I am one of those people who couldn’t function when my desk, calendar and files weren’t perfectly organized … and possibly color-coded. Throughout law school, my organizational methods allowed me to survive while serving on multiple committees and boards and participating in a ton of activities. I was highly organized. I was especially proud of my ability to map out my entire day and stick to the plan.
When I was interviewing for attorney jobs after law school and the interviewer asked my strengths, I happily talked about my ability to remain organized, even in a busy workplace. I landed a great job with a small law firm and things were great. I started off with two family law cases to focus on. I created elaborate organizational systems. Things were great, I was organized, my systems were awesome, my electronic files were updated every evening before I left the office and my calendar organizer looked like a work of art.
Three months later, my caseload increased drastically. I became that lawyer with the cluttered desk and disorganized files. I couldn’t function. I would stay late with the plan to get organized and get a handle on everything, but I never got through everything on the list. I wasn’t sleeping, I was always bringing work home and I felt very unorganized. It was beginning to affect my performance. I had to figure out a better way.
I learned that color labels are nice but weren’t a necessity to be organized. I created a block at the end of each day to deal with the clutter on my desk. Instead of forcing myself to keep using an organizational system that didn’t work for me anymore, I had to embrace change and find a new method of organization that allowed me to be at my best. Next step, I’ll tackle the job of delegating more tasks to other people.
Don’t be afraid to take time out to re-examine the way you do things. As we move forward in our careers, we are faced with new challenges and bigger caseloads. If you feel overwhelmed, cluttered and disorganized, it might be time to get reorganized.
Amanda N. Odorimah is an attorney at AO Law in Bowie.