Episode 37: Organization and Executive Functioning
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Organization and Executive Functioning
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- Planning, Time Management and Organization for Success: https://tinyurl.com/3jzvf7nf
- Dan Sullivan: https://tinyurl.com/yjn27xkx
- Stephen Covey: https://tinyurl.com/y738n24p
- Eisenhower Matrix: https://jamesclear.com/eisenhower-matrix
- Pomodoro Technique: https://francescocirillo.com/pages/pomodoro-technique
- Kanban Method: https://kanbanize.com/
- Time Management apps: https://todoist.com/, https://www.rememberthemilk.com/
- Productivity apps: https://trello.com/, https://www.asana.com/
- Marie Kondo: https://konmari.com/
- Jordan Peterson: https://tinyurl.com/msubc8ak
- Flow Time Technique: https://timelyapp.com/blog/flowtime-technique-pomodoro-alternative
- The Tunnel Technique by Andrew Huberman: https://youtu.be/Ze2pc6NwsHQ
- BulletMap Academy: https://bulletmapacademy.com/
- Learning Specialist Courses:https://www.learningspecialistcourses.com/
- Executive Functions and Study Skills Course: https://tinyurl.com/n86mf2bx
- Good Sensory Learning: https://goodsensorylearning.com/
- Dyslexia Productivity Coaching: http://dyslexiaproductivitycoaching.com/
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- Good Sensory Learning (http://www.goodsensorylearning.com/)
- Learning Specialist Courses (http://www.learningspecialistcourses....)
- Bullet Map Academy (http://www.bulletmapacademy.com/)
- Dyslexia at Work: www.dyslexiawork.com
Erica: Welcome to the personal brain trainer podcast. I'm Dr. Erica Warren.
Darius: And I'm Darius Namdaran, and we're your hosts. Join us on an adventure to translate the scientific jargon and brain research into simple metaphors and explanations for everyday life. We explore executive function and learning strategies that help turbocharge the mind.
Erica: Come learn to steer around the invisible barriers so that you can achieve your goals. This podcast is ideal for parents, educators, and learners of all ages.
Darius: This podcast is sponsored by Dyslexiaproductivitycoaching.com. We give you a simple productivity system for your Apple devices that harnesses the creativity that comes with your Dyslexia.
Erica: This podcast is brought to you by Goodsensorylearning.com, where you can find educational and occupational therapy lessons and remedial materials that bring delight to learning. Finally, you can find Dr. Warren's many courses at, uh, Learningspecialistcourses.com. Come check out our newest course on developing executive functions and study strategies.
Darius: Hey, Erica, what have we got to talk about today?
Erica: Hey, Darius, nice to see you. We're going to be talking about organization and executive functioning. And organization is a piece of executive functioning. I often think of it as a higher level executive functioning tool, and I think it unites the three areas of working memory, inhibitory control, and cognitive flexibility. But I think it's a very important topic because, as we know, there are those that are organized and those that are not organized, and it does have a pretty large impact on us if you struggle with organization. So I thought it'd be a really interesting episode to kind of dive into that. And I think also considering and discussing how organization impacts productivity, stress management, and then overall well being.
Darius: Great. So where should we start?
Erica: Well, let's start off with kind of a definition of organization. And I like to think of it as referring to the act of arranging or arranging things in a systematic or orderly manner. And this can also refer to objects like the things around our space, as well as information and tasks. And being organized is a way of helping us to manage our productivity, to manage our time, to also be more efficient. So I think it's going to be a very interesting area to talk about. And then, of course, executive functioning, just as a reminder, is a set of cognitive skills in the frontal lobe that helps us to plan, organize, complete tasks, and, as we've already said, incorporates working memory, inhibitory control, and cognitive flexibility. Do you want to add anything to that?
Darius: Yeah, um, I think it's really useful. I mean, we're talking metaphors here. One of the big things in our podcast and our discussions is to translate these words into pictures, really verbal pictures. And in a previous episode, we talked a little bit about how executive function is like captaining a boat, being in charge of a boat, a sailboat, for example, and sailing from one port to another destination, another beach or harbor, and involves these three elements of working memory, inhibitory control and cognitive flexibility. And often with my students, what I do is I describe these three things as three members of the crew on the boat. So working memory is like the lookout at the front of the boat. So it's kind of taking in information about where you're going, looking at the sea, looking at the sky, looking at the rocks, looking at the direction and saying, this is what's happening. That's what's happening. And they're choosing what's important information to pass back to inhibitory control and cognitive flexibility, which are two other crew members.
Erica: And just to add to that and reflecting upon past experiences. Right, because when you're reflecting on past experiences, then you're applying what you already know and you're dipping into long term memory.
