L – Learn
E – Evaluate
S – Sort
S – System
Pretty cut and dried, straightforward, easy-to-grasp, and maybe a little…boring.
I’m not down on myself about it. I’ve been using it consistently for years with clients. It makes me happy to see my little post-it notes with the letters still up in spaces that we’ve worked on together. I even toyed with the idea of having pre-printed notes created that I could give to clients – I might still do that. The idea has served me (and hopefully others) well over the years. Side note: did you know that SkillSet turns ten this year! Officially, on October 10. I’m already geeking out about it (“10 on 10/10!”), and also wondering – how did I get ten years older already?
Thankfully, my business, my ideas, and my hair are all evolving. I’m not just about organizing spaces these days, but more about engaging in a reflective process with clients that branches out in many other ways – time, decisions, communication, leadership, values, even spirituality. It all works together.
We don’t organize something and then leave it in a glass case with some sort of enchantment locking it up. The organization spreads and grows, kind of like in Sleeping Beauty when the whole kingdom wakes up to real-life again. Your newly organized bathroom allows you to get ready easier in the morning, which enables you to get out the door sooner, giving you the mental breathing room to plan your day, making you and your team more effective. It’s like the organizing version of The House That Jack Built (the nursery rhyme, NOT the horror film). Going from real-life chaos to real-life order has a domino effect.
Anyway, I got to thinking about the idea of life organization being an adventure. I enjoy learning about people, and I love it when people can get to a place of enjoying learning about themselves. We’re all the Great Unknown, aren’t we, a final frontier of personal exploration? Sounds a little more fun than just sorting and systematizing, no?
To that adventurous end, I started playing around with letters and words again. I think the new combination might resonate differently than the old LESS system, so I’m curious to see how it lands for you. Ready for this?
Drum roll, please. Presenting…
The EPIC Journey to Order
Here’s how it works.
E is for Explore – dig around in that stuff. Go ahead, put on your best Indiana Jones hat and paw through the paper and office supplies. Immerse yourself in the wonder that is your email backlog. Bravely grab that flashlight and open up the trunk of your car. What will you discover? I’m not kidding – if you can lighten up on the shame and look at this method as a way to learn things, figure things out, locate treasures you’d forgotten about, what might happen?
P is for Process – as in process, the verb. Knock the dust off, and chew on some questions. What does all of this stuff mean to you, i.e., how do you make sense of it? Are you feeling an emotion, like grief (“Oh my, the photo of dad.”), excitement (“Hey, there’s the old video camera!”), embarrassment (“Crap, really? 5 half-used planners from 2016?”), or maybe relief (“Whew, this pile isn’t quite as bad as I thought.”)?
Stay in exploration mode, and use your curiosity. How does your stuff get in your way? How does it help you to succeed? What does it communicate to you? Does it represent who you are at this stage of your life? Could it help to talk it over with someone, gather some additional information?
I is for Intuit – more of a stretch on this one, perhaps, but I think deep down most of us, for the most part, know what should happen to a particular item or task. We at least know where it shouldn’t go, and the process of elimination is a valid thing. Sometimes, we struggle with giving ourselves permission to do what we intuitively know is the best answer. Half the time, I’m reassuring folks it’s ok to do what they already know they want to do.
You might disagree, but test this out: ponder the item or task in question.
- How does it feel in your head? What are the pros and cons? It’s good to sort those out, but it’s also where most folks stop, so…
- How does it feel in your heart? What’s the heat level in terms of emotion?
- Now, how does it feel in your gut? What direction are you pulled?
These head/heart/gut ideas are fleshed out more fully in the book Managing Time Mindfully, by Tom Evans – a fascinating read. Evans states that if you can get those three elements more or less in alignment, you’re off and running.
Example: If the extra committee assignment is not so much in your wheelhouse (a definite con), leaves you feeling a little cold, and your gut is screaming that you have too much going on already, take heed. You have your answer.
On the other hand, if you know the assignment is something you’re good at, you’re feeling pretty warm and fuzzy about it, but…you know you have way too much on your plate. What would it take for all three of those check-ins to line up? What would you need to let go of to take it on?
Learning to trust your intuition is one of the best organizing tools you could possess, and you can’t buy it at the big box store. Practice with it on more minor, less make-or-break stuff, and see what you can learn.
C is for Create – the fun part, just as in LESS, comes at the journey’s end. After you’ve explored, processed, and used some intuition to make decisions, create your space or system so that it pleases and fits you. Remember that buying stuff on the front end puts the cart before the horse, so be sure you work the first three steps. You may have even excavated things that will help you construct the systems that make the most sense. The whiteboard you bought for the office (and never hung up) could work just as well in the mudroom or the kitchen. Or, make a list and do a little shopping for what you need.
It doesn’t matter if you appreciate wide-open spaciousness or prefer something more cluttercore. What’s going to encourage you, settle your brain, open up some freedom? What makes the process easier for you? What will remove barriers to maintaining the room or the routine? Remember that life order isn’t about following the pack. I’m always SO impressed with my clients and their ability to create super-creative spaces and systems that are not only in order, but uniquely reflect who they are – that’s what sticks.
So be your own organizing hero, give EPIC a shot, and see where all it might take you. Or, if LESS is still more your style, that’s cool too. Let me know where your travels go, and share what you think about the new idea in the comments.
Congratulations on your anniversary! I love this acronym. I love that you included Create. I always tell my clients that less be more creative. Thanks for having this.
Thanks, Sabrina – Create, for whatever reason, doesn’t immediately occur to all of my clients (even though it tends to be a huge strength for them). Hopefully this idea will get some wheels turning. Thanks for commenting!
How exciting that you’ll be celebrating your 10th year ‘in biz’ anniversary on 10/10! What a major milestone. Congratulations!
I adore your new acronym! It’s not just the word “EPIC” which I love as a word and perspective, but it’s how you describe each letter and the examples you give. Just wonderful. It exudes openness and exploration, infuses fun, reduces shame, and builds self-awareness and esteem.
There’s nothing wrong with LESS, and clearly it has helped you and many others. But it seems fitting as you venture into your 10th year to go big. EPIC is fitting!
I know, it’s hard to believe how quickly the time has passed. And I hadn’t considered that EPIC fits into going big in the 10th year – and hopefully beyond! Thank you for making that connection for me, and for your kind words.
Oh, Sara, this is excellent. How fabulous that you (and your hairstyles) are evolving ten years on with such vivid, comprehensible (and comprehensive) ways of working through the clutter to a better outcome. Your writing always cheers and charms me, but this is so wise and compelling, I think you’ve got another book in the making!
Thanks so much, Julie – I’m happy that this was a cheerful post for you, and I had fun writing it. Had to reign myself in a bit, in fact (I had a whole other side trip that involved a Tarot card and turtles…I’ll save those for another day). As always, I so appreciate you reading and commenting.
Wow, celebrating 10 years is terrific. I love both acronyms. I particularly like the “E” of Epic. I think this is what I spend a lot of time doing with clients, and even with my own stuff. It’s funny how often I hear, “Oh, I’ve been looking for this,” or “I wondered where this went.” I also hear, “I know exactly what this is,” but also, “What the heck is this?” It’s funny, and having someone else next to you during the “E” process makes it even better!
What a great acronym! Dare I say it’s epic?
Congrats on almost-ten-years in business, and here’s to the next ten!
Thanks so much, Janet! – And now I’m finally going to have to ask: has anyone caught the fact that the watch in the photo says 10:10?? It was a total fluke, but I noticed it after I published. I will take it as a good sign ;-).