Cynthia Kyriazis, productivity coach and bestselling author of "Get Organized, Get Focused, Get Moving," shares her (well-organized) thoughts on doing business better.
When I was a kid and my mom needed to send a check to school for some activity (or for my Scholastic Book order, remember those?), she would place the check in an envelope, write my teacher's name across the front, and pin it to my coat. That's right, I was the kid with stuff pinned to her coat. Because if it wasn't attached, I'd lose it, and if it wasn't in plain sight, I'd forget about it. Don't ask how long this went on for. (Way too long.)
No wonder it was so fascinating to listen to Cynthia Kyriazis talk about how individuals have different styles and methods for keeping ourselves (and our business) organized.
"We can't manage time," Cynthia says. Sounds obvious, but how many of us try to do it all the same?
There are better approaches.
In this episode, we discuss:
- how productivity is about being effective and efficient at the right time
- how procrastination, like any other habit, can be replaced by a better one
- how clutter (my old friend clutter!) is symptomatic of delayed decision making (read: procrastination)
- Cynthia's three dead simple questions for strategic planning
Excerpt from our interview
Cynthia: I think maybe you've heard the adage, "It's simple but it's not easy." That pretty much describes anything that involves having a certain level of knowledge and then applying a certain level of behavior around it which basically means developing different habits. We can't just get rid of a habit. It doesn't work that way. What we have to do is replace an ineffective habit with an effective one. So, it really doesn't have ... I have found over 26+ years, it really doesn't anything to do with whether or not someone is lazy or not interested. It really has to do with what do they know and are they willing to apply it because they see that there's value in that.
So, it's a one, two thing. Do you have the knowledge? Yes. Do you find the value? And that's really what gets people going, I think.
Amy: I heard a quote or I think I read this quote somewhere that knowledge without application is the same thing as ignorance. Now, I don't think that's true for at least different kinds of knowledge but absolutely for the kind of knowledge that you're talking about, right? If we just talk about it and think about it but don't apply it, then it's not doing us any good. The other thing that struck me with your book is that, you've got, I think, I know, at least I tend to think of these things as separate items. Being productive, managing time, being organized, especially the being organized part. But, the way that you talk about it, it seems like they are all strands of the same thing that you can't really be productive without good time management skills and without good organization. Is that right?
Cynthia: That's a really good question, Amy but I kind of get that question a lot. The first question I get is, "Well, Cynthia, is organizing, getting organized part of time management or is time management part of getting organized?" So, the first clarity around that is that getting organized is one of eight topics within the field of time management. So, getting organized is one of those things that helps you manage your time better. But, if you live in clutter and work in clutter, it's one of the things that becomes a productivity pothole.
And, then, people want to know what's the difference between time management and productivity? Are they the same thing? And the answer is no, they're not quite the same thing. Time management is really about how we manage ourselves and relationships in the time we have because let's face it, we can't manage time. We all have the same 24 hours in a day. It's the choices we make about how to use them, right? So, getting the basis of your skillset around time management is the first step. Once, that gets to be a groove for you, in other words, gets to be a habit, you don't have to think about it. It's a little bit like brushing your teeth everyday. It's just something that happens.
In all of these eight different topics, you keep moving forward to improve your time management. Eventually, you come to a point where you say, "You know what, I'm clicking along pretty good. Now, how can I make it better?" Productivity is about being effective and efficient at the right time. For me and my kind of work of course, it has nothing to do with putting a stop watch on you, right? But, some people, especially employees within very larger organizations, their time demand, even small business owners actually, their time demand is really limited because again, we have only 24 hours in a day. So, the idea of improving our productivity by getting our time management to become a habit, a good habit, an effective habit is really what productivity is about. It's taking it to the next level.
Amy: You also have talked about applying these things to people who are creative thinkers. So, I would say that anybody who's in the life story profession definitely falls in that camp. We're writing books, we're creating videos and audio projects. From what I understand, there's a difference in the way that maybe people who are in creative professions, how they approach time management and how they approach keeping themselves organized. Can you talk a little bit about that? That difference between that and maybe somebody who's an accountant or who's more of the left brain thinker.