Darius: Yes. So that lookout would be saying, the last time you were passing here, the rocks were fine. But then there's this other thing that's an anomaly, and that's a bit weird. Is that a rock? Is that a boat? What is that? And so that they're alert to the anomaly. So that's working memory. The crew member is the lookout. Okay? And then there's a second member who is on the helm, the tiller. They're on the steering wheel directing the boat. And that's inhibitory control. They are deciding, I am going to stay on target. This is the course I've been set. This is the next way point. I'm going to that point. And then there's a third member who is cognitive flexibility. Now, they are the map person. They are the person that deals with the chart. They're looking at the chart. They're taking their position on the sea. The lookout has sent some information. The helm is keeping their course and staying focused. But then the person with cognitive flexibility with the chart is saying, actually, the wind has blown us slightly off, or the currents, or we've got another competitor in the competition that is going to cut us off. These are the sailing rules. And then that person says, right, we're going to change course slightly to this bearing. And then the helmsman does that. And these three crew members all work together. However, they are not in charge of the boat. They are crew members. Even if they're on the helm, it doesn't mean they're in charge. The captain is still in charge of that boat. And that is this metacognition. That is the CEO of the boat, that is the captain of the boat. And often the captain of the boat is in charge of organizing the boat. And this is the link to being organized. They make sure that the different members are doing what they're meant to be doing. They're making sure they've got the right equipment and the right tools. If they need something, they make sure it gets provided, et cetera, so they can do their job. So that's a useful analogy that I've been using in my mind that uh, is adaptable enough to incorporate a lot of these principles.
Erica: Yeah, actually, you've come up with and we've come up with many metaphors, and I often find little holes in them. But this is probably the strongest metaphor that you've suggested, and I really like it. The only thing that I would change is that I would make the captain. The captain is actually a combination of those three. So it's almost like, um, almost like a spiritual okay.
Darius: It's like the Holy Trinity. God in three persons.
Darius: The Holy Trinity of executive function.
Erica: Yeah, I would say so. I think that describes it really well. So thank you for going into that. That's really beautiful.
Darius: I've got something else to add here which has just come to me. I've been mulling this over, and that is what is the nature of the boat in relation to these three executive function characters? Okay. And in many ways, the boat are, ah, the system that the three crew members use to get to the destination. So it could be a, uh, task management system, a calendar system, a note-taking system, different apps. It could be all sorts of different we have all sorts of systems to automate staying organized. So we've talked a lot about automaticity, and sometimes we absorb that automaticity into the crew member. They just become automatic at it. And sometimes we delegate that automaticity to a system or a process or a tool. And that's kind of like the vessel. So some people are really good, skilled executive function. I've met a few people like this, which is fascinating clients, where their executive function is really very good, but their Dyslexia, their processing is not so good. So they're actually really good at being on the boat. But the systems that they've got in place, they're not naturally automatic at taking notes or following up or anything like that. And so the vessel that they're sailing on lets them down a bit so they can build up that vessel with tools. So it's an upgrade onto the boat. Do you know what I mean?
Erica: It's funny having my perspective. I would think of the boat as being the brain. So the brain is the boat. And if you have a cognitive weakness, that means that you just have to repair that piece of the boat. Or you might have to have a compensatory strategy to work around that weakness on the boat. But I'm definitely from the camp that I believe that if you really focus on a particular area of cognition, say you find a small hole in your boat, that you can repair it.
Darius: How about this? What if the hull of the boat is your brain? What you're naturally given? And then throughout life, you start to add different component parts like gizmos to it. You get different winches, you get different ropes. And gradually, as we go through life, we pick up different tools and techniques that can enhance our boat they can't change our mind, per se. Like, there are some boats that are, uh, designed to be thin, sleek, shallow, go into shallow waters, and others are more like big tankers. And that's just our nature. But then we adapt what we do. And, um, some of the what would you say, uh, equipment on the boat to compensate?
Erica: Yeah, I think that's great. And, of course, now that we're in a, uh, tech world, there are all sorts of tech tools that we use, and boats can use tech tools as well. So, yeah, I think this analogy works extremely well. It's a lot of fun. Okay, so let's apply this to organization.
Erica: So how does organization that piece of the boat or of the brain, how does that apply to this metaphor?
Darius: Well, I think organization is a, uh, distillation of routines and habits and best practice. So you find you do something maybe intuitively or naturally, and it works. Okay. And then you start, let's say a recipe. Let's take a recipe. You're very creative at cooking and so on. And I just cooked, for example, this spicy fajita chicken that my family really loved. And they were like, oh, Darius, this is amazing. And I would normally forget the recipe because they would say, what did you put in it? And I said, oh, well, I just made it up, and I'd go back and try and make it again. It wouldn't be quite the same. It would be different. But I'd miss that moment where it was peak just right. Well, this time I was organized enough to write down what I did in Apple notes, uh, my notetaking thing, just as a quick reminder while it was still fresh in my mind. That's organization, you take what's best and you distill it down into a process of ordering things in a way that suits you best.
Erica: For me, that's organization, and you can access it later. So, yeah, part of organization, cognitively, is being conscious.
