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Organize The "Right" Way — Embrace Your Instinctive Strength

December 01, 2022

  • Kolbe Wisdom
  • Podcast
The system for us is the thing that we are actually going to do.

Clare Willson

The way you naturally organize will cause you less stress and create more productivity than organizing “the right way”.

Clare Willson (9-2-3-4) was always a “good” student, and she always loved learning. But it felt like something was off whenever she had an assignment that forced her to organize in a specific way. Once she took the Kolbe A™ Index, she finally understood why.  

“I remember having struggles with outlining,” she explained to David Kolbe in a recent Powered by Instinct podcast interview. “It was like, ‘Here’s the plan for writing your paper. Just follow the plan.’ But when we get to the part where we had to outline, every time I would just become completely confused. I just remember thinking, ‘How can I write an outline before I have written my paper?’ It literally made no sense to me at all.”  

But once Clare started to understand her instinctive strengths, she realized she could make accommodations for her natural way of doing things. She could write the outline after she wrote the paper. That made sense. That worked for her.  

“To me,” she continued, “that was a huge permission slip. I remember in that moment thinking, ‘Okay, there’s nothing actually wrong with me.’ I just don’t naturally follow the plans.”  

Figure Out How You Naturally Organize – Embrace the Mess if You Have To

Some people organize with piles. To everybody else it looks like a big mess, but if you know where everything is, and piles work for you – then what’s the big deal?!   

Just because you have clutter doesn’t mean you’re disorganized.  

Everybody creates systems and follows them differently. When it comes to organization and design, there are different approaches. Some people create elaborate processes — others adapt.   

If your strength, like Clare, is to adapt (creating shortcuts, loosening up rigid processes, frequently switching tasks), that’s a strength you should be proud of!   

Stop Trying to Be Somebody You’re Not

Clare first learned about her natural strength to adapt in high school, but it has taken longer to fully embrace it.   

“I wish I could say I learned it at 16 and have felt so good about my strengths in organizing ever since. But it’s still a struggle at times because there’s so much just cultural input,” Clare confessed. “There’s a lot of unlearning that I’ve had to do and continue to do around feeling bad that I’m simply not structured or as organized as you’re supposed to be. But what I think might surprise some people is that if you were to look in my closet, or my fridge, you would say, this is a very organized person. I know where everything is, but the systems that I use are so simple.”  

Clare uses the systems that work for HER.  

My son and I joke about this all the time,” Clare offered. “We say that we have a lot of systems, but they’re so simple, even we will follow them. I think sometimes people with our Follow Thru talent get a bad rep for many reasons. But just because something looks maybe random or chaotic doesn’t mean there’s not a system in place.”  

The Right Advice for the Wrong Person

David Kolbe, CEO of Kolbe Corp, (8-2-7-3) has similar strengths as Clare when it comes to how he organizes and designs. He is well aware of the potential pitfalls Clare has faced, and the even bigger pitfalls others encounter when they aren’t aware of their instinctive strengths.  

“So many of the people that we work with who learned the lesson that Clare learned when she was pretty young are learning it so much later, and they didn’t know to ignore all the well-meaning advice people give.”  

It’s not that this is bad advice in general, it’s that it is bad advice for those with these types of natural strengths. One example? Inbox zero.  

“Anything where you have to have separate folders,” Clare elaborates, “especially if they’re digital folders, doesn’t work for me. If they’re nested, you might as well just hit the delete button. I don’t see it. For notebooks or folders, my system changes all the time, but it still works for me. But if you put it in a file cabinet, you might as well just set it on fire, because it’s gone; it doesn’t exist anymore.”   

Find A Way That’s Really Easy for You 

Clare has several areas of her life that she considers to be very organized. Those which appear very organized to others often took years to become so. She often had to go through 15-20 failed systems to get there. But understanding that reality has allowed her to set her son, who has the same natural strengths for organizing and design, on a path toward success.  

“I try to have a sense of humor with it when dealing with my son, and I say, ‘The system for us is the thing that we are actually going to do.’ And so,” Clare says, smiling, “we’re going to start with something and we’re going to just keep flexing it, keep taking away the steps until we’re getting the result that we want in a way that’s really easy for us.”   

Clare is just further proof that you don’t need to follow the system to have a good plan.   

Want to learn more about your natural strengths for organizing and design, as well as other Action Modes®? The best place to start is by taking the Kolbe A™ Index. 

WATCH or LISTEN: Powered by Instinct Episode with David Kolbe and Clare Willson

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