When I was studying for my master’s degree in education, the buzz phrase was differentiated instruction. I could plop those two words into any paper and a professor would inevitably scribble “great!” next to them in the margin. Professors threw the phrase around in lectures the way that politicians are using the words on the table this election cycle.
Simply stated, differentiated instruction means one size does not fit all. It’s a great concept, even if it was overused. A teaching method that works for one student won’t necessarily work for all students. And, the same idea certainly applies to organizing.
When a teacher uses differentiated instruction in his classroom, he creates lessons that provide options for students on content, process, and/or product. This means that students may have choices in what they learn (content), how they learn (process), or in how they demonstrate they have mastered the information (product).
When looking for organizing advice, you can use the same technique. If you find an article that makes a suggestion that you know won’t work for you, see if you can alter the content, process, or product to make it personally helpful.
For example, each week on Unclutterer we showcase pictures of readers’ organized workspaces. Without fail, someone writes a comment to the post saying that they don’t like the design style of the office. That’s cool — you don’t have to like the look of every office we feature. However, you still can garner organizing ideas from offices you don’t like. How does the person organize computer cables (differentiate process and product)? Where is furniture located in the room and would a similar setup help your productivity (differentiate content and product)? Does something not appear in the photograph that would be beneficial if you also removed that object from your office (differentiate content and process)?
Consider differentiating the content, process, or product when reading advice that doesn’t specifically address your organization needs and maybe you’ll unveil your perfect solution.