Erica: And now some people don't have to be conscious to organize because, for example, they, um, may already have a really organized way of processing, whereas other people, just naturally, their boat is a bit of a mess, and they have to be conscious about organizing. So you had to be conscious about organizing. And when you were conscious about organizing, you had an organized boat when it came to recipes. And I think I tend to be organized, but I think I've really trained myself to be organized because, for example, um, when I was a child, I could never find anything. And that's actually a very common characteristic in my family. My mother, my brother and I, it was always like, where's this? Where's that? It was really hard for us to keep track of things. And so I had to consciously make a decision to have a place for everything. I have a key box. Because I have a key box, I don't lose my key very often, it can still happen. So I think there are things that we can do to be more conscious about being organized. And then if we get into a habit of always doing that, then even when we're not conscious, we'll still put the key back in the keybox. And then from time to time, I have to go through and organize my house. I recently did that. I went through every drawer in my house. I got rid of the things that I didn't need. I put things and got little organizational bins and stuff like that. And it's amazing how much better I feel. And the interesting thing is it has a profound impact on my executive functioning at large because it lightens my load, it makes my working memory better because I'm not juggling so much. I know exactly where everything is. I can get through what I need to get done quickly because I'm not looking, not having to stop. I'm not having to say, oh, what about this? So it manages inhibitory control because I don't have as many distractions. And then I also feel a lot more motivated. And I think that I'm more cognitively flexible because I have that space to be, because I'm not getting tripped up by, Where is this? Or how do I do this? And Darius, I have to thank you because you convinced me that I really had to try Apple Notes. And I'm using it, and it's great. It was so fantastic. For my recent vacation, I went to St. Lucia, and, uh, I had my list of what to take. I had another list when I was there of what I want to bring the next time. And you're right, it's so easy to find it because I just pop a keyword and then my M list pops right up. I'm using it for so many different things, and normally they would be kind of all over the place and I would have trouble finding them, but they're sequenced by date. But then, of course, all I have to do is put in one keyword in the search, and then it pops up, and I'm able to find it really quickly. So thank you for that, because I'm actually finding that to be an extraordinary tool for me, and it's helping my organization and overall executive functioning in a profound way.
Darius: Oh, I'm so glad to hear that because you can tell listeners through this podcast that you are very Google Keep and I was very Apple Notes because I used to be Google Keep, and now I'm advocating Apple Notes. And it's hard to describe, but the immediacy, the speed of it, the simplicity of it that I don't quite know how to describe it, but it's like being able to empty your working memory faster, to take notes at the speed of thought.
Erica: It's organization. Yeah, it's quick and efficient organization so that you don't have to pause. And if you have to pause it's for a very short time so you don't lose anything.
Erica: And you can be more efficient and yeah, it's a real time saver.
Darius: Brilliant. So pleased to hear that. Now, one of the things that I was going to say, from what I heard, what you saying there, is actually, I think one of the keys to organization is simplification. And we often don't hear it said, but actually, organization really at the core of it is simplification. It's like, I've just created a recipe. How do I simplify that into seven steps to take so that I've, uh, got all the key important parts. And so simplification, I think, is a key element in organization.
Erica: So it's simplification, and as you said, making a sequence. So I think there are two ways of organizing. You can organize sequentially, but you can also organize simultaneously. So when you organize sequentially, you can organize in an order, in an alphabetical order, in a time order, in some type of order. Whereas when you organize simultaneously, you categorize.
Darius: It'S like a mind map. The difference would be, do you organize in a bullet point list, which is perfectly fine. Do, uh, you then turn it into a web or a mind map or an.org chart or something? So you're simultaneously looking at all the information. So you can look at a list of information that's simultaneous in a way, but it's actually sequential.
Erica: Yeah, I mean, maps are actually both because they're more than both. They're sequential because they often do have a certain sequence within the map.
Darius: Yeah, they normally go in clockwise order.
Erica: Yes, they're simultaneous in that they allow you to see the big picture, but they're also visual. I guess outlines are too, but they can be more visual if you add imagery to it. People don't typically add imagery to outlines, although you can. And I think a timeline is another one which has a natural sequence to it, but is also simultaneous and allows you to see the big picture. And I've often said that if I was ever a history teacher, or if I was ever to advise a history teacher, I would say it's really important to get students to do a timeline of the course.
Erica: Because then it keeps everything very organized. And although some teachers do present history in a very organized fashion, some don't, because they might be thinking of it simultaneously and saying, like, oh, let me look across time to all of the similar patterns. And then if someone is very sequential, they're like, I'm totally lost. But I think, yeah, timelines are really like a web.
Darius: So if we look at the opposite of organization and talk about disorganization I love Jordan Peterson's dichotomy of chaos and order, that life is this balance between chaos and order. One is not bad or good, but there's this middle ground that as human beings, we're always balancing chaos and order. If you go too far, into order. You start to get too solidified, rigid, inflexible. If you go too much into chaos, everything just goes out of disorder. You get lost. And you need this balance between the two. And I think there needs to be a space for creative people who aren't necessarily this sequential learner, sequential thinker to say, it is possible to be creatively, organized. It doesn't have to hamper your creativity. It doesn't have to hamper your life. It's there to support it. And there's this balance between chaos and order or let's say, organization and disorganization. In reality, not everything is organized, and not everything is disorganized. Uh, a whole life has this balance between disorganization, which is very often a creative process, intuitive, going out into the wild, experimentation. It's not fully organized. That's okay. And then there's this other area of, uh, organized. And I think there's this middle ground. I don't know what you would call it mid organization. You've got organized disorganized. And what would the middle be? Happy.
