Organize Your Office Based on Your Learning Style

You know you have a desk in there somewhere, under the piles of files. Time to clean up and, while you’re at it, organize your office.

But this time, instead of pulling out those one-size-fits-all organizing tips (the ones that say a clear desk equals a clear mind), consider setting up your office so it works for you, based on how you process information.

One way to do this, says Minneapolis-based professional organizer Louise Kurzeka, is by understanding learning styles. Whether you are a visual, auditory, or kinesthetic learner affects how you should set up your office. What works for one type doesn’t necessarily work for another. Here are some tips you can use once you understand how you process information.

If you are a visual learner, you need to have your information readily available, where you can see it, not tucked away in a file cabinet, says Kurzeka. A completely clear desk is not the best goal for a visual learner, for whom out of sight is truly out of mind.

Your office should include:

• bulletin boards for displaying memos, messages, and other info
• a desk with a glass top, under which you can slide frequently used phone numbers, your desk calendar, and other tidbits
• color-coded file folders, so you can find information more quickly
• organizers on your desk that let you see your files, such as a step-up, angled rack with files facing you

If you are an auditory learner, you process information better by hearing it than by reading it.

Your office should include:

• a music source, such as a CD player, plus headphones if others work nearby
• devices with sound alarms — your computer calendar should be set to alert you by sound, not just text; your phone or PDA also should be set up with auditory cues
• a mini-recorder so you can take notes and tape meetings

If you are a kinesthetic learner, you need to be able to touch things and to move — to have some sort of physical involvement with your information, says Kurzeka. Kinesthetic learners are also referred to as tactile learners.

Your office should include:

• highlighters, so you can highlight what you read (the physical act of underlining helps you retain the information)
• a dry-erase board, where you can write ideas
• flip-chart “sticky” pages — large-sized “post-its” that you can put on your walls as you brainstorm projects
• a chair you can move in, whether it’s to sway back and forth or roll across the office

Of course, many people aren’t completely in one camp or another, so you may need to take elements from each type to find a system that works for you.

If you use a professional organizer, consider one who is familiar with learning style theory to help you develop a system keyed to your needs. Keep in mind, too, that the oft-discussed “visual, auditory, kinesthetic” theory isn’t the only way to categorize the way people learn. Other theories exist as well: Kurzeka, for example, is increasingly organizing her clients based on Anthony Gregorc’s “mind styles” learning theory.

Want to get started with a pro? Find an organizer in your area is by consulting the National Association of Professional Organizers.

About Lorna Collier

Lorna Collier is a business and technology writer who has contributed to the Chicago Tribune, CNN.com, Crain's Chicago Business, Smart Computing, and many other websites, newspapers and magazines.
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