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Lessons from My Garden

What does "Lessons from My Garden" have to do with "getting organized? One of the things I've learned after 20+ years as an organizing consultant is that organizing has something to do with everything!

Here's how organizing principles apply to the art of gardening:

"Half of any job is using the right tool!" (Note I said "using" ? not "having!") It took a blister to convince me to buy a new pair of loppers to finish trimming the butterfly bushes. With the new tool, pruning was easy and painless.

"Today's mail is tomorrow's pile." While it's certainly important to clean up the trash, weeds, and other undesirables in your garden, if you limit yourself to that activity, you can work very hard and see little results. One of the things my landscape designer taught me was to pick one small area and plant beautiful things to inspire me to keep going. With Paper Tiger, we encourage you to start using Paper Tiger to organize your desktop ? you can worry about all those old piles later! After you get the new system in place, you can incorporate the old files into the new system ? and if you don't, they'll eventually be old enough that tossing them will be easy. In the meantime, you have what you need to do today's work, and you won't be creating new unidentified piles!

"Clutter is Postponed Decisions?." One of the first steps in creating any rewarding garden is determining what kind of garden you want ? vegetable, herb, cutting, perennial, etc. As great as all those options are, if you try to have all of them in the same space, the result will be disappointing. Or, to apply another Paper Tiger principle, "Put like items together!" Create a specific area in your garden for herbs, another for cut flowers, etc. In the same way, you can create separate "locations" in Paper Tiger for personal papers, active projects, CDs, clients, etc.

"Successful organizing begins with a vision." The most beautiful gardens are first planted in someone's mind! The initial question I ask every client is "If we were to meet three years from now, what has to happen for you to feel happy about your progress?" Their answers are varied, and include such statements as "I'll be making $100,000/year," or "I'll be taking six weeks of vacation every year," "I'll be working at home," or "I'll have a full-time assistant." If we don't have something to aim for, we'll never get there.

"Organizing doesn't have a 'right' or 'wrong.'" The most exciting aspect of my work is the "art of organizing." I frequently tell my clients, "You paint a picture for me of what you want to accomplish, and I'll help you create and sustain an environment to make that happen!" What works beautifully for one client would be a complete disaster for another.

"Organizing is a process not a destination." A garden, like organizing, is a continual process of reassessing what you like, what you don't, rearranging existing plants, and trying new varieties. And so it is with organizing! Continually asking three questions: "Does it work?'' "Do I like it?" "Does it work for the others I care about?" Be willing to take risks, don't worry about mistakes, and just keep learning!

? Barbara Hemphill is the author of Kiplinger's Taming the Paper Tiger at Work and Taming the Paper Tiger at Home and co-author of Love It or Lose It: Living Clutter-Free Forever. The mission of Hemphill Productivity Institute is to help individuals and organizations create and sustain a productive environment so they can accomplish their work and enjoy their lives. We do this by organizing space, information, and time. We can be reached at 800-427-0237 or at www.ProductiveEnvironment.com

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