Erica: Balanced. You want to find some kind of balance. It makes me think of James Gleaks chaos theory. There's a wonderful book on that. And that within the world, as you were saying, there is chaos and order, and within order is chaos, and within chaos is order, which is so interesting, and I guess getting comfortable, being flexible with the idea that things can become very disorderly, but you can find order in the chaos and vice versa. Another thing to think about is there are different ways that people organize. So you may organize visually. So it's a matter of thinking about how you process information. And there are different ways of processing. So you might organize visually. You might organize auditorily, where you use your inner voice to organize your thoughts. You might organize tactically, where you just remember where you place things last. You might organize kinesthetically just with through body movement. And then, uh, we talked about sequential and simultaneous. You could organize verbally by processing out loud. You could organize reflectively by thinking about something and then taking that information and organizing it in an inward way. You can organize also through direct experience, where you're just literally getting into maybe sticky notes and reorganizing them, but you're literally holding onto it and experiencing it or watching demonstrations. And, uh, interesting. Another way of processing that I often talk about, which is rhythmic, melodic I'm sure there are ways that you can organize that way too.
Darius: Even when you look at I mean, this is a bit of a tangent, but even when you look on Instagram, on how people organize their books on a bookshelf so you can do it with the Dewy Decimal system. You can do it by spine color. You can do it alphabetically. You can do it by size of the book so they're in the right size order. You could even do it by a rhythm where and this is where we're talking about the rhythm. So you could look at the pattern of the books going down and then coming back up, and then going back down and coming back up as a wave, or jaggedy wave, or a sawtooth pattern that's still a rhythm. And so it's fascinating to watch children organize. I mean, when you see children sitting and playing, often they will organize. I remember my daughter would organize everything in size order, and she would love to take like 40 or 50 different little things, organize them in size order, in a line, and so on. And other people will organize things differently by, oh, these are all the ambulance cars and emergency services cars, and these are all the racing cars, and so on, et cetera. And this is all sorts of different ways to categorize is the key thing as well. What's your preferred way of categorizing is really what we're talking about as, uh.
Erica: Well, we want to make it a no brainer strategy. For example, I had a little girl, she must have been in the third grade, and she had her own iPhone, and she had all of her apps. You know how you can block them into like, bigger blocks where you can then drag ones in there? She had them color coded, so all of her yellow apps were in one, all of her red apps, all of her blue apps. And so if you remember the app color but it was very interesting. I said, I love it so much, will you do that on my phone? And she organized it on my phone with little really cute little icons that went with the colors. And I still have it set up on my phone that way. And what happens is you learn the app colors and so you know where to find things really quickly. And it just blew my mind that this little kid came up with this system that was so effective, and it got to the point where everybody around her was like, will you make my phone look like your phone? Because it's really, really effective. And then, of course, even like, the one that's like rainbow, there would be a rainbow one, and she would have a little icon of a rainbow. So it's like Google, the Google symbol has all the different colors in it. So you'd throw that into the rainbow one. I absolutely loved it. I told her I was like, you should be an organizational specialist when you grow up, because the fact that it was just so intuitive to her and she loved it so much. But that's the trick. If you tap into your best ways of learning or, uh, best ways of processing, then you'll love it. But if you try to organize in a way that's uncomfortable for you, it probably won't work, and you won't love it.
Darius: Let's tie this back into the boat analogy. I'm just visualizing the boat, right? So, uh, let's say you've decided there's this component that you think would be great for your boat. Everyone else is talking about it. You need to do it organized this way, and you put it on your boat, but there's not necessarily a place for it on your boat. Your boat just kind of rejects it and says, no, that just doesn't work with me. Often the way your brain is shaped creates spaces for different techniques or rejects other techniques. Now, going back to the boat as well is this balance between chaos and order or disorganization and organization? Leaves the question of, uh, what should I organize and, uh, what should I leave disorganized? And I think this is a really important question because sometimes people who feel disorganized feel the compulsion to organize. They should be organizing everything and they feel really guilty that everything isn't organized. And I have a theory about this, right? I've learned this from Dyslexia because a lot of people with Dyslexia have processing differences. They process information differently. They process sequences differently. They can get things out of sequence. They can get things out of order. So they might be very good at executive function in general organizing. But when it comes to remembering the sequence of a particular recipe they put in the milk they put in the flour first and then the milk and then it goes all lumpy, and they're like, oh, I forgot. I've done this 100 times, but I forgot. So that's a classic Dyslexic trait where you forget. You do the right things, but out of order. Or you read a phone number and the phone number is slightly out of order and then it's useless because you've got all the right numbers, but you've not got the right sequence. So the sequence is very important. Okay? So my rule of thumb is this it's crucial to organize those things that have an essential sequence in your life. So if it's really important for you to follow a, uh, standard operating procedure to walk into a science lab, for example, before you start your creative scientific work if you get that sequence wrong, that could have significant effects for your work. And so, uh, what we all find is there are key sequences in our life that if we get really organized with those little things, we can leave a lot more disorganized because those are the non negotiable sequences in your life.
