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Discipline your environment

Posted by : Lisa Clark

One key for me to execute a startup well from home was my Achilles heal for most of my adult life – the ability to remain organized.

A few winters ago I received a frantic message asking me to help plan and host an event for 300+ attendees in 6 days. With the assistance of three others, we collected the money we needed to host the event, booked a few bands, and arranged for food and a photo booth. Then the event was snowed out.

This event occurred during a busy part of my life, and was an insight into what I would be facing as an entrepreneur. My life now consists of event-filled days being squished because an important client will urgently need a report or a meeting. But this juggling is what I enjoy, I am an executor.

One key for me to execute a startup well from home was my Achilles heal for most of my adult life – the ability to remain organized. I am a spreader. If I walk into a room with a handful of items, they readily shed from my person as I move from room to room, landing in the most convenient location they can find. This innate, seemingly harmless behavior also caused me to scream “I am late, where are my keys” more times than is rational for an adult.

Ultimately, I found my lack of organization was inhibiting my success and happiness. I was introduced to the Japanese method of 5S during graduate school. Using these 5 steps helped me gain organization and keep organization, and has helped me maintain concentrating on execution when it is paramount.

    • Sort | Japanese: Seiri – During this first step, patience and meditative breathing are helpful because your mess will get about 10 times worse. The goal of this step is to match like items together, dispose of items that are no longer needed, and to decide what items are needed in your work area. For instance, I had collected 6 wine bottle openers. Instead of keeping 6 out, I opted to keep 2 different types of openers in my kitchen, and then the other 4 in storage for throwing larger parties.
      • Set in Order | Japanese: Seiton – At this point, you will know what goes in your work area. Your goal here is to arrange your items for easiest access and use. I like to keep bowls and cups and keep very specific items in each so there is no confusion where an item goes within a workspace. I also find that drawer dividers and labels help, especially if you are living with others in the house.
        • Shine/Sweep | Japanese: Seiso – Your items are now organized in their appropriate place. In this step, you will want to make sure your space is clean and remains that way. For me, this is a 10 minute clean-up sweep before I begin my work day.
          • Standardize | Japanese: Seiketsu – This is the process of assuring that the first 3 steps are consistently maintained. This process looks different for each person depending on your proclivities. For me to achieve this while living with my spreading tendencies, I keep baskets strategically placed around my home as catch-alls. If I am highly stressed and unable to keep my cleaning routine for several days, I will place all the random items in my house into them. Then, once a week, usually on a lazy Sunday afternoon, I will empty those catch-all baskets so everything is returned to the appropriate location. That combined with cleaning my space and assuring everything is stocked in my space once a month help keep my original organization.
            • Sustain | Japanese: Shitsuke – This is often one of the most difficult ideas to maintain, although once you complete the first 4 steps, you will want to see this through. Since this is your home environment, you probably will only need to go through your area once to twice a year to assure your system is maintained. When I go through this step, I am always looking for new ways to organize my items or smarter locations to put things. My goal here is to really try to use this time to improve upon the previous decisions.

These 5 steps, although relatively self-explanatory, have allowed me to grow and feel confident using my home as a workspace. I am not distracted unnecessarily, do not spend excess time locating basic items, and almost always know where my keys are.

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