The Secrets to Staying Organized

Author: Lexi Mitchell | Student, Living Education – Charlotte, 2023-24

In the first forum of the 2023-2024 school year, Mr. DeSimone explained to the LivingEd students that having organization in all aspects of life is the key to maximizing time and effort. 

To demonstrate, he introduced to them the “Five S’s of Lean” number game. The goal of the game was to prove just how inefficient working can be without an organized system in place. It’s easy to fall into habits of disorganization, and it’s easy to assume that work done under those conditions is ‘as good as it’s going to get’. But, as the students quickly learned, that is far from the case.

The S’s stood for:

  1. Sort: Keep only what is necessary and discard everything else- when in doubt, throw it out.
  2. Set in order: Arrange and label only necessary items for easy use and return by anyone
  3. Shine: Keeping everything swept and clean for inspection for safety and preventative maintenance of equipment.
  4. Standardize: The state that exists when the first three pillars of the 5S’s are properly maintained.
  5. Sustain: Making a habit of properly maintaining correct procedures.

The 5 S’s Game

Mr. DeSimone then had the students participate in the game, which had several rounds. Each time, he gave out sheets of paper with numbers distributed across the entire page. He asked the students to identify and cross off the numbers 1-49 in ascending order within 20 seconds. During each round, he incorporated different aspects of the 5 S’s to make the number sorting more efficient. 

In the first round, there were 99 numbers on the page with no organization at all. 

In the second, the numbers 50-99 were removed from the page. 

During the third, numbers were organized into grid boxes. 

Finally, in the fourth, numbers 1-49 were lined up in ascending order. 

With each round, the amount of time it took to eliminate numbers decreased dramatically. This game proved the benefit of organization, and showed that the more we force ourselves to be organized, tasks that we complete will be done much more efficiently.

The Myth of Multitasking

A second point that Mr. DeSimone made was that trying to multitask was a dangerous idea. To introduce this point, he referenced a book titled “The Myth of Multitasking”, written by Dave Crenshaw. The passage he read to them told the story of a woman who was trying to explain to the book’s narrator that she was skilled at multitasking. As proof, she claimed that she was able to continue working at her computer while coworkers talked to her face-to-face. Although she bragged that she was able to focus on the two actions at one time, the narrator explained to her that instead of multitasking, she was doing something called “switch-tasking”. 

Switch-tasking is the action of shifting your full attention between multiple different tasks in quick succession. When many people claim to be multitasking, they aren’t actually doing two things at once. In reality, they are simply completing the action of shifting back and forth between things to focus on.

Mr. DeSimone then went on to give a second exercise, wherein he had the students write out the phrase “multitasking is a myth” one letter at a time. After writing each letter, the student was to number it, starting from one. They continued on in that way until the last letter-number pair was written. 

This took a long time, and the students made plenty of mistakes. 

The second time this exercise was done, the students were asked to write out the full phrase first, then follow up with writing the numbers. Doing this decreased the time it took by half. 

His final takeaways from this exercise were that in the first case, no tasks were fully completed until the full time was up. The longer time was accompanied by mistakes and confusion.

But in the second case, two tasks were put out in half the time, and on top of that, each task was done much quicker and more effectively than in the previous instance. 

New Perspectives

These examples provided the students with an extremely important lesson. Organization, order, maintenance, and time prioritization are all important skills for anyone to have, and for individuals who, like the students, have jam-packed schedules, these skills are even more crucial. The students left this forum with new perspectives on efficiency, and were even more prepared to have a great and profitable year. 

Lexi Mitchell is a first-year student in the Living Education-Charlotte Program. She is from Long Island, New York. At home, she worked as a lifeguard and a swim instructor. Currently, she assists in the Living Education department as a social media manager and as a producer of written content. She enjoys reading, cooking, exercising, and spending time with family.