Erica: Yeah, I think you're right. And I think that when we have those non negotiable sequences we have to be very mindful of helping those individuals come up with mnemonic strategies. I've used this example before where I have a student whose parents will give them a sequence of things to do when they go upstairs, and they always forget it. And so we attached each of those activities to a stuffed animal. You remember this one. So if she had to brush her teeth, they gave her the beaver. If she had to put on her clothes. They gave her the teddy bear that had a jacket on and so forth, so that she would walk upstairs with these little animals, and then she would know what to do. It didn't necessarily provide a sequence, although you could, you could say, okay, first I want you to brush your teeth. And you could say, now this is the first one, and I want you to hold it closest to your heart, because you're going to do that one first. So, I mean, you can bring a sequence into it. And there's so many different ways, so many great mnemonics, whether it's rhythmic, melodic, whether it's visual, whether it's tactile, whether it's kinesthetic. And for those kids that really struggle with that, that can be a real game changer. And so I teach a lot of my students, and those strategies, too, like where you take the first letter of each thing that you have to remember, and you make a, uh, word out of it. So there are so many different cool tools, and there's hooking. I go over a lot of those types of memory strategies in my executive functioning course, in my executive functioning and.
Darius: Study skills course, I think with my clients that I coach, uh, doing the Dyslexia productivity coaching. What I found is that doing the simplest checklist on Apple Notes for let's say they've got to go out and do a survey of a property. They've got an eight sequence checklist. I've done that. Done that, yeah. Oh gosh, yes, I forgot that. And if they had forgotten it, it would require another visit to the property, another half hour drive out there, a quick ten minute look at it, come back out, and it cost them an hour and a half of their time. That was unnecessary. And so I find often there are certain sequences that are non negotiable that you don't have to do that often. That don't necessarily warrant a mnemonic, but some things do warrant a mnemonic, because you're doing them so regularly, you want to do it off the top of your head. Other things, you're doing them like, once a week, or once every other day, or whatever less frequently. And so you just have a checklist to go through. Bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, and you've done it. So I highly recommend using Apple Notes or whatever quick note-taking app you've got on your Android or whatever. But use Apple Notes to write a sequential list of things that are non negotiable, and there might be just four or five of them in your life. And that could be even as simple as things I need to do to take out the door. To go out the door, I need to make sure I've got Xyza and B. And you can remember three of them, but you often forget one, and that can affect your day and your work. And the same applies for all sorts of. Other processes in the workplace and life.
Erica: And I'll give a shout out to Google Keep because there are a few features that they have that Apple Notes doesn't have, which is being able to reorganize things very quickly and easily. And also that it'll give you reminders based on time or location. So if you're going past the grocery store, you'll get a pop up that says Pick up the broccoli. Which is a real I love the location concept. That's like a whole new way of organizing.
Darius: Well, Apple does that, uh, through reminders rather than notes, right?
Erica: So it depends I miss that piece of really being able to reorganize the hierarchy. I mean, you can I have to cut it and paste it higher.
Darius: What are you talking about? Are you talking about, like a checklist on your Apple Notes to move the muscle note? You can do that on apple notes. What you do is you press on the little circle button rather than ticket, you just press it and it turns it into a movable block that you can move up and down in the checklist.
Erica: Thank you. That just made me really happy. That was really good. Thank you.
Darius: Let's talk about procrastination, shall we? Because this is a really big thing with a lot of my, uh, work clients in the workplace. They can feel really guilty about procrastination. And I think there's some interesting stuff around about procrastination. Dan Sullivan has some fascinating work about procrastination. One of his takes is when you're procrastinating as an entrepreneur, it normally means you haven't met the right person to help you do it. And I think that's a fascinating way to think about tasks you're procrastinating on. There's another take on procrastination. You can have creative procrastination. So there are some people who are really very good at procrastinating on certain things. And we talked about this in the last episode where you intentionally procrastinate on something. You work on it for a while. You say, Right, I'm going to leave this. I'm going to come back to it on Friday the 18th or whatever date you decide. And so, in a way, you're putting it off, but you're intentionally putting it off. And what happens is your unconscious mind works on it while you're procrastinating or leaving it be, and you come up with ideas. So some people do that intentionally and some people do it unconsciously. So sometimes procrastination isn't bad. So I think it's useful to think about procrastination and organization and start defining when should we procrastinate, when should we not? And what's happening with procrastination and organization.
Erica: So it's about being conscious again. Now, people might say, well, but procrastination is an organization. Well, it is, uh, a way of organizing through time. So, uh, the question is, like, all right, so what does that have to do with organization? I think procrastination is an issue with time, organization. Would you agree with that?
