My work space had become overly cluttered and unmanageable. I had to sift through every piece of paper to find any document that I might need. Sometimes I didn’t have the time to do the paper sifting and so found myself unprepared for meetings and telephone calls. There was so much piled on my desk that I was afraid to sort it out fearing that I would discover some important document that required immediate action but had been lost and forgotten on the desk for weeks. It was as if the desk had taken on its own personality and this personality was thwarting my ability to do my job in an organized, peaceful and confident manner.
Seeing the office chaos first thing in the morning and last thing in the evening made it difficult to arrive at work and take on the day’s challenges, and difficult to leave work with a feeling of accomplishment.
I was surprised to hear that my chaos was seen as a lack of commitment to the Division and this was unsettling to many staff members. The chaos signalled that I might, at any moment, shove all the papers into a box and move on to another job or position.
I didn’t like the idea of having someone help organize my office. At first pretending that I preferred the clutter and chaos seemed preferable to having people think that I needed help regaining control of my workspace. I kept promising myself that I would make the time to address the mess myself, but I was making that promise every month for over a year. In the end I was feeling bad about breaking promises as well as about the increasingly unmanageable state of office.
The first thing I noticed about working with Cynthia was that she was non-judgmental about the heaps of disorganized papers that littered my office. She did not see the mess as an indication of a disorganized mind or as evidence that I was unable to do my job. Instead she calmly began to talk with me about the work environment I would like to have and provide me with the hope that organization, efficiency and a structured desk were all achievable.
After my first meeting with Cynthia my fears that she would not be able to help me because she didn’t know the details and objectives of my job quickly vanished. Cynthia approached the chaos seeing information that needed structure, classification and order. The details of the documents were unimportant. Their place in my work environment was important and she helped me create an appropriate structure for all of it. I was particularly impressed by her ability to ask the perfect questions to guide my articulation of the type of organizational system that would work best for me.
I felt a new energy and a more hopeful approach to my work as soon as I began working with Cynthia.
The second day after Cynthia and I had finished working on the organizational structure for my office I had a phone call that required me to find a specific document. Previously, when I found myself in this type of a situation I would have to ask if I could call back, and then I would begin an all out hunt for the paperwork. This time I simply opened the file drawer, found the file and retrieved the correct document! What is really noteworthy about this though is not just that I found the document quickly, but that I had no idea where the document was and still, using the system Cynthia created, I was able to find it. Working with Cynthia meant that we had created an organizational system that was intuitive for me and so I didn’t have to know where everything was, I just had to know where I thought it should be!
In my work it is often important to reference past documents and look at past practices before moving a program or project ahead. The organizational structure that Cynthia guided and created for me makes it easier and fast to move projects forward because I am able to quickly access the past.
Overall I just feel calmer about my work knowing that I can find what I want when I want it.
Manager, Children's and Youth Services
Vancouver Public Library