Top Takeaways On Organizing and Productivity

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This past week I spent four days in Pittsburgh, PA at the annual conference of the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO). It is always fun to be with like-minded individuals, but much of what I learned is valuable to anyone.

Here are a few headlines:

Top Takeaways on Organizing and Productivity


When Fearful, Take Action

Don’t sit by and wait for things to change. Don’t make excuses. Don’t try and cover up mistakes. Don’t procrastinate dealing with the situation. Taking action lets the steam out of your mental pressure cooker and empowers you to find a solution. Not sure what action to take? Solicit input and rally external resources.


Embrace Lifelong Learning

No matter how much we know there is always more to learn. Persistent curiosity keeps us humble and broadens our perspective. We are never too old or too experienced to learn a new trick. Take a class, attend a lecture, pick someone’s brain, listen to a podcast, read a book, sign up for a webinar, etc.


Focus on What You Want to Keep

Letting go can feel overwhelming. Whether it be relationships, activities or physical belongings, it is easy to succumb to a sense of loss. However, decluttering is actually a positive process. Rather than fixating on what you need to shed, choose to hold onto those commitments and belongings that either bring your pleasure or serve a current need. Whatever remains can then be seen for what it is ­– a hindrance.


Show Your Brain Some Love

Our brains are amazing tools, but they do have limits. The best way to avoid feeling overwhelmed and to stop forgetting things is to get the information out of your brain and into a trusted system. You can go digital or use paper, but commit to using it faithfully.


Establish Efficient Processes

Often we buy tools with hopes that they will “fix” a bad situation. Tools are wonderful, but a tool will not fix a bad process. There may be an app or a container that looks like a magic bullet, but it will only work if you first define a system in which the tool will serve a role.


Accept Resale Reality

Many of us own belongings we think are valuable. Perhaps we paid a lot for them or they have been in the family for a long time. The truth is that the current fair market value of your possessions may be vastly lower than you expect. For instance, the market for “brown” furniture has dropped more than 70 percent in recent years (i.e. antiques are “out”). There is little demand for dishes and formal serving pieces that can’t go in a dishwasher. Oriental rugs are down nearly 60 percent from the early 2000s. In addition, some items may not sellable. Did you know that you cannot legally sell anything with real ivory? If you think you have items of value, seek out an appraiser. If a professional tells you that your items are not worth much, listen and consider donating or safely disposing.


Feed Your Focus

Maintaining focus can be difficult. If you have difficulty, don’t berate yourself or think you just need to “try harder.” Instead, do what you can to simplify the environment in which you operate. For instance, if you need to pay bills, but struggle to get it done, schedule both a specific place and time for this task. If you can’t keep your attention up at home, bring a file box/your computer to a library or other quiet/boring location. Then, set realistic goals for how long you can stay focused (maybe it is only 15-minute increments!) Program in breaks to get up, walk around and check your phone. The key is to train your brain to perform a specific task in a specific location at a predictable time.


Color Outside the Lines

There is always more than one way to achieve a goal. We often feel the pressure to take the same path that we see others pursuing. This can be productive, as learning from others saves us the time of figuring out a solution someone else has already discovered. However, sometimes the “traditional” approach just doesn’t feel right or isn’t succeeding. In this case, open your mind to alternative paths. Great inventions are the result of trying something different.

Below is a poem that was shared by Jeff Tobe. I hope you find it encouraging and inspiring.



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Do any of these resonates with you?

25 thoughts on “Top Takeaways On Organizing and Productivity”

  1. I love the photo of you with your NAPO conference badge! It was great seeing the happy photos that people posted, especially since I wasn’t able to go this year. What incredible takeaways you got from the conference! I’m guessing that some of them you already knew, but they were reinforced hearing them in another context. I have to say that many of them resonated with me, but particularly the coloring outside the lines one. It was so odd NOT being at conference. I’ve always gone…or at least consistently for the past 10 or so years. I felt the “pressure to follow the same path,” but I had to let go of it this time. Thank you for sharing all the great nuggets of wisdom.
    Linda Samuels recently posted…Reduce Your Overwhelm & Increase Zen With One Powerful MethodMy Profile