Darius: I love it. I'm just processing that because that's the first time I've heard you say that. I heard it said so clearly. Yeah. Procrastination is an issue of organization through time.
Darius: Mhm, I like it.
Erica: Yeah. And of course, one of the ways to move through that, I suppose, is prioritizing tasks. That helps you to become a little bit more conscious.
Darius: Yeah. Because once you prioritize it, you can then sequence it in time more accurately, more usefully.
Erica: Right. You can kind of convince yourself like, oh, okay, I do need to get this started.
Darius: So that leads us to Eisenhower, President Eisenhower, doesn't it? Because it's the Eisenhower matrix that's very famous for this. President Eisenhower was asked how he managed to get so much stuff done. And he showed the person this square box that he drew. And I just want to draw it in your mind. You've probably heard about it, but let's just do it again. You've got a big box, divide it from top to bottom by half, horizontally by half. So you got four boxes. In the top left hand corner you've got a box for important and Urgent. And then in the top right you've got important, not urgent. So Eisenhower made a difference distinction between is this task important and urgent? Or is it important and not urgent? And then at the bottom he had not important and he had not important and urgent on the left, bottom left, and then he had not important and um, not urgent. And it's super weird doing this, but when you do this within this category, there is a simplification that comes, a clarity that comes where you just start just asking the question, is this important or not important? Is a very important question to ask. Just that is this important or not important? Because it's very easy to think everything that's being asked of you is important, but it is not. That's the truth. Not everything is important.
Erica: Stephen Covey has the same kind of matrix and he has the important or not important. And then he has two other distinctions, which is, oh, I want to do it and I don't want to do it.
Darius: I see.
Erica: So you always do the things that you don't want to do that are most important first.
Darius: I see.
Erica: So it's the same concept. And then of course, another way of organizing time, which we've talked about in the past, are the different Pomodoro techniques. And what is the other one called? Flow time technique. And then of course, Huberman also has the tunnel technique. And they're all ways of being consciously organizing your study time or your work time?
Darius: Well, they're all ways of time blocking. They're all essentially under that umbrella of time blocking. Will I block my time out per half hour? Will I block it out per 90 minutes, et cetera?
Erica: Yes. And then is it the Can Ban method?
Darius: Yes. So the Kanban method is an agile technique. I don't know if anyone. Some people have heard of Agile and some people haven't. I think this is a fascinating development in organization worldwide, the difference between waterfall design and agile design. And basically it's this technique which was developed out of software engineers. Because when it comes to planning something that you want to build, you can be very systematic and linear about it. Like you're going to build a house or an office building. So you've got to get planning permission. You've got to lay the foundations. You've got to do the first structure, second fixed, internal, fixed. There's a whole clear sequence of things that you've got to go through. And that's why it's called waterfall, because one cascades down into the other like a waterfall. But then this technique was developed called Agile because what they found was when they created a bit of software using the waterfall approach, like building a house, it would maybe take a year or two to build the software, but by the time you finish that software, the whole landscape of the market has moved. Okay, so let's take the analogy of the boat again. It's like saying, I am going to go to this harbor and I'm going to go to this point, and then I'm going to go to point B, and then I'm going to go straight into the harbor. And that's our route, and that's the end of it. But if you're traveling across the Atlantic, okay, a huge distance, and it's going to take you six weeks, what happens is life gets in the way, weather gets in the way, the circumstances change, and you need to adapt. But if you've invested a huge amount of effort going all the way up to the North Pole, virtually so that you can tack all the way back to America, et cetera, and then you realize the weather has changed, you've invested a huge amount of money or an energy going in the wrong direction, and you get punished for it. So what they developed was a technique called Agile, and this is where Kanban came from. An agile is the concept that you will do a minimum viable product or a minimum viable activity that will instead of so if you think about the house analogy, instead of building all the foundations at once, they'll build the foundations of your main living room. Build the walls of the living room, build the roof of the living room and then you will live in that little place. And then you'll build another room onto the side, and then another room and another room. And depending on how your family develops, you grow with it. And so this is an agile, adaptable approach, and Kanban, builds out of that.
Erica: Thank you. You know that a lot better than I do. And that was really helpful. And I think one other technique that I would love to talk a little bit about is decluttering, because sometimes decluttering can really help us with organization. I think as I get older, I want less and less. The less I have, the more organized I feel. And it's funny when you've got a lot of clutter around you. I, uh, feel that it really affects me cognitively that when my desk is hyper organized, I feel like I can think more clearly when my drawers are hyper organized. And I do have to spend time every year decluttering and giving things away. It's the whole Marie Kondo approach of, uh, picking something up and saying, do I love it? And if I can't say yes, does.
Darius: It give me joy?
