Paper Doll’s NAPO 2016 Conference Recap: The Wisdom Edition

Posted on: June 1st, 2016 by Julie Bestry | 5 Comments




As is the annual tradition at Paper Doll HQ, this is the time of year where we step away from paper-related topics to look at the bigger picture of what’s going on in the organizing world. The Annual Conference and Expo of the National Association of Professional Organizers was held just down the road from me this year, in Atlanta, GA.

NAPO2016The atmosphere as everyone starts arriving at a NAPO conference is like the first day of summer camp — or a college reunion. We’ve all seen each other on social media, but it’s a delight to view my colleagues when they’re bigger than their one-centimeter high avatars.

The first full day is all about preliminary, but important, activities. On Wednesday morning, I attended the Angela F. Wallace Leadership Forum, where we learned techniques and strategies for encouraging and motivating volunteers. In the afternoon, I participated in lively discussions at our meeting of the Board of Certification for Professional Organizers, for which I serve as the Director of Program Development (also known as the Sacred Keeper of All Rules Persnickety) and as the local grammar and spelling cop.


Our opening keynote speaker, Scott Greenberg, presented The Third Factor: The Mindset for High-Performance Leadership.


Scott spoke about the three factors that influence success:

  1. External factors that we can’t personally control, like the economy, what our competition does, the weather, our own DNA,
  2. Operational factors, over which we have a bit of control, like if we work long enough and hard enough,
  3. Mindset, or how we think about things, and whether we have a fixed mindset (and believe that we have little-to-no control over our own qualities) vs. a growth mindset, one in which we can improve and grow.

Scott talked about the importance of making interpersonal connections and having gratitude, but my biggest takeaway from his motivational presentation was that it’s not just about the tangible (or even temporal) clutter, but about the “head trash” piled up by our mental hecklers. Scott encouraged us to externalize what these internal hecklers were saying to us so that we could fully appreciate the flaws inherent when we are deprecating ourselves. If you followed any of the tweets from our #NAPO2016 hashtag, you would have seen how much we all embraced Scott’s parting wisdom:


After the welcome and keynote, we moved on to the meat of our conference sustenance: our concurrent educational sessions, where, over the course of three days, we have the choice of attending one of five classes in each of six concurrent sessions. Somehow, just going to six out of thirty amazing presentations does not seem like enough!

While I work with residential as well as business clients, this year, my focus was on technology and productivity. Courses I took included:

The Art of Tactical Time Management — If you don’t follow the blog and podcast of Mike Vardy, the Productivityist, you’re truly missing out. Perhaps Mike’s presentation resonated with me so much is because it dovetails with what I teach my own clients. For example:

You’ve heard me say this before — if we try to keep things in our heads, or if we leave tangible items out (on our desks, and around our computers, and blocking our doors) to trigger us to think of something, that’s all we do. We think of them, but the energy we waste on remembering something and thinking of it, instead of about it, contextually, is wasted energy. Capture it — write it down on paper or save the thought digitally — and then you can move forward toward your goals.


Mike also talked about “time theming” similar to the task-and-time blocking I discussed in my book, 57 Secrets to Organizing Your Small Business (the revised and newly named edition of which will be out later this year). Mike’s time theming (for the year, the month, and the days of the week) is central to his NOW Year Method, about which we learned extensively in the session. I won’t give out those details and spoil Mike’s brilliance — you definitely want to check him out, but I’ll leave you with another of his bon mots.

Other sessions I attended included:

The Paradox of Technology in Business (and Life), in which Nadine Seidman, MSW, MPA, and Nancy Kruschke, CPO®, looked beyond the benefits of technology (communication and collaboration, mobility, and productivity) to the darker costs of technology, including financial (initial and ongoing), physical/health (sleep interruption, neck and back pain), societal (reduced privacy and diminution of etiquette), and psychological (depression, anxiety, and overwhelm). Nadine and Nancy shared great tips for professionals to create “response time policies” for setting expectations for how often, when, and by whom business replies will be made, and encouraged us to unplug ourselves, personally, to recharge. (Just be sure you wait until after you finish reading this post.)

Achieving Balance and Creating Peace with Organizing, where my colleagues Amy Trager, CPO®, and Suzy Margolis Hart used philosophies from the practice of yoga to discuss how we might work better with our organizing and productivity clients. As I once explained on a Smead EZ Grip product testimonial video, Paper Doll has weak, wimpy wrists and appreciates, rather than practices, yoga. However, the messages of this session, from the philosophical — “There is no perfect” — to the practical — how to be non-judgmental, reduce unpleasantness, improve flow, and maintain boundaries — are things we can all use in our work and daily lives.

