8 Questions to Promote Organizational Skills (for Kids & Adults!)
Jess and Megan are two wonderful coaches at Empower who are leading our Empowered Student Circles in the fall of 2022. These groups focus on promoting Executive Function skills such as organization, planning, time management, stress management, reflection, and study skills.
When they aren't building connections and relationships with their clients they're focusing on their passions outside of work and in this article, they spent some time reflecting on how their executive function is different in different areas of their lives. Through a conversation with lots of giggles and an abundance of what we at Empower call "Jess gems", we tried our best to ask questions that will promote organizational skills in any and everyone.
Who we are & what we do:
Jess is a former teacher, varsity basketball coach, mom, wife, and so much more… Titles at Empower are: Academic coach, Small group facilitator, Enrollment Specialist
Megan is a former Spanish teacher & certified ADHD coach. Titles at Empower are: Academic coach, Small group facilitator, ADHD specialist
1. Why is organization important?
Jess: Organization can help bring peace when surroundings feel less calm. It can bring a sense of control when there are areas we can’t control, I think that may pertain to adults more than kids. For kids, I think it allows for them to feel a sense of responsibility for their belongings and expectations. It also simply allows kids to know where things are when they need them.
Megan: It helps keep track of the things that you lose most regularly - like keys, glasses, shoes, etc. It helps provide peace in the chaos when you need it most. I think organization is important for kids and adults just for managing life. If a Kiddo feels organized then they'll feel more confident in all areas of their life - which I'm sure in turn will help their parents feel more organized. I can't imagine what it's like to balance your own organization and your kids!
2. How do you define organization?
Jess: Belongings having a dedicated space, having a process for next steps, and keeping track of thoughts.
In addition to organizing my physical belongings I have to organize my thoughts and tasks. Lists really help me. Sometimes I make a to do list to check things off and sometimes I write lists just to organize my thoughts so I can take next steps. In my house we have a giant whiteboard calendar with important events, appointments, birthdays, etc. and we also use google calendar to know who needs to be where when. In addition to that, I use a paper calendar to keep track of what learning activities my son and I do each day as I have started homeschooling him. All of these different tools may seem like a lot to some but having multiple points of reminders helps me to not forget important things.
Megan: Challenging? But really knowing where something is at any given moment.
I've found that with having room mates, or previously when I lived with my parents, their organization systems never made sense to me and always made me feel overwhelemed. I would have total melt downs over where things were just because it didn't make sense to me - but I didn't know how to communiate that. Now after living on my own for so long, I see that having things visible is imporant and in the room that I associate it with is important. 3. What is your process for organizing?
Jess: Writing things down to help me remember, having separate spaces in the house for work, eating, relaxing, sleeping, being aware of the time I have to accomplish tasks, having a dedicated space for different belongings
4. How do you know what is meant to happen in each space?
Jess: For the most part we use our spaces pretty traditionally. However, my current office is also our spare room. For the longest time we had a bed in this space. Once I started to work from home I realized I needed that bed gone because I was for sure going to climb into it any chance I got to take a quick nap. Not that I am opposed to naps but sleeping in my work space would leave me feeling lethargic and focused on how tired I am instead of working. For me, this is a part of organizing, having work things in my work space, exercise equipment in the garage and not in the house,, my son's toys in his play space, etc.
Megan: I know certain things go in certain rooms and that's where I start. From there I know I have to keep things visible but in a specific way so that it's not cluttered or messy. Once I can get things in a space where it's visually pleasing for me, I can move forward with figuring out what to do with it. That's where I make lists, use post it's, or make choice boards for each room.
5. What’s easiest for you to organize and what supports are in place?
Jess: Creating task lists, talking through my process of completing tasks to help determine where to start. Things that I can see and I know where they belong. For example, one day I completely reorganized my son’s toy box that has several bins w/ like things together. For me, it felt like chaos because I could see that like things weren't together, for him, it is just about putting things in the toy box. It feels easier for me to keep things organized when like things are in one place. If they aren’t I get frustrated and I am less likely to put it away at all.
Megan: Any assignment or project or task or thing that involves someone else is always easiest - I thrive with accountability and "peer pressure"/body doubling. I also love shelves without baskets on them, and shelves with visible organization systems so that I can see where everything is at once. It looks cluttered to other people, but if I can see it, then I know where it is. 6. What’s most challenging to organize?
Jess: The things that I can not see are the hardest for me to stay on top of. For example, deeper cleaning of bathrooms, vacuuming, keeping workout space functional are much more challenging for me to keep how I want them. Whereas, keeping the living room neat, dishes clean, and laundry done are much easier for me because I see those things in spaces that I am in frequently.
Megan: HOUSE PROJECTS - where do you even start? What's the first step? How do you prioritize which one comes first? 7. Where do you feel most organized?
Jess: I feel most organized in my car–it feels like it is uniquely my space so it is easy for me to take a pause as I am coming and going and make it feel comfortable to me. I also feel most organized in my living room because everything has a dedicated space and it is easy to put things back where they belong.
Megan: I feel most organized when I have few things with me. When I only have my laptop, maybe a notebook, a writing tool, my phone, and a coffee - so essentially when I work remotely at a coffee shop. The fewer things that I physically have, the more organized I feel - which is ironic since I'd consider myself the queen of clutter. 8. How do you prioritize making time to get organized?
Jess: When I have time to myself, I often use it to reset. I also jot down things that I want to get done each day, not necessarily with the intent to get it all done but with the intent to at least get a couple of those things started. Once I start something, it is usually hard for me to not finish it so this works for me.
Megan: I normally have a threshold for tidy/messy things. Once I hit the threshold I'll move locations because out of sight is out of mind, but once I hit my threshold in more than one area I will clear my day and focus just on cleaning up and reorganizing everything. It helps me when I can use a system that's flexible – like having a stack of shoes by the door or baskets throughout the house that I can see into that can rotate around. What does it feel like when you’re organized?
Jess: Feels like I have balance and calm and I can do the things I want to do vs what I think I have to do. Its important to me to be able to rest, get out of the house for activities, spend time with friends and family, play with my son but I often feel pulled to declutter, clean, plan/make meals, plan the day ahead, etc.
Megan: Oddly enough it kind of depends. When I'm performing to my expectations of being organized, I feel in control, calm, and at ease - more confident and prepared. However, I know there have been times when I've tried to conform to other people's expectations of being organized and it feels confining, and uncomfortable - almost like I'm trapped. What have you taken away from this conversation that will help you organize moving forward?
Jess: Sit and think about what systems I have that are working and how they can support the ones that are more challenging for me.
Megan: I'm definitely looking more at what I can apply to my home projects! I hadn't realized that when I go by what other people do, that's when I feel stuck. So If I approach things my way then I'll probably be able to organize it just fine since I can organize things generally too!
Tips for Organizing Answer the questions above for yourself - once you know what is easiest or most challenging for you to keep up with, think about the following steps for what you find easiest as a guide. Then try to apply the same strategy to the areas of struggle.
Establish a primary location for an item - bedroom, office, locker, backpack, bathroom, etc.
Get more specific about where in this location items should be - in the dresser, in a folder, in a binder, in the top right of the cabinet, etc.
Label those specific locations until you become accustomed to it - if it's a new process, have a visual reminder in the primary location until you can remember it well.
Allow for flexibility within the primary location - our brains crave novelty, so sometimes what works for a while may need to change, but keeping with the primary location will be helpful.
Want to learn more about Empowered Student Circle? Sign up for our next info session here! We use questions just like these to help kids develop their organizational skills - and many more executive functioning skills, like studying, focusing, and managing time.