Erica: Does it give me joy? And what I say is do I love it? And if I can't say yes, then I give it away. And I've given away some things that I really liked a lot. But I'll say to a friend, do you love this? I did this with my friend Karen the other day because I had this really beautiful glass octopus, and she was talking about how much she loves, loves octopus. I said, If I gave this to you, would you love this? Because I quite like it and I will keep it. But if you really love it, it's yours. She said, I love it. I said it's yours. There's something really beautiful about doing that, too. I do that with a lot of my jewelry, even with my students, and I'll give them really nice pieces and they're really amazed. But if I'm not wearing it and I'm not really using it, and I can give it to them and I'll often say to people that if there ever comes a time where you don't love it, gift it, and it's just a beautiful thing to do. And in fact, what ends up happening is if you do that a lot, a lot of those people will go through their things and gift you back some things that they don't love anymore that you may love. So it's a really fun process of decluttering. And when you get to the point where everything around you is what you love, the energy of the space changes. Uh, and you don't get distracted by all the stuff.
Speaker A: I've heard Jordan Peterson talk about this. I know I've mentioned them quite a bit in this episode, but Jordan Peterson talks about how important is to tidy your room before you try and fix up the world. Once you start ordering your own personal space, and you learn what it takes to bring order to your own room and your own space, that is training you to realize what it takes to bring order to your business, or to bring order to your family or to bring order to your hobby. And the process of organization is actually a joyful process that brings you joy. And you've really been talking about this love. Do you love that thing? And does it bring you joy? And I think that sometimes when you've got that recipe that you wrote down, you spin it back up and you start doing it and you make that food again for your family. And it brings you joy that they've enjoyed it so much. That is what organization is about. It's not a grind. It's not your mum and dad saying, get your room organized. And it's actually about giving you more joy and satisfaction in your life. And I think I've had to really struggle with that. And for me, I'm not the most organized person in the world, although I am a dyslexia productivity coach, and that's a big irony. But for me, the importance is not to organize everything, but to organize what's important. And identifying what's important is this process of simplifying. And often the way you identify what's important is by following the joy. Does this bring me joy in my work? Does this bring joy to my clients? Does this bring joy to the world? And it's not all about happiness, but there's this deep sense of satisfaction that is connected with joy. And I think joy is a very important marker, like an indicator, key performance indicator in this realm. How much joy is this bringing? It's not the be all and end all, but it's like, um, a subtle indicator that you're on or off on point. If you're a sailor, you'll understand what I'm just about to say. On a sail, there's these two little bits of wool or thread that are called telltales. And if your sail is set right, both of them flow horizontally. If your sail is slightly off, one drops and you adjust until they become level. And those tell tales for me are often joy. Is the joy slightly off? I need to adjust. Am I working too hard? Too little? Am I working in this area too much? And, um, they adjust so often. Using joy as a metric is quite helpful. Yeah.
Erica: And I think organization I know organization brings me joy. I think there are those people that it doesn't matter, they don't care. It doesn't really help them with the learning process. And it's just not as important as it is for me. And I think just making sure that you really honor your preferences and the ways that you like to do things is vital. But I know for students and for learning, organization is extremely important for virtually everybody. And I have a product that I created called Planning, Time Management and Organization for Success. And I pulled together all of my tools, all of my organizational and time management, put it right into one publication that people can download and use them. And it has a lot of the Stephen Covey ideas, but kind of revisited and ways of organizing your calendars. And it has an editable calendar that you can edit on PowerPoint and all sorts of tools that people can use. So that's something you can find at good sensory learning.
Speaker A: Let's put it in the show notes. Just swipe up while you're listening. Swipe up and you'll see the show notes. And we'll have the hyperlink there highlighted in blue. And you can click on it and go and have a look at it. At the moment, your stuff is just so rich in wisdom, practical wisdom. I mean, there's knowledge and there's wisdom. And the difference between knowledge and wisdom is wisdom is knowledge delivered at the right time and place and in the right way. And so often, your resources have things sequenced and organized so the person gets the knowledge they need at the right moment in time. So, yeah, highly recommend that.
Erica: Thank you. I really appreciate it. And I really do try to honor all the different ways of processing so that I have ways of organizing visually and sequentially and simultaneously. And I really believe that it's important to give students choices so that if you want them to do an assignment where they're having to organize, giving them options, saying, you can organize sequentially, you can organize this simultaneously, you can organize it tactically or visually, and you can get creative with it. If you want to organize it rhythmic, melodically, maybe you present it in a rap or whatever, that brings the joy back to the joy. Right.
Speaker A: Yeah.
Erica: Let, uh, people organize and process in the ways that are most comfortable. Then it brings joy into the learning process.
