It was just “matter of fact” that my parents spent part of my childhood teaching me time management and organizational skills. My bedroom was often messy, and if I had to read an entire book in a day or two, I saw that as a huge undertaking, which lead me to waste time whining about it. It took my parents years of teaching and conditioning me. So while I had the knowledge, it wasn’t until I had my own children that I realized the importance of teaching time management and organizational skills.
In 1985 I had my own home and first child. Shortly thereafter I started running a daycare. When the kids would arrive after school, they would dig out crumpled papers, trash, and an array of other things from their backpacks. When they tried to start their homework, it would take quite a while to figure out what they were supposed to be doing. One of the kids would rifle through his papers for the one homework page and crumple the rest back into his backpack. Obviously, they had not learned time management and organizational skills. And at the time it didn’t occur to me to teach them.
It was when my oldest daughter started public school that I realized how important it was to teach the kids time management and organizational skills. My daughter would come home from school with her papers shoved into her backpack. When it was time to do her homework, she’d pull out crumpled papers and wouldn’t know where to start.
As we began going through her notebook and papers, it hit me that I needed to teach her how and why these skills were important. I already had her following me around the house while I did housework and even had given her age appropriate chores. But with my new “light bulb” moment I realized the need to develop a plan to teach these skills to my children.
|The next day, I went to the store and purchased various types of office supplies. When my daughter and the daycare kids came home from school, I explained, “You all come home from school, pull out crumpled papers and have trouble getting started on homework. By the time some of you are done, there’s no time for play. How much fun is that? How would you all like to have more play time?”
Of course they all agreed, and so we began. The first step was to empty backpacks onto the floor, flatten all of the papers, and sort the items that were not contained by the binders. A lot of things went into the trash and I saw a couple of kids get an “ah-ha look” on their face. They were very attentive. At this point I talked to them about how much trash they were lugging around all day and pointed out the odor coming from 2 of the boys backpacks. Everyone giggled.
I gave a cleanliness lecture about things like, handing in a paper with jelly on it, having dirty hands, then handling their paper, and even showed how a page will go from neat and clean to dingy and dirty. The question was posed, “Which paper would you rather hand in or receive from a friend?” All but one wanted the clean paper. One child didn’t care and that was okay because he wasn’t my child.
Now, it was time to show them how to organize and file their papers. I used my daughter as the example and proceeded. By the time my daughter was done with her binder, she could hold it sideways without any papers or supplies falling out.
When the kids finished organizing their binders, they saw how their backpacks started off as bottomless pits with what looked like trash, but by the time they went home, their binders were organized, and most of their homework completed. I added the backpack cleaning into their routine when they came to my house after school. It took a few weeks of practice. Most of the kids were able to keep their backpacks neat. This brings me to the next phase.
In 1992 I started homeschooling my children and had to get very serious about structure and planning in order to effectively teach my children at home. Within a month, there was a place for everything and a daily routine with room for changes.
My daycare families were impressed with how I was able to keep the house clean and organized with so many children running in and out all day long. They wanted help doing it in their homes. This is when I started teaching time management and organizational skills.
I explained to the parents, “It’s all about planning and routine.” I told them that they could manage the time they have by planning, setting up a schedule, then executing so as to turn every day chores and homework into a routine. Once it becomes a routine, they wouldn’t have to spend so much time fighting with their children.
Individually, they talked about areas of their homes that needed help. One of the examples I gave was, organizing a closet. I said, “If you want the kids to be able to deal with their own clothes, you’ll need to spend time with them organizing their closets and drawers. In order to do this, you need to plan the time, research what materials you’ll need and take action. This is accomplished by writing out the details needed to complete the project. Start with the intended outcome first, then figure out the steps and the time each step will take to get to the intended outcome.”
When there is too much to look at in a closet or anywhere in the home or at work, it’s not only difficult to focus, it’s also difficult to choose where to start or what to look at. If we use the closet analogy, kids (people) need fewer choices now than we did back when because there is just-too-much to choose from. Creating an organized, nice to look at, closet (and dresser if you have one) makes it easier to choose what to wear.
There are many statistics and case studies on time management and organizing (links provided below).
According to the Wall Street Journal, white-collar workers waste an average of 40% of their workday. Not because they aren’t smart, but because they were never taught organizing skills to cope with the increasing workloads and demands.
A 2008 NAPO Survey of 400 consumers nationwide showed that 65 percent of respondents noted that their household was at least moderately disorganized, 71 percent said their quality of life would improve if they were better organized and 96 percent of respondents indicated that they could save time every day by becoming more organized. Of those, 15 percent of respondents felt they could save more than an hour each day — for a total of more than 15 days per year — if they were more organized at home and 30 percent of respondents felt they could save at least 30 minutes each day — or more than an entire week per year — if they were more organized at home. (National Association of Professional Organizers)
Craig Jarrow, Time Management Ninja wrote, “People tell me all the time that their messy desk is organized. ‘I know where everything is! ‘It works this way.’ ‘This is my system.’ The truth is… people pile things up because they don’t have a way to organize their work. ‘Piles are not organization. They are a procrastinator’s excuse to avoid organizing.’”
“He who fails to plan is planning to fail.” (Winston Churchill) Even Benjamin Franklin is quoted as saying, “For every minute spent in organizing, an hour is earned.” Did you know that Benjamin Franklin had impeccable organization skills? According to Walter Isaacson, “his organizational skills made him the most influential force in making voluntarism an enduring part of the American ethos.” If these famous men found time management and organizational skills important, why wouldn’t you? Let me know in the comments below.
©2014 Susie Glennan
For those of you who love statistics:
Bureau of Labor Statistics
 Isaacson, Walter. Benjamin Franklin: An American Life. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2003. 102. Print.