Channeling Both VIP and Personal Assistant: Honing Your Organizational Skills

by Jul 3, 2017

Remember all the times Leslie Knope (Parks & Rec) visualized a project, planned it, then saw it through completion (usually within the duration of a single episode)? She is one of the most organized and determined TV characters of this decade, and one that I personally look to for inspiration in my professional life. How does she do it all? How is she constantly prepared? Watching Leslie Knope tackle one project after another for the city of Pawnee is both inspiring and leaves one in a constant state of awe.

The aspect of her character that I circle back to time and time again is her super-human ability to organize. Organized people always seem to have a leg up over the rest of us; the important thing to remember is that organization is a learned skill, not an inherent trait. In his article “6 Things The Most Organized People Do Every DayEric Barker discusses how we can develop a “split personality,” being both our own VIP and our own Personal Assistant. Here are our two favorite points:

  • Get the list out of your head and down on paper. Our brains were not designed to juggle a long, mental “to-do” list in addition to all the cognitive processes and tasks required for basic functionality on a day-to-day basis.
    • Barker quotes from The Organized Mind: “When we have something on our minds that is important— especially a To Do item— we’re afraid we’ll forget it, so our brain rehearses it, tossing it around and around in circles in something that cognitive psychologists actually refer to as the rehearsal loop…The problem is that it works too well, keeping items in rehearsal until we attend to them. Writing them down gives both implicit and explicit permission to the rehearsal loop to let them go, to relax its neural circuits so that we can focus on something else.”
    • We all have these mental “to-do” lists, and I’m willing to bet many of us have experienced this rehearsal loop phenomenon. Writing the list down in one place that you continuously go back to alleviates the brain from the stress of maintaining an extensive mental list, thus freeing it from the rehearsal loop.
  • Have a “war” room. In other words, set aside specific spaces for specific tasks. Have you ever tried to take work to bed with you? How many times do you fall asleep without completing the work?
    • Barker again quotes from The Organized Mind: “One way to exploit the hippocampus’s natural style of memory storage is to create different work spaces for the different kinds of work we do… Just stepping into a different space hits the reset button on your brain and allows for more productive and creative thinking.”
    • In other words, if your desk is the spot where you are most productive when working, use the desk solely for work. If your couch is the place where you are best able to plan for the next day (or the next week, month, etc), use the couch for all preparation. Separating these two tasks by environment– working (being the VIP) and planning (being the Personal Assistant)– allows your brain to both easily transition between the two and also focus more clearly on each in the moment.

With these great tips, we can all be aspiring Leslie Knopes– always organized, always prepared, always successful in juggling multiple projects at once.

Photo: retrieved from Pexels, available for use under the public domain.

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