Chad Carpenter, Senior Vice President & Co-founder of Progress Software, a software start-up that I worked for in the 1990s had a huge office at the headquarters in Bedford, MA, where we both worked. I visited his office once a month to review and win approval of a monthly letter called “Progress Connections” I wrote under his name for distribution to the installed base. While the VP Sales whom I dealt with for direct marketing campaign approvals was easy going and fun, Chad was all business, all the time. I think he was a programmer earlier in his career prior to becoming SVP much like 65% of the employees.
His office was impeccable. Orderly. Spotless. There was a large mahogany L-shaped desk and two file cabinets underneath it at both corners. There were not any papers or office accessories in view. There were no books or correspondence, contracts or note on his desk, though there were spreadsheets in binders hanging neatly organized in bookcases nearby. There was a comfortable-looking couch and paintings on the walls. (Progress Software was a private firm when I started as a copywriter, and Chad’s wife decorated all the senior executives’ offices and hallways with attractive paintings and furniture). His office had the just-moved-in-look, but he had been there since the company started and I know he worked there long days, if not nights. It looked as if he didn’t do any work or had any matters to attend to, though that was impossible.
His office was everything mine was not; I admit it. In my office, everything was not in its place. I had piles of papers scattered all over. Post-it notes decorated the sides of my computer. (We did share one thing in common: we both had a door, that’s where the similarity ended. It was common in high tech during the 90s for individual contributors to not have a door, but instead to work in an open office layout. Progress Software was different).
Now it’s more than twenty years later, and I still have a problem with organization and order not just in my home office but in my files, books, recipes, dressers and drawers, shelves and clothes closet. Probably everything I possess, use, think about s disorganized.
i probably have a case of what I call Organizational Disorder Syndrome (ODS). It might actually exist as a clinical diagnosis, but I can’t find my notes, to check for sure.
I really like collecting notes, articles, documents about a subject, to have it on hand for reference and possible future use, but doing so, without organization, presents a real problem. Aside from the fact I can’t always find my notes, it’s the filing that effects me.
If I had a brochure about ODS, it would be somewhere, waiting to be filed. I have a large number of papers waiting to be filed. It’s the miscellaneous papers that I find hard to categorize if I put in my file cabinets. (But I’m finding that by virtue of writing this posting, I’m more attentive to my need to clean up my act and maintain my files. This has been a work in progress (no pun intended).
Actually, I do have a system for collecting special NY Times articles that I want to keep. On my desk are five large square, stiff 2” wide loose-leaf padded binders with “D” rings (which are usually used for scrapbooks), but I use them with plastic see-thru sheets to save the articles. Naturally they are not organized by theme or subject (yet?), but by chronology. Favorite subjects from my favorite columnists are found: US and world events, calligraphy and art, personal and mental health, learning disabilities, finances and retirement planning, how to die peacefully.
A number of articles collected are written by Paul Krugman:”Stop Calling Trump a Populist” (Aug 20, 2018): “From tax cuts to Kavanaugh, he’s about hurting the working class …Watching Trump in action, it’s hard to escape the impression that he knows very well that he’s inflicting punishment on his own base. But he’s a man who likes to humiliate others, in ways great and small. And my guess is that he actually takes pleasure in watching his supporters follow him even as he betrays them”.
“The Tax-Cut Con Goes On” (Aug 24, 2018): “Now Republicans who call for cuts in social spending to balance the budget are showing extraordinary chutzpah ….Which brings us back to the midterm elections. Rule of law is definitely on the ballot. So is healthcare. But voters should realize that the threat to programs they count in is much broader: if the GOP holds its majority, Social Security and Medicare as we know them will be very much in danger”.
“Trump and the Aristocracy of Fraud” (Oct 5, 2018): “Government of tax cheats, by tax cheats, for tax cheats ….the Trump Family engaged in tax fraud on a high scale, using a variety of money-laundering techniques to avoid paying what it owed”.
Another article entitled “Downloadable Gun Clears a Legal Obstacle, Alarming Some Activists” (July 14, 2018) addresses the fact that anyone can learn to make a 3-D firearm online, and an article from July 4, 2015 in “Personal Business” speaks of how to ”Stretch Your Dollars Beyond Age 60 With A Little Creativity” that references a survey from http://www.bankrate.com that ranks American cities based in seven factors: cost of living, healthcare quality, taxes, crime rate, weather, well-being and walkability.
Not much humor in the articles I collect. The Gun Epidemic. Climate Denial, The Importance of Preparing for a Natural Disaster, Anxiety? Getting in touch with your Inner Animal, and the Life Reports by David Brooks, and there’s even an obituary of Robert Palladio, a master calligrapher.
I’ve spent hours in my home office working to get my papers under control. Just today, I ripped up and threw away documents that I no longer need, and haven’t looked at in years. Writing this blog entry convinced me that organization and orderliness would be a wonderful thing because it really helps to have ready access to important papers. I understand that. I’m also reminded that organized people are just too lazy to look for things. And I don’t know want to be a lazy person.
Maybe my ODS is getting under control after all. Or maybe I’m just finding the time to sort through my papers and mail, paring down the elements that don’t really matter, and keeping only those that do.