Speaker A: I think my use of joy and I think I'm not naturally organized, and I have to really put a huge amount of effort and willpower into being organized. Often. I don't actually enjoy the process of being organized because I'm just a natural creative. I like to improvise. I like to just go with the flow and so on. Um, but I've learned that there are times where I really benefit from being organized because it leads me to the joy. The organization doesn't give me the joy, per se, but it leads me to what gives me joy. I mean, even the case of sailing, there are certain things that I don't like putting the COVID on my boat. But I know if I don't, it will get wet, it'll get rotten, and I will put my foot through the bottom of the boat and when I'm in the middle of a sea or whatever, and it'll be life threatening, and I won't enjoy that. So I put the boat, and I've learned that over the years. And I don't just put it on. I put it on right. And so I follow the seven PS more and more now that I'm a bit older. The seven P's are proper planning and preparation, prevent piss poor performance. Uh, that's the military way of the seven P. Some people follow the six P's, which are proper planning and preparation, prevent poor performance. I follow the seven piece because it's kind of like you have to sometimes shock yourself and say, gosh. If I don't plan and prepare for this, there's a high chance I will not perform well, and I can't get away with improvising on this anymore. And that is essentially goes back to that non negotiable sequences. Again, what are the non negotiable sequences in my life that I need to get organized about? And I can bet you it's only about one 10th of your life actually needs organized. You don't need to organize everything in your life the way it should be, or the way your best friend at school used to do it, who's hyper organized, who has every aspect of their life. But I bet you there's one 10th of your life and what you do, what processes you follow, the keys in your pocket, the phone in your pocket, all these key things that need organized and a place to go, et cetera. If you attended to just those, it would transform everything.
Erica: Yes. And I can think of my brother who struggles with losing things, and so I got him these little ah, i, uh, forget they call them Apple. The Apple came out with all the air tags, and so I got him four air tags and little air tag holders. Or, uh, maybe I got him more so that he could put the vital things that he has trouble finding, he can find very easily. And he was super excited about that. Uh, but I know that one thing that I do want to say as we wrap up that part of making organization work for you is to consciously change your mindset, to reframe the things that you don't like doing that you really feel like you need to do. And I'll give you an example. I need to water my plants every week. And every week I would just be like it would come up on my schedule and be like, oh, I can't believe I have to water the plants. And I was like, okay, so how can I move through this muck or this reaction that seems to happen every time? And I thought, okay, you know what? These are living things in my house that I chose to bring into m my house, and they provide me oxygen. And what I really need to do is, when I'm watering them, get in a more meditative state and talk to them and say, hey, I'm, um, here I'm here to give you some nutrients and some water, and thank you for what you provide for me. And as soon as I did that, it wasn't a chore anymore. So sometimes we just have to say, okay, how can I reframe this? How can I look at this in a different way so it doesn't have to be so uncomfortable?
Speaker A: Yes. Um, in a way, this whole podcast, we've been trying to work on the mindset aspect for you listeners to say, let's think about organization a little bit differently. Let's not think everything has to be organized. There's this balance between it there's this middle line. Organization is there to bring you the joy in your life. The things that you want out of life. Executive function is there to get you what you want to achieve. What you want in life executive function is you get things done that you want to get done. And it's not just going to happen. You're going to have to choose it. You don't just drift into the harbor, across the water. You've got a one in million chance of that. But if you've got your working memory as lookout, if you've got your map maker as the cognitive flexibility, and then you've got your inhibitory control, the person on the tiller hoarding the course, and they're all working together with the right tools and equipment, you get to your.
Erica: Destination, you get the holy trinity.
Speaker A: Erica, this has been great podcast.
Erica: Uh, yeah. Thank you, Darius, very much.
Speaker A: Thank you very much. Oh, can I do a pitch? I'll do a quick pitch. Yes. If you're interested in getting some dyslexia productivity, uh, coaching, I'm taking on clients at the moment. It has to be for Apple devices. I only teach people dyslexia productivity hacks. You don't have to be dyslexic, but some people are mildly dyslexic or moderately dyslexic, but you've got to have Apple devices, and I can coach you one to one. So get in touch. There's a link down the bottom that you can book a free chat with me and I'll see whether or not I can help you, and then you can get some coaching if you want. Okay, awesome.
Erica: Yeah. We both offer executive functioning coaching so you can reach out to either one of us at any time.
Speaker A: Yeah. And if you've gone to all the effort of listening to this podcast, we definitely want to hear from you because sometimes when you're listening to podcasts, you go, oh, they don't want to hear from me. They're like, podcast, podcasters, et cetera. And actually, I want to hear from you because if someone's taken all the time to listen, it's so much easier to coach them because you've imbued so much of the mindset that it's like, right, let's get into brass. Tax and give you the technique that will actually deliver results for you quickly and get your weekends back and double your value to the marketplace. These are the sorts of things that organization gives you. We haven't talked about that much, but organization can give you your weekends back, that can give you evenings back, can double the value to the marketplace because once you start getting organized, your unique ability really starts getting focused and magnified through the organization. You can do more, you can deliver more, and you become more valuable and more happy. And happy. Yeah. If that's the value you're looking for.
Speaker A: Some people are looking for happiness, some people are looking for money, and both often require some organization.
Erica: Absolutely. Thank you for joining our conversation here at the Personal Brain Trainer Podcast.
Speaker A: This is Dr. Erica Warren and Darius Namdaran. Check out the show notes for links to resources mentioned in the podcast, and please leave us a review and share us on social media. Until next time. Bye.