Cynthia: Yeah, I talk about that in the book and I've used actually a little quiz that I have, I've used it for 25, 26 years. When I first heard about this difference between right brain and left brain thinking, it was relatively a new field when I began my business. But, I started to, when I started my business, I began to see differences within my client base ... I was very young and my business was just a baby but I just keep seeing these distinct differences. So, I created this quiz and I've used this quiz for years and it basically tells you, "Do you retrieve more because your left brain is stronger, the left side of your brain is stronger or because the right brain side of your brain is stronger? Or are you something in the middle?"
So, a left brainer is what I call a filer. It's somebody who is keyed by language so when they go to retrieve something, they are looking for a file or folder with a name on it. That's what keys them is language. They tend to be very linear thinkers. They tend to be left to right, top to bottom, A to Z. But, that doesn't mean they're organized. It means that's how they think when they want to find something.
A right brainer is more of a piler. It's somebody who's keyed by visuals and the visual needs to be very direct. So, they have piles on their desk and it looks messy. Most of the time, they know where something is but the clutter can still cause some angst, to have all these piles around. So, if I say to a right brainer, "Why don't we put this in the file cabinet?" Their eyes get about as big as half dollars and they soon know if I put it in there, I'll never remember because they are triggered by retrieving something that is visual and direct. In other words, it can't be in a box over there. It has to be visual and I have to be able to place my hand on it.
The third type is what I call a combo and a combo is somebody who has a little bit of left and a little bit of right and their analysis or their self analysis about how to retrieve information is more difficult for them because they have to figure out, "When do I go and retrieve, want to retrieve things using language and when do I want to go retrieve things using a visual cue?" And the best example I can give you is myself. Before I started my business, I worked for a corporation and I had an administrative assistant and every morning she would bring me my list of things to do and all the papers I needed and all the appointments I had and so on and so forth.
when I went to work for myself, I have a home office and nobody brought me anything. So, here I am thinking that, "Oh, I'll just transfer that skill from the office to my own office." And I couldn't find anything. I had stuff all over the place which is really not like me. So, I started to think, "There's something wrong here." And I had to figure out what it was. So, eventually when I made my little quiz, I took my quiz and I was right in the middle and I said, "Oh, I have to sit and figure this out now." So, now I have to sit and figure it out. And this is what I discovered.
If I have a project that has been completed. Let's say I've already written a chapter in the book or I've completed creating a training online or I've completed some segment of a coaching call that I have with a client, I store that and look for it through language. I want to retrieve it through language. But, if I have a book or a chapter that is in the middle of creation, if I have training that I am creating and it is, you know, creation is chaotic. Eventually, it looks nice but it's chaotic to create. So, if I have that going on, then I'm retrieving everything I needed to retrieve, it was laying down in visual to me.
So I did both, depending on what it was my project was requiring of my brain. And, I have set myself up in my office to do that because I know those two things.
Amy: It's kind of interesting that, I think the parallel is when you talk about writing and we're always told as writers, "You have to wear the writer hat and the editor's hat." But, you don't want to mix them up and you don't want to try to be both at the same time. Because, when you're actually in the act of creating whatever you're writing, that fires up a different part of your brain than what you're going to use when you go and start the revisions and you're actually looking at it as more of an editor.
I think that's kind of what you're describing in your own creative process, it sounds like.
Cynthia: That's exactly correct. It's like, "Which hat am I wearing today or which hat am I wearing right now or which hat am I wearing this hour?" Something like that and again it's become a habit. I know my system. I know my style. So, it works that way if you can say, "I have one eye on one and one eye on the other." And if you set up a system that accommodates your style, whatever your style is, then you tend to use it. It's easier to maintain it, it's easier to get up and running if let's say, something went sideways or all of a sudden there was too much going on and a lot of clutter or disorganization appeared, you're faster to retrieve. You're faster to come to that.
Amy: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Cynthia: So that you can get back to what you were doing.