Organize According to Your Learning Style

A couple of the January Cure assignments coming up involve organizing your media and papers. These seem like perfectly ordinary assignments, but what if you've never quite found an organizational system that works for you? Why not try a system based on your learning style?

Most of us have heard of the three main learning styles: visual, kinesthetic, and auditory. Visual learners rely heavily on their eyesight. Graphs, diagrams, images, and the written word are incredibly helpful tools for visual learners, and they often create mental images of texts or experiences in order to remember them. Kinesthetic learners are those who learn by doing. These are the people who dive right into assembling that IKEA furniture, and who remember information that they have gained through touch and movement. Auditory learners absorb information by listening. Seminars, reading aloud, listening to books on tape or lectures: all these methods are optimal for focusing an auditory learner's attention.

I was well aware of these learning styles, but I had never thought of them as a potential organizing tool until I read The Organized Student: Teaching Children the Skills for Success in School and Beyond, in which the author Donna Goldberg suggests tailoring an organizational system to your child's particular learning style. Borrowing this idea, I've come up with some organizational techniques that might help you tap into your personal strengths.

Visual learners will benefit from an organizational system that places emphasis on color and sequence. Color-coded libraries are a bit of a contentious issue, I know, but if you are a visual learner, this might actually be an easier system to follow. You might have an easier time envisioning the cover or spine of a DVD than its title. In terms of paper organization, this might mean that you would benefit from a filing system that involves color-coded folders or different colored labels. Charts, spreadsheets, or diagrams of your collections might also help, or you might benefit from a sequentially ordered system, laid out in chart form, like this one. Additionally, it might be worthwhile to think about organizing extensive collections with tools like Delicious Library, virtual wardrobe applications, or some of these visually oriented organization applications.

Kinesthetic learners need a really hands-on process for organizing. An organizational system that involves assembly or very physical processes might work best. When setting up a new organizational system, consider a process that requires touching all of the items in question. For instance, rehousing your DVDs and putting them in binders might help solidify the memory of what order they're going in in a way that simply putting them on a shelf might not. Prolonged physical interaction with the organizational method might improve one's memory of it. Additionally, it is often easier for kinesthetic learners to remember things by association with whatever action they were performing at the time, so a filing system oriented around particular actions might work. For instance, put books or papers near the places where they will be used. Books for cooking should be near the kitchen, where the action is performed. If you only read comic books in the bathroom, then place them nearby. If you only watch DVDs in the bedroom, put them there. Associating your items' placement with the types of actions that you perform with them rather than with some place that you feel you "should" put them might help you locate them more easily.

Auditory learners could really benefit, on a basic level, from recording notes to themselves and then listening back to them. Hearing information can make it easier to retain, and as a day-to-day practice, this could help organize your to-do list. Relatedly, when you are trying out a new filing system or organizational method, it might help to talk about it with someone, to get their feedback, and to verbalize your intent with the system and your method for implementing it. Putting it into words and having an audible conversation about it might help the central tenets of the system stick. Finally, some auditory learners find it difficult to retain or process information if there is no sound in the background. Listening to music or having some form of background noise might help auditory learners concentrate while tackling their organizational tasks.

Obviously, some people have tendencies that cross these three borders, and with certain things, like bill filing, it might be much more difficult to create an auditory regime than a visual one, but if you have a difficult time with organization, some of these methods might be worth considering or testing out.

(Images, in clockwise order: 1. Jaysworld Vintage Book Decor, 2. Shutterstock, 3. I Heart Organizing, 4. How to Install a Dimmer Switch)

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Carolyn is a lover of all things colorful and quirky. She grew up in Texas and settled in Chicago by way of L.A., England and Paris. Currently, she is a professor at Illinois Institute of Technology.