Understanding how you process information to help you get organized, part 2

Now that you’ve taken the quiz to determine if you are a visual, auditory, or kinesthetic/tactile acquirer of information, it’s time for the next step in the process: taking action.

Knowing yourself and your information processing preferences can help you create an organization system that works best for you. Obviously, we can’t cover every possible solution, but these suggestions will hopefully get you headed in the right direction.

Visual processor:

  • Scheduling programs like Google Calendar might work well for you so that you can input and then see all of your appointments on your agenda.
  • In your closet, you’ll want to have a lot of space and only the current season’s clothing on hangers. A hook on the back of a door can be good for displaying your next day’s outfit. You might also benefit from having your folded clothes on a shelf instead of hidden in a dresser drawer.
  • Try your best to have an office with a door. You’re likely to go batty in cubicle land — especially in cubicle land with only waist-high walls.
  • Carry a small digital camera or a cell phone with a camera in it with you at all times so that you can take images of things you need to remember. You may want to use Evernote to process this information.

Auditory processor:

  • Consider setting timers or audio reminders on your computer to help alert you of meetings and other scheduled events.
  • Carry a small recording device with you so that when you have an idea you can record a message to yourself. Most smartphones also have this ability.
  • If you need to share an office, try to get an office with someone who works while wearing earphones. When you talk to yourself, he or she won’t be distracted when you need to talk through ideas.
  • Keep all of your files in alphabetical order to help you find them more quickly.
  • Have a headset for your telephone since you interact more reliably with people over the phone than you do by email.

Kinesthetic/Tactile processor:

  • Feel comfortable pushing your office furniture against the walls so that you have space to move when you need to.
  • Explore non-traditional desks when looking for office furniture. A drafting table or adjustable height table might work better for you than something that has a fixed height and angle.
  • Keep a space for a small fan on your desk and a space heater under your desk.
  • Exercise before going to work in the morning.
  • Have as few objects on your desk as possible so that you’re not tempted to pick them up when you need to concentrate. However, you should also have a stress ball quickly available to squeeze when mulling over ideas or talking on the phone.
  • You probably like to try on different outfits before choosing the best one to wear, so be diligent about returning the non-selected items back to their proper home.

What organization tips and tricks do you employ in your home and office that are crafted toward you information processing style? Please share your insights in the comments!


This post has been updated since its original publication in 2008.

41 Comments for “Understanding how you process information to help you get organized, part 2”

  1. posted by Karen on

    I’m a visual learner, with a touch of kinesthetic, and I’ve always found that physically writing things down really helps me remember things. Everything is on computer these days, and I love my computer, but it’s much harder for me to remember something if I only type it on a computer screen. If I need to really learn something, I get out a pad of paper and write it out. It seems to really fix it in my mind. This goes back to my college days, when I used to rewrite my chemistry notes the night before tests – my friends made fun of me but it was so much easier to remember things that way!

    I’m also really terrible at putting together names and faces. I can remember faces, but if I only hear someone’s name (and don’t see it written down), it just flies out of my head. I wish everyone wore nametags so I could see names in writing. When I first started at my job, I discovered that they had a database with pictures of every employee and their names. I found it so much easier to learn names when I could look at their written names (and maybe even write them a couple of times on a pad of paper) while looking at their faces. I’ve been tempted to take pictures of people with a cell phone camera and label them, so I can more easily match the face with the written name!

  2. posted by Ginger on

    I’m a visual person, so I find colour-coding everything helps me out a lot.

    I have several colours of highlighters at work for my to-do list, I use the coloured flags in outlook, and I even colour-code my closet and drawers. I feel much more organized when I can see at a glance that everything is in it’s place.

    I also keep a notepad or palm pilot/blackberry with me at all times so I can write down my thoughts, or lists that are floating in my head and I want to remember. It’s great for other people’s names and phone numbers, too. If I don’t have a photo of a person but want to remember them later, I will write down a unique description of them and review it when needed.

    I also find charts, files and lists of everything are extremely helpful in organizing things in my life. They’re colour-coded and alphabetized, of course!

  3. posted by MK on

    This is interesting. When I tried to take the quiz, I wasn’t sure what I was—I couldn’t definitely give/not give me a point for each statement. But looking at this post, outlining what works, I can see that I’m mostly a kinesthetic/tactile processor, because that’s exactly how I operate (except for trying on multiple outfits in the morning). I guess I’ve somehow managed to adopt things that work for my style!

