The Let's Get Organized Workbook
Contains Illustrations, Bibliography
Ellen Pilon is a library assistant in the Patrick Power Library at Saint
Mary’s University in Halifax.
Considering her experience in workshops on time management, problem-solving and decision-making and her business as consultant on training and development, Helen Angus should have produced a useful guide in The Let’s Get Organized Workbook. Such is not the case.
The title is misleading; the “strategies, tips, checklists and action plans to help you manage your time at home and at work” are for women only. Men should avoid the book, not because it contains uniquely feminist information but because it will bore them to tears. Women who have received education beyond high school, who have ever experienced housework or a job, and who do not consider “sipping a sherry while reading a Harlequin romance” (p. 106) the epitome of solitary recreation will find the workbook trite or amusing but not useful.
Amusement stems from the unintentional parody of the current trend for time management. Angus applies the traditional formulas to a woman’s household activities, office work (Angus assumes the reader is a secretary), appearance, entertaining, travelling, and leisure time. Organize your housework to be time efficient, she says. This point is irrefutable but Angus analyzes it to an absurd degree. “In a house spread over more than one floor, start at the top and work downwards” (p. 26). She provides the procedure: “1. Carry upstairs a small pail containing ‘cleaning stuff’ [which she itemizes] .... 2. Pour disinfectant down all toilets. 3. Collect laundry .... 4. Collect garbage from all rooms. Empty into large garbage bag” etc. Surely anyone with motivation to do housework would develop her own efficient routine to accomplish all tasks as speedily as possible. Each section’s tips and strategies are presented in a similar level of extreme specificity.
There are 36 “Action Plan” forms or charts for the reader to use to improve his time organization. It would take a phenomenal amount of time to use these forms and would require the skills of a master organizer to keep them straight. Much of the book is not time management at all but tips and checklists useful for anyone unfamiliar with urban life and needing advice on how to keep house, how to buy, how to dress, how to entertain guests and oneself, and how to travel. A young girl moving to the big city for her first job as secretary and setting up house may find some of the pointers useful; however, many of Angus’s tips are too conservative, too outdated, or too expensive for the novice.
Manufacturers will applaud Angus’s emphasis on buying all possible appliances: “many are expensive but are well worth the scrimping and saving that may be necessary to obtain them” (p. 22). “Do your best to acquire gadgets that will speed up the [cooking] process,” just in case you may need them someday (p. 29).
Most of Angus’s advice is trite and expensive. For household administration she urges setting up a fully stocked mini-office. Her tips on personal appearance are conservative and subjective. The image Angus projects throughout is that of a Harlequin or Barbara Cartland heroine: organized, subservient, efficient, well-equipped and conservative, the poor little rich girl who avoids “faddish, exotic clothes in favour of classic designs that will last for several seasons” (p. 83).
Perhaps Angus’s greatest disservice in the book is her assumption that women in a man’s work environment are untrained to cope with pressing deadlines, budget cutbacks, teamwork, performance appraisals, etc.; surely these characterize most homemakers’ daily routines. Angus ignores the personal touches which make the home and work environment palatable for all. She even offers the now-frowned-upon advice of booking “a mutually convenient time to discuss problems, ideas or decisions with co-workers” (p. 57) rather than interrupt work flow. Were time management applied as Angus recommends, especially in the home, we would all be mindless, work-efficient automators sipping our sherry and reading a Harlequin romance once everything, including the family, was in its proper place.