. i am also an infophile(or maniac)with anxiety that the info will not be there for me when i really need it .
most stuff can be gotten with a good search engine and as i let go of "stuff", my brain seems to be getting more oxygen, less bogged down by the constant psychic drain of the incompletes .

4:55 PM  
Blogger Jane M. Von Bergen said...

Thayer is so right. It's the incompletes that weigh one down, along with the attached guilt

8:37 AM  

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