  4. posted by Bobbi on


    There is an “assessment” or “test” a person can take that will help them discover their learning preference. See an occupational therapist or counselor.

    When I took it in school I scored 33% in each category. How challenging is that!! So I read over the suggestions and, sure enough, one or two in each category appeal to me but not all of them. Whew! The key is to honor what works.

    Thanks for your blog. I look forward to it everyday.

  5. posted by Erin Doland on

    These are terrific suggestions in the comments!! Keep them coming!

  6. posted by Mom of 4 on

    Quick question: if this is part 2, where would I find the part 1 article? I searched the blog, but didn’t see it.

  7. posted by Erin Doland on

    @Mom of 4 — The link to the first article is in the first sentence of this post:


  8. posted by Tiffany on

    Visual/kinesthetic here. Which makes me very whiteboard dependent, because I can write things down, but the act of writing on it is also very kinesthetic. At a previous job, my business partner and I actually used a very detailed, taped-into-columns, color-coded whiteboard to keep track of all our projects. It was the most awesome thing ever.

    I also find that using graph paper helps. The grid helps me line things up neatly, but the vertical lines help me mentally break out of writing in paragraph form, while regular lined paper just encourages it. So it’s like organization for a non-linear thought. 🙂

  9. posted by Tracy on

    Interesting post(s)!

    I’m 100% visual — and Google Calendar is my best friend. I’ve been using it for over a year now and it has helped me in so many ways. I also second Tiffany’s whiteboard tactic: without the whiteboard in my office, I’d easily lose track of projects and of my feelings of progress toward finishing them.

  10. posted by MHB on

    I thought I was all-visual, but that assessment showed me to be almost 50/50 visual/kinesthetic (the temperature thing tells me I’m not crazy… thanks!). When I think about how I write notes (all the time. For everything. But then I rarely refer back to them) I wonder now if it’s more for the kinesthetic part of me than the visual.

    Tiffany, I’m stealing that graph paper idea for my grad school classes! At work I use un-lined paper when I’m working out ideas, but that’s tougher to do with lecture notes.

  11. posted by Tania on

    hmmmm…. now I feel like I need to re-take the test….

  12. posted by Dan on

    Fantastic post! I found myself laughing out loud whilst reading it, as some of the suggestions were spot on with what makes me productive…I just never realized them before. I will definitely be taking these and implementing them in my new work space that I am creating.

    Unfortunately, I am supposed to be in an office with a door, but in my work environment we have one large room with about 12 desks…there isn’t even any waist high cubicle walls. No wonder I can never get anything done here 🙂

  13. posted by tay on

    This test was very interesting for me. Because the test actually said that I am more auditory and kinesthetic..however the suggestions that I know will and have worked for me are more visual and then probably 50/50 kinesthetic and Auditory. I’m like Karen…I always had to rewrite my notes in order to make it stick. I also want to get more use out of my palm pilot (to not feel like I totally wasted my money) but I actually was more organized when I had the good old paper and pencil scheduling system! I know have learned how to make my palm work for me..I realized that I purchased it because I will write something but unless I am forced to look at it I will not act on it..so I needed something to make noise to let me know ‘HEY!!! YOU HAVE A MEETING SCHEDULED’ So I’ve learned to make it work for me..but I just HAVE to write it’s crazy. For my office I’m creating I am working with ideas that will allow me to write…I’m considering that dry erase board paint for walls and pieces of glass suspended on cable that i can write on and move..Anyhow I’m going off on a tangent…bye!

  14. posted by Dee on

    My score came out to 75% Visual/Kinisthetic split evenly with 25% in the Auditory – I write everything down in a journal for business and home use and I also color code things right down to my in-box for work. One thing that perplexes me though – Since I am a strong visual learner, I have a tendency to leave things out. .. because I have a tendency to want to see those items rather than put them away I guess. To overcome that obstacle in the kitchen it was easy – I designed my kitchen space to have open storage which looks nice, all of my dishes mugs, servers, etc. are out and nicely organized and displayed. Its all of the other stuff that is constantly floating around my house that I can’t get a handle on. Theres only so many open storage ideas one can use before your house looks like one big container storage area :-)!!!