Down With Digital Clutter, taught by my colleague Pam Holland, seemed to bookend the class on the paradox of technology, and offered up a cornucopia of advice and tools on how to eliminate the clutter that technology builds up. I liked that Pam went against the modern grain (as I do), championing the idea of organizing and building infrastructure for your digital files instead of relying on search technology. My favorite tip, however, and one I intend to keep reminding myself, was that it’s important to remember to empty ALL of the trash. Just as my residential clients are good at remembering to take out their big (usually kitchen) trash on garbage day, while neglecting the tiny bedroom, office, and bathroom trash cans, we all tend to forget that our computers and digital devices have multiple trash cans — not just our desktops, but our emails, our photo collections, and our individual apps, and if they go unemptied, we waste our resources.

Of course, not all of the educational sessions I took were for helping my clients be more productive. The title of my friend and colleague Deb Lee’s Content Marketing: Blogging Tips for Your Small Business practically damns with faint praise what was a 90-minute master class in creating, researching, writing, promoting, and excelling at blogging.


If you are a small business person (or a big business person), there’s nobody better from whom you can learn how to promote your business  — so be sure to check out her newly updated D. Allison Lee website to see how her productivity and technology coaching can rock your world. (Nope, this isn’t a paid promotion. Deb is just THAT good that everyone should know about her.)

For those who were interested in other topics, NAPO had them covered with a variety of tracks for classes I’ve not yet mentioned, including:

Business Growth, Marketing, Leadership: Imperfection Rules! Creative Ways to Run Your Business; Coaching Works: Coaching Meets the Organizing World; How to Be an Independent Contractor; Veteran Forum Interactive; How To Keep Your Business from Becoming theIRS! [sic]; What’s Next? Planning an Effective Business Exit Strategy; Strategic Planning to Grow Your Business; Leveraging a Competitive Market: Building Your Personal Brand

Organizing and Productivity: Closets, Pantries, Cabinets, Offices: Beyond the Basics; Photo Organizing Anxiety and How To Overcome It; Transparent Power: Improve Client Outcomes through Direct Communication; Holistic Time Management; Information Afterlife and the Digital Estate Plan

Specific Needs Clients: Still Someone: Organizing Older Adults with Memory Loss; ADHD in the Family: How to Really Help; Play! The Secret Ingredient to ADHD Motivation

Research: Industry Statistics and Trends; Booming Your Baby Boomer Business: Research-based Understanding of this Pivotal Age Group

Special Interest Groups: Moving Made Easy; How Organizers Engage Students; Seven Truths to Becoming a Published Author

Trends, Technology, and Social Media: Power of Email Marketing for Today’s Savvy Organizer; Digital Eyes: Storytelling through Video Marketing; Profit and Value with Online Training

Even if you’re not a professional organizer, I bet you’re envious now!


We professional organizers and productivity specialists take plenty of time to refresh our brains with rest and relaxation — just as we advise our clients. For years, our NAPO meals were almost all taken together, seated at round tables in large ballrooms where the noise and overcrowding made convivial conversation difficult. (It also explains why I had laryngitis by the last day of our conference ever year.)

And let’s be real. Conference food is generally both uninspired and uninspiring. For vegetarians and others with special food requirements, conference dining has also often been a disappointment. (A plate of steamed bok choi does not a meal make!) However, this year, the Atlanta Sheraton did an amazing catering job, and our meals were far superior to anything I’d been served in my last decade and a half of attendance. Still, the hotel could not handle our volume in the traditional way, so we had more buffets and even got to lunch al fresco by the pool.

My favorite addition to our meal experience was this year’s Dine-Around experiment, where attendees could sign up to eat in small groups at any of a number of local restaurants within walking distance from the hotel. I was amused to find that although I’d arrived two days before the official start of conference and was only the sixth person to sign up for a Turkish meal at Atlanta’s Truva, I was the third Julie. Hence, this photo caption:


And be assured, lest you imagine that our professional organizing community’s lightheartedness extends only to culinary sustenance, let me disabuse you of that thought. Our NAPO President, Ellen Faye, opened the President’s Reception to all attendees this year for a “Black & White” party that included dancing and karaoke.


So, while we value our education, professionalism, and camaraderie, don’t ever believe the stereotype that professional organizers are stuffy.


In the upcoming NAPO re-cap posts, we’ll be looking at the products and vendors who can help make your life more organized, including the 2016 winners of the NAPO Organizers’ Choice Awards.

5 Responses

  1. Tony Burgess says:

    Organizers are rock stars with bins and binders and boxes.

    • Julie Bestry says:

      …and with apps, advice, and where appropriate, approbation. (Is this a game, Tony, like “I went to a picnic, and I bought candy, bananas, and apple pie?” I imagine organizers are going to be good at this game.)

  2. Deb Lee says:

    Appreciate the kudos, my friend, and loved seeing you in the front row! Thanks for including me in your recap. =)

  3. I’m so glad you got to hang out with Julie Stobbe! Wish I could’ve been there too.

    • Julie Bestry says:

      NAPO 2017 is in Pittsburgh. It couldn’t be much closer to you (except if we went to Buffalo), so that’ll be a good one for you to visit with us!

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