Overwhelmed. Underwater. Weighed down.
A few months ago, that was me. On top of my regular work, I was involved in a plethora of projects. I was also trying to learn Spanish. Again. While I loved my work and was endeared by the many projects I had, things started to get chaotic. My Spanish wasn’t improving much, either.
As a multipotentialite, I understand that I need to organize my life differently than others. I usually stay on top of things with a system of tools that serves me well. But somehow, my system was bending under pressure. I could see little fissures forming that foretold a disaster to come.
Eventually, the fissures turned into cracks, and before I knew it, the cracks split. Before long, I was a mess organizationally and emotionally. I was starting to miss deadlines, and the work was piling up behind me. I felt incredible guilt for stopping work in the evening, even though I was physically and mentally spent. My family knew I was stressed and could feel the tension even when I wasn’t working. It was becoming impossible for me to focus on creating a plan that made sense. I finally forced myself to take a break by putting some non-essential projects aside and decided to see what breathing felt like for a while.
After taking that breathing time, I looked back and assessed the damage that Hurricane Me had wrought. I would recover, but I realized that my system needed tweaking if I wanted to get back to doing all the things I love. It was time for a change.
Life isn’t static, and neither is being a multipotentialite.
Reflecting on my recent descent into chaos, I realized I’ll spend a lifetime adapting to new circumstances. New relationships, births, deaths, changes in work, and even my favorite bakery closing down could affect how I operate. I know that I’ll likely need to change how I organize my life more than once.
Sometimes you discover the sweet spot of organization only to find a few months later that it’s not working anymore. That doesn’t mean you’ve failed at adulting. It’s merely an echo of something that has changed in your life. Maybe you got a promotion, and now you have new responsibilities that can’t be handled in your usual way. Or, the aforementioned bakery closed down, and you now have to go five miles out of your way to get your poppy seed bagels.
The situation will be different for everyone, and for every stage of life. But, whenever you wonder what happened to your previously working system, look for some kind of change in your life. It may be time for a new framework.
It’s also helpful to notice that everyone responds to organizational structures differently. One person’s harmony is another person’s disaster. When I think about the disparity in people’s systems, I think about my friend Chuck.
The best way to be organized is your way.
Years ago, I worked at a company that supplied tech services during courtroom trials. My coworkers were amazingly skilled. They could set up complicated video and audio systems in a courtroom in less than an hour. The job took an extremely well-organized mind. That was my friend Chuck.
Occasionally, Chuck would need someone from the office to bring him a piece of equipment because he couldn’t leave the courthouse. One day, he called and asked us to get him a specific video cable from “right on top of his desk.” We went to his office, took one look at his desk, and gazed at it for several seconds in shock.
The desk was piled high with twisted cables, manuals, hard drives, and assorted bits of tech. There may have been someone living inside the pile—I’m still not sure. Either way, we had to tell him we couldn’t find it. Later that day, when Chuck returned to the office, he went to his desk, stuck his hand inside the tangled mess, and instantly produced the cable. “It was right here!” he exclaimed, exasperated with our collective inability to see what was “right in front of us.”
The best organizational system for any of us is created from our unique needs, the resources we have access to, and the lifestyle we are currently living. It’s very personal. Your system may be perfect for you, but others may find it topsy-turvy and lawless. Conversely, you may find methods that work for others but not for you. That doesn’t mean you’re flawed, or wrong, or not doing it right. It only means that it doesn’t work for you.
Three ways to get (re)organized
While I firmly believe everyone needs their own personal style of handling their life, developing a system in a vacuum is hard. So I appreciate learning about new ways of managing my time, even though I might adapt them to suit me.
Here are some resources I’ve discovered that have helped me do my life without melting into a puddle of disorganization.
Several years ago, Ryder Carroll developed a system of journaling that not only helped him stay on top of tasks. It also functioned as a diary and a way to keep track of new ideas. Bullet Journaling is an intentional method of organizing everything you used to write on Post-Its, napkins, and crumpled pieces of paper floating around your purse.
My personal bullet journal system has evolved over time. That’s one reason I love using it; I can adapt the format when I feel like my organizational system is no longer working.
Hot tip: you don’t have to buy all the branded stuff. I DIY my BuJo with cheap notebooks from a local craft store.
If you like a digital solution to handling all your project ideas, Obsidian is a great choice. It’s free, and it works on all operating systems. It’s a note-taking system that helps you create linked connections between ideas. This can help you avoid feeling scattered when managing a multitude of ventures at once. You can get thoughts out of your head, clearing your mind to focus on what’s in front of you.
Obsidian describes it like this:
“The human brain is non-linear: we jump from idea to idea, all the time. Your second brain should work the same.”
My multipotentialite brain related to that in a flash.
Cork or dry erase board
This one sounds a little obvious, and maybe slightly antiquated, but I’ve found that pinning or writing notes in an ample space where I can see everything at once can help me more easily sort things out. For example, if I can see all my projects from a so-called bird’s eye view, I can better assess their importance and urgency.
It’s super simple, which is helpful when you’re feeling muddled.
Working with a team
Those are just three resources to think about, designed for organizing solo. What happens when you work on a team? For example, what if everyone uses Notion to manage projects, and you’ve been working in Slack?
There will be times when you need to adapt, especially if you’re new to the group. But especially as a multipotentialite, it’s possible that you can bring something new to the party. Your unique way of managing data within the established system could work just as well for others. Don’t be afraid to share your ideas. Even if only one person gains insight from your contribution, you both benefit.
Our multipotentialite brains are inclined to adapt to new systems. We are wired to be excellent translators, interpreting the differences and similarities between systems that others may have trouble seeing. Because we’re used to switching things up, helping others see those connections might teach us something, too.
Becoming disordered and jumbled happens to all of us at one time or another. No matter how well-structured your current system of organization is, life changes can quickly make it obsolete. Congratulate yourself for recognizing that you need a change, then start designing your new method. It might even be fun.
How do you stay organized as a busy multipotentialite? Share your personal system(s) in the comments!