  15. posted by Yinna on

    Hmmm, so according to this I’m spot on visual. That wasn’t clear from the test before.

    I’m actually quite uncluttered since I can’t seem to think straight when it’s a mess around me. To keep things neat, I try to put things where they belong immediately after I’ve used them. For tasks I really dislike (folding laundry or washing dishes), I call someone and do it while chatting. So why can I focus on the conversation perfectly while I’m doing these things, if I’m so visual?

  16. posted by Kacper on

    Exercise before going to work – exactly what I need. So simple and effective.

  17. posted by Matt on

    I’m mostly visual. As other people have already mentioned color coding really helps.
    I’m in high school and all of my subjects have assigned colors for the folder/binder, notebook and book cover. The colors just seem to make sense in my mind and a quick glance into my backpack tells me which materials I currently have or need to get from my locker. Math is red, science is orange, languages are blue, etc.
    This also makes locker organization a breeze and pleasant to look at.

  18. posted by Jen on

    I got 2, 2 and 2 on the quiz but seeing this part, I am most definitely visual. I should have known that seeing as how I am an editor and really hate talking on the phone. LOL Thanks for the interesting posts.

  19. posted by Unclutterer » Archive » Understanding how you process information to help you get organized, part I on

    […] second post in the series will provide suggestions for how you can take this information you have learned about yourself and […]

  20. posted by Laura on

    Hi i would like to find out what type of learner I am ie auditory,visual,kinisthetic. Wher can i find the quiz ?

  21. posted by Mark on

    This is actually pretty interesting. I’m mostly visual but have some traits in auditory & kinesthetic as well. The best example would be directions… tell me the directions and I’ll probably forget something, write them down and it helps, even better yet if I’m doing the writing, but a map is best. You can save yourself a lot of explaining if I can just see a map.

  22. posted by The Far Edge » Blog Archive » Match Your Learning Style with the Proper Productivity Tools [Productivity] on

    […] in the comments. Understanding How You Process Information Helps Get You Organized: Part I & Part II […]

  23. posted by Monica on

    Thanks for writing these posts. They’re very helpful to me. 🙂 I’m using them to get over a hurdle that has plagued me for a long time.

    I have a different perspective to offer here. I was born totally blind due to an eye injury before birth. However, I am a highly visual, moderately kinesthetic person. That doesn’t seem quite right, does it? 😉 My mind is wired to “picture” things in great detail like Braille letters, a person’s hand (since I rarely touch faces), and the location or shape of objects. I always want to know what color things are. I need Braille charts and raised drawings to understand new concepts.

    What’s odd about this is that most tools made for blind people these days are auditory. A tape recorder, audio books, a screenreader speech program, and talking appliances are touted as the ultimate solution for blind people. It’s a sort of myth that if you lose one sense, the others are sharpened. In truth, those of us who are visual fall even further behind blind people who are auditory learners unless we have a dedicated parent or teacher who helps us learn to cope. I was blessed with both.

    Your posts have helped me clarify and explain some of what I have done to adapt over time. I paid someone to help me take written notes in college since the lecture would often go over my head. Unlike many of my peers, I use Braille heavily, both on note cards and as a special PDA called a Braille notetaker. I write everything in the PDA and even use a scanner to put things like recipes into Braille. I also found that I can put Braille on post-it notes. I like doing this with complicated projects that have many steps. I have a wide closet door, and I put the post-its on that so I can move them around so I can “see” how the project flows. I use different sizes to indicate major objectives and subgoals. Finally, I use the colored flags in Outlook to mark various types of items and have subtle sounds that play for each type of flag as I move through my task list or in-box. This means I can know how important something is or what the next action is quickly without waiting for my screenreader to speak the whole item.

    I’m curious about how other people with disabilities adapt their productivity to work with their learning style. Have you run across any posts about this?

    Thanks again for sharing some great ideas. I love your blog and have it in my RSS reader.

  24. posted by Alex on

    @Monica – thank you for your very interesting comments. I have found , like many others, that I’m visual with a kinesthetic component and, after reading your ideas, I wonder if the two are actually connected – two aspects of the same thing. It seems as though your visual ability is strongly related to shape, and I think that mine is too. I tend to visualize relationships and concepts as diagrams or networks – that is, as shapes and geometries.