    1. Sometimes stepping back form something we’ve always done is the best decision. Should you decide to go next year, it will be all the more fresh and exciting! (If you haven’t already, you can go to the NAPO National website and watch a little video about the very different experience they are planning for next year!) Even though I went, I still enjoy seeing what other people felt were the headlines. We can be at the same place and focus in on different messages – so fun! You and your enthusiasm were certainly missed, my friend, and I hope to cross paths soon:)

    1. I also enjoyed the poem and session about coloring outside the lines. We tend to look at the approach others are using and think that is the way we are “supposed” to go. Yet that isn’t the case. We may prefer another path. Who knows? Our way may become the way others begin to follow!

    1. I loved seeing you! AND learning about your other book – the one I think would make a great graduation gift! It is always such a treat to be “live” with people that I normally only see online:)

  2. I’m sure it was so exciting and encouraging. My mom instilled the life-long learning drive in me and it’s such a core principle for me. Your take away about the value of “treasures” is so true. But as I’ve recently inherited many items, I’m surprised at the value of silver and gold. My take away, is ask a professional because I’m not able to accurately judge the value of any items.
    Susan recently posted…Tips to Organize a Craft RoomMy Profile

    1. That was definitely a message from the session – get a specialist. The trend is to get items of value up for sale in the markets where they will fetch the best price. For example, a PA artist will sell better in PA and surrounding areas that he will in LA.

  3. It was such a pleasure to meet you in person at conference! I appreciated the variety of sessions. I always want to be in two sessions at the same time–so nice that the sessions will be available online later. I enjoy being a life long learner and reader. Being willing to learn new things and revisit old things keeps life an exciting adventure.
    Olive Wagar recently posted…THE COURAGE TO STARTMy Profile

    1. I have a list of the sessions I plan on listening to… ones that I heard others speak highly of. I hope they recordings are available soon before I lose the enthusiasm. Access to the recordings is a wonderful thing, even for those of us who attend!

  4. Great lessons from the conference. I watched the live conference this year and it was very helpful and inspiring.

    I find that life-long learning is key for entrepreneurs. We can’t stop learning and moving forward and I am OK with that. I do find that I tend to need to allocate time to do this every quarter to really stay on target with my goals.

    Thanks for sharing. Also, I love the poem.

    1. I loved the poem too. Almost made me weepy. Had I known you were watching, Sabrina, I would have jumped up and waved:) I totally agree that sometimes you have to force yourself to plan time for the learning. Get it on the calendar, and you won’t regret it.

    1. Taking a step always releases stress. It just gets the ball rolling, and it is easier to nudge a rolling ball over a bit than it is to get it moving in the first place. The speaker said coloring outside the lines is wonderful, and it all comes down to knowing how far you can go before you leave the page:)

  5. Pretty picture! Thanks for the great recap. From people’s posts and pics, the Conference experience looked awesome. Your point about lifelong learning is so important. With my social work license I have to obtain a certain amount of CEUs every year as its crucial to stay current with the latest trends and research.

    1. NAPO-CT is so lucky to have your social work perspective. One of the speakers at the conference was a licensed social worker out of Nashville who both has and spoke about ADHD. I found it very interesting and compelling to hear this from someone who understands from the “inside” and who has the training to help from the “outside.”

    1. I am so thankful for each of these wonderful opportunities to stretch and grow and invest. I know you will do an amazing job as the new NAPO President, Ellen, carrying on the tradition of excellence in the organizing and productivity profession!

    1. I loved meeting you too, Liana. It is a joy to meet “live” the wonderful people from our blogging group. Hopefully we will have many more opportunities in the future!

    1. That was a headline to me, Marina. It got me thinking about the many ways people achieve their goals. There really are a variety of paths, and it is usually the creative people, who have the courage to try another approach, who end up making the biggest difference!

  6. I totally agree with showing the brain some love. I have too many thoughts going on at once, so I keep notebooks on various subjects and always write down the thing that I don’t want to forget— in the correct notebook.

    1. You are the first person to say that you have different notebooks for recording different thoughts. That is such an interesting idea, particularly if you are balancing multiple responsibilities. Maybe one for blog post ideas, one for tasks, one for household chores, etc. Great idea!

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