WHERE TO PUT YOUR KEYS

If I can't find the cable that connects my GoPro to my computer, neither of them will be particularly useful.

If I can't find the cable that connects my GoPro to my computer, neither of them will be particularly useful.

I know where I left my keys. I almost never lose them.

Make no mistake: there are plenty of things I do which qualify me for numbskull status, but basic organization is not one of them. 

I'm not compulsive about this, either. I like to think the word is "disciplined". There's a difference. Compulsive organization is often self-referential. It eats itself. Compulsive organization has to do with things being in their place simply to serve a need for things to be in their place. I like to be organized because it helps me do what I want to do. For example, when I need to head out the door I can't blame being late on not being able to find my keys because 99 times out of a 100 they're going to be in precisely the same place I left them last time. See what I mean? 

The complexity of things in a media production environment can rapidly turn logical plans into complete, irrevocable chaos. Cameras and computers have a million tiny little parts and cables and adaptors. 

(Hey, just as an aside, we have a funny name for those kinds of things. We call them "gozintas and gozattas". Some things have parts that "go into", some things have parts that  "go out of". But I digress…)

Organization enables me to optimize my time in terms of finding what I need. This includes ad hoc organizational schemes for live action shoots on location--plans built for short-term, often one-time-only use. But the time optimization that kind of planning enables is only the most superficial benefit. The biggest bang for the buck is that organization enables me to FORGET ABOUT THE TRIVIAL aspects of my day so I can be free to think, to devise and improvise without restriction. When I can put my hands on my 100mm macro lens in two seconds flat without wondering where I left it, I have the ability to use it as the moment moves me. Long ago I gave up believing that this was some sort of self-imposed burden,  taking the extra moment and put things back where they should be. The savings in time and mental distractions has long since paid off to make it part of my day, like tying my shoes before heading out for a walk.

I also find that the best organizational schemes are the one that tend to accrue organically. Organizational plans that develop from convoluted, over-thought planning often do not gain traction. The plans that work are the ones that make physical, immediate sense. If you tend to go to your desk before taking off your coat your desk is a good place to put your keys, for example. If you're right-handed, they'll even find their way, naturally, on the right side of your desk. The point here is not about where to put your keys, but how to think about being organized.

Big projects and small projects are rarely just accumulations of smart, creative sparks. They're accumulations of sparks held together by mundane, often tedious, sticky stuff, including spreadsheets, budgets, schedules, airport security checks, and a need to restock the coffee. To do great work, a creative person needs to be nimble and responsive, able to adapt efficiently and seize opportunities when they emerge. Simultaneously, a creative person needs to be able to focus, with minimal fragmentation, with intensity and integrity. When you don't know where to find the essential things of your day, or where to put your stuff physically AND intellectually, your ability to move unencumbered diminishes. I certainly wouldn't say that having an efficient plan is satisfying in and of itself, but I'm often pleasantly pleased when a long standing system enables me to do something simply because I don't have to think about maintaining the machinery. 

--Michael Starobin

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