    The ability to create these shapes as models on a whiteboard with the kinesthetic element of drawing and connecting elements in a dynamic way is my way of understanding and solving problems. There’s a physical involvement in the visualization.

    Maybe the visual mode has two aspects: abstract and physical. I don’t need to see someone when they’re talking (the physical aspect) but I do like to shape what they’re saying (the abstract aspect.) I have always thought of myself as more abstract-oriented than practical.

    Which make me wonder – instead of the two separate modes of Visual and Kinesthetic, I wonder if it would make more sense to combine the two modes and call them Shaping; and separate them as, say, Physical Shaping (seeing speakers, walking with them) and Abstract Shaping (drawing Mind Maps, or using whiteboards and diagrams).

    I haven’t thought this through, but I think perhaps that the auditory mode is inherently different from the other two, which have more of a connection …

  25. posted by ga on

    You all, and especially you visual types, might enjoy and benefit from reading Malcolm Gladwell’s article “The Social Life of Paper” (http://www.gladwell.com/2002/2....._paper.htm). He confirms that I’m not messy so much as thinking; the organization of our piles reflects our mind at work, with the most important papers close at hand; the problem is not working paper on the desk but useless paper in the file cabinet. In my experience producing magazines with a staff of eight, the current papers I was juggling were on my desk; paper relating to the schedule, the work flow, and the status of each step for each project were always available at a glance on a LARGE magnetic board on the wall facing my desk (I love magnets—one-handed posting and retrieval); and any REALLY important papers I needed to lay hands on instantly were in an attractive magazine rack near the window. The only paper I filed religiously—freelancers’ invoices—went into one desk drawer. Periodically I would clean off my desk; most of the paper went straight into the trash. (Gladwell says the problem with paper is not using it but hanging on to it.) We each were given a huge, four-drawer lateral file cabinet (I hate lateral files); mine held knitting yarn (an amusing off-topic story), coffee-making supplies, sweaters, printouts of articles I meant to read, etc. People would sniff at my messy office, but I never had trouble finding anything or meeting a deadline.

    Don’t feel defensive about your messy desk; it shows a mind at work. My only problem about it was other people. I was really lucky to have an office.

  26. posted by LO on

    LOVE the suggestion of using shelves instead of drawers for visual thinkers. I have always done so, but it can be uncomfortable for others.

    There’s a lot of pressure to get things off of tabletops, shelves, etc., but I think better when I can see everything.

  27. posted by Understanding how you process information to help you get organized, part 2 | Unclutterer - The Lighthouse Worship Center on

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  28. posted by Jim F on

    Crap, I’m all three, I just don’t have a preference. No wonder I’ve evolved my environment to be so tweaked. Quiet or headphones; filing systems; audible alerts; OCD organization in small spartan places; hanging my next days clothes up in the walk in closet; changing clothing before leaving the house; digital camera in blackberry (now hooked up to evernote :-). I am a freak.

  29. posted by Ryan K on

    For those in the posts above talking about lined/unlined paper and graph paper, here is how I handle things. I have two Moleskin books: one is full of graph paper for note taking and the other is just blank sheets for ideas and working out problems.

    Also, I have no drawers on my desk at home; everything is visible and papers that need to be filed are in colored folders in a cascading file folder stand so each tab is visible.

    Great post and great comments!

  30. posted by Falaris on

    This post has completely opened my eyes to why I do so many of the things I do or have trouble with. I had 7 of 8 on the kinesthetic/tactile list (only because I love to drive rather than bike and am a road warrior), and I didn’t even know that was a learning style previously. I thought there was only audio or visual and I never could clearly define myself. I also got a few points in the auditory list which also makes sense.

    The more I read about it, the more it makes sense. I notice my mind wanders a lot if I get bored focusing on doing one thing. Can anyone recommend some tools that track progress if you work on multiple things at once or remind you to get back to doing a task you started and wandered from? It isn’t that I have a problem necessarily remembering to do things, just that I work on multiple things at once and jump from project to project or take breaks to read webpages frequently and then I become a bit unproductive. I get frustrated really easily if I have to keep looking at one thing constantly.

  31. posted by Eddie on

    To Falaris:

    I feel your pain! I work on many different things throughout the day and it can get confusing. I almost always have trouble focusing on one thing at a time. I had always thought of myself as more of a visual person, but after reading this article and taking the quiz I have found myslef to be almost 100% kinesthetic.

