Listening is both an internal and external activity. We listen externally when we converse with others or tune into the radio or television. We listen internally when we pay attention to our inner thoughts and conversations. Both types of listening are necessary for good organization – whether you at work or at home. The most important factor if you want to increase your organization is to really listen. If you are doing several tasks at once, if you don’t take time to make a note of information when it is conveyed (thinking that you will remember it later), or if you feel that you already “know everything” or if you believe “it can’t be done”, then you probably aren’t really listening. So let’s take a little time to learn how to listen.

External Listening
External listening is most effective when you prepare for it. If you are on the phone, use a headset as needed and have pencil, paper, and your calendar available. If you are talking in person, be in an environment conducive to listening and have note-taking supplies at hand. For multi-taskers, I know that you are saying, “but I don’t have a problem doing two things at once.” That can be true when you are on the phone with a friend and doing dishes or folding laundry. It is probably not true if you are on the phone for a conference call and answering e-mail. When you are doing two important activities at the same time, you risk missing important information. This often means that you complete an assigned task incorrectly or that you take up someone else time by having to ask them to repeat information. As a parent, it can also mean that you give a child permission to do something when you didn’t intend to.

When listening for the purpose of organizing, take note of what is said and what is implied. A child might say, “I can’t reach the hook” when you are reminding them to hang their coat in the closet. If they can’t reach the hook, then you either need to lower the hook or not expect the coat to be hung. If a colleague says, “I hate talking on the phone” then it is probably better to communicate in person or via e-mail. If someone tells you there are three steps to complete a process, then you may need to write them down or leave yourself a voice mail so that you can accomplish the steps appropriately. If you tell someone that they are placing an item in the wrong location and they say, “I don’t know where it goes” then you may need to tell them the appropriate location.

The habit of “half-listening” can reek havoc on your attempts to be organized, so establish the habit of fully listening.

Internal Listening
Internal listening is most effective when you pay attention to those “little nudges”. Ignoring your self-talk continues or creates disorganization.

When you place your mail on the island in your kitchen or put the notes from the most recent meeting in the middle of your desk and you hear, “I will take care of this later” you are setting yourself up for disorganization. Either take care of it now, or have a system in place and a time on your calendar to take care of it later. When you buy something and think, “I don’t know where I’ll put it (or what I will do with it), but I like it” you immediately create clutter. An object without an assigned home is clutter.

First, become aware of those “little nudges”. Second, listen to the self-talk and think twice before you act.

Practicing external and internal listening can increase your organization if you make appropriate additions or adjustments. Use what you hear to create a more organized business and personal life.

Author's Bio: 

© 2005 Janice Russell. Developer of the Flexible Structure Method™, Janice and her team at Minding Your Matters® has an impressive reputation for helping clients achieve “flow”. “Flow” as Janice calls it, is the blissful state of having an organizational process that supports your life and lifestyle. A Certified Professional Organizer in Chronic Disorganization, Janice is also a Certified Organizer Coach and the author of “Get Organized This Year!”. Janice’s practical and caring approach to organizing is the basis of her high-content live workshops and webinars. Janice is a Golden Circle Member of National Association of Professional Organizers and Program Mentor Coach for the Institute for Challenging Disorganization. She serves the organizational needs and challenges of both business and residential clients, as well as provides training intensives for fellow organizers nationwide. To enjoy meaningful tips and gain immediate access to all of Janice valuable resources, please visit her website at To schedule a consultation or request Janice to speak please call 919-467-7058.

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