by Cena Block, Sane Spaces

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space we have a choice. In that choice lies our freedom.” – Viktor Frankl
It’s been 30 years in the making…

Back in the 80?s, Sunny Schlenger first published her book, How to be Organized in Spite of Yourself. It was the first book on getting organized that identified the concept of “personal style” and how we each have natural styles of organizing our time and our space that affect how we engage with the world. It was also the first book that really spoke to me about why I was called to become a Professional Organizer. In it, I found a ‘base’ that drew upon my expertise as an instructional designer and human performance connoisseur. So much so, that I reached out to her to discuss how we might work together to bring her original work to the next level.

I began working with Sunny in early 2011 to update and expand her original styles. The result has been a whole new way of helping organizers and their clients discover and understand the psychology behind their natural preferences. This makes it easier to connect with clients who struggle with managing their time efficiently and functioning effectively in their space.

As you know, organizing your space and time means more than just straightening up and becoming more productive – it can result in the overall improvement of a person’s quality of living. Understanding how to make the best use of your natural behaviors (your Style Preferences™) and implementing the strategies, systems and products that enhance those preferences will enable you to make choices that move you (and your clients) into a more powerful ‘state of flow.’ Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has contributed pioneering work to our understanding of happiness, creativity, human fulfillment and the notion of “flow” — a state of heightened focus and immersion in activities such as art, play and work. This is key to a successful and fulfilling life.

‘Creating ‘flow’ is the key to a successful and fulfilling life.” Csikszentmihalyi
We’ve expanded the original concepts since the first publication and its update 10 years later to encompass 6 different Space Style Preferences (™) and 6 different Time Style Preferences ™. But the original concept of learning how to make your styles work for you, rather than against you, has remained the same.

The process of getting organized and managing your time effectively must begin with analyzing your typical behaviors to understand how you are more comfortable and, on the other hand, what causes you stress. In the area of space, for example, do you prefer to spread things out in front of you (Everything Out) or to tuck things away from view (Nothing Out)? These two space preferences exist on opposite ends of the ‘Arranging Space’ style continuum. Once you understand how you prefer to arrange your space, the same analysis is done for two other space continuums: one for how you choose to assign a value to items and the other for how you tolerate disorder.

An example of a Time Style Preference™ is how closely one attends to details, in which the preferences range from the ‘Big Picture’ at one end and ‘Perfectionist Plus’ at the other. The other two Time Style Preference continuums are focused on how you manage priorities and how you attend to details.

The overall goal of both getting organized and better managing your time is to enhance your quality of life. Productivity professionals, organizers and coaches alike have demonstrated that one’s quality of life can be positively influenced by creating behavioral and environmental conditions that enhance flow and encourage engagement and motivated action. Knowing your time and space style preferences will enhance your ability to organize your spaces effectively and establish more productive time behaviors.

It’s been both demanding and fulfilling for me to dive so deeply into this subject. I’ve been able to combine my fascination with why individuals do what they do with my understanding and expertise in the fields of technology and education, and having a partner (the original author of this work) has challenged and rewarded me immeasurably. And of course, some of the most meaningful personal benefits come from being able to contribute to the professional organizer’s body of knowledge and toolbox to help others around the world.

Specifically, knowing your client’s Time and Space Style Preferences ™ will enable you to better help you:

– Make better choices regarding how you use your time and space
– Have an enlightened understanding of when and why you feel stressed
– Feel more empowered on an everyday basis over time and space in your life
– Better understand how others may view your behavior
– Comprehend why you find some relationships more productive than others
– Develop a way of communicating with others that takes into account their behavioral preferences.

Would you like to try it yourself? Go to to learn more.


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