    I am also looking for something to help me organize the many projects that I am working on. If I find anything I will post again.

  32. posted by Falaris on

    I thought the same thing! I just figured I was visual because I could remember it all as I was doing things but then always couldn’t understand how I would fall short at looking at notes or a blackboard full of information. I have exception memory for anything I’ve done (like remembering how to get anywhere once I’ve been there before, and only needing a recipe once before I know how to make it without fail after that) and just figured I had some kind of variant on photographic in that I couldn’t remember things I saw, just how everything worked.

    I get so frustrated at all the online organization and productivity apps (especially since I found this site through Lifehacker and try to get into things I find on there) but I wind up ignoring so many after trying them once or twice because they don’t work for me. I got so excited after reading this post that I spent about 3 hours researching this and had a million “Oh, THAT’S why I do things like that!” moments.

  33. posted by Eddie on

    Im just curious, how are you with numbers? I have an exceptional memory with numbers. I can look or hear a number and remember it instantly. Infomercials are my bane; I can never get the stupid phone numbers out of my head. It must have something to do with how I correlate them in my head.

    I really do wish there was something out there to help people like us. If I do find something I will let you know.

  34. posted by Falaris on

    No, I’m not good with numbers like that.

    Do you have a lot of deja vu moments? I mean with very specific details down to the background music/noises, etc. I don’t get it doing normal stuff like driving to work every day, but I get a lot of moments where I swear I’ve done things before.

  35. posted by Mikey D on

    I really hope there will be a part 3 to this! I want more tips, the ones given were really amazing. Keep this series going.

  36. posted by Eddie on

    I have them all the time! LOL.

    Mikey D,
    I would love to see more on this as well.

    It’s amazing how something like how you process information could make you produtive assuming you play to your strengths. In my case, i am not very productive at all.

  37. posted by weekly public links (weekly) « My Blog on

    […] Understanding how you process information to help you get organized, part 2 | Unclutterer […]

  38. posted by Aeryn F on

    I’m exactly the way you are with numbers, and ended up putting it to use working in Accounting.

    It’s that way for me not only with numbers, but with pretty much anything I lay eyes on – articles, movies, addresses… my partner calls me “the human PDA”.

    But I get what you mean that its a blessing as well as a bane. Since I will never watch horror movies again if I want to be able to sleep at night.

    On the Infomercials, I did find a coping mechanism that works for me – if I catch something that I want to “forget”, I stare at an adjacent blank wall or a generic detail (say a window or the floor) for a few seconds until the “blank” picture over-writes what I wanted to forget/ignore.

    The inverse is also true, if I hear something that that I want to remember without any equipment to write it down, I “pin” it to a visual detail in the room, or imagine it written on the wall, and when I recall the visual memory it comes with what I heard. Works 80% of the time.

    (P/S: as you can tell from techniques above, I’m a very strong Kinesthetic/Tactile and Visual).

  39. posted by Q on

    Like the commenter below me said, I am visual and kinesthetic as well. I too find writing things down helps a lot!

    If I need to write a paper, I find it easiest to first start my drafts on lined notebook paper. Out loud, or in my head, I pretend I am dictating and write down what I say/think. I find this more productive than using the computer because I find myself stumbling head over heels when I type at a computer. Plus, writing by hand is slower – so it encourages a disciplined approach to writing.

  40. posted by Judith R on

    Great article! But when I took the VARK test of learning styles (http://vark-learn.com/the-vark-questionnaire/) there were separate categories for visual and read/write. I had assumed that as an amateur artist I would score high in the visual but I’m mostly read/write followed by kinesthetic and auditory. Since most teachers are probably read/write and many students are not, that discrepency could have major implications for education.
    One example that describes the four categories is this: If you are going to a new place, is it more helpful for you to read directions (read/write), hear directions (auditory), look at a map (visual) or write/draw the directions (kinesthetic)?
    I also used to re-copy my notes before tests and now when I meet someone new will ask them how their name is spelled so I can picture it written in my mind which helps to remember them.

  41. posted by Jenelia @ Top Home Zones on

    I am a visual as well as an auditory processor as this two helps me to organize my information proper way for better understanding. This assessment definitely help every individual to choose the best process to implement in day to day life for best results. Thank you make us conscious of it.

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