As I was looking at a recent school supply list, I saw the word organizer. It occurred to me that this fall, my 3rd grade twins are not the only ones who should be considering some additional organization.
I have been in my new home for two years and I now have a better idea of how I work in my home office but in those two years I have only modified my space to work decently, but never fully re-vamped it to help myself become more productive.
Here are my top 10 tips for getting organized this fall:
- Remember that you are not trying to boil the ocean. I recently heard that phrase for the first time and was struck by the thought of how many times a person looks at a project and makes it seem so large that he or she doesn’t know where to start. Take an hour this week and see what you can do to make yourself feel more organized. Did that make a dent or do you need to make it two hours next week to feel that you have made a difference. What ever you choose – mark it in your calendar as an important meeting that must be rescheduled immediately.
- Continue spending the time on organizing after you achieve your goal. After you congratulate yourself on cleaning up your office, consider the fact that maintenance of a system is the only way to keep papers out of piles in the long term. But, just like in other aspects of your life, a little slip up doesn’t mean you need to give up. Sometimes you need to do it again and again to get yourself into the habit.
- Establish a “To Do” System for getting organized. I divide paperwork into priorities
- “To Do” (the pieces I want to go through everyday,
- “Soon” (which I try to look at every other week or whenever things slow a bit),
- “For ___(fill in the blank of the person who you often have documents for but get lost in the piles)___,”
- “To File (everything that doesn’t fall into one of the original categories usually can be filed away for future reference or placed in the recycling bin).
Different people use different systems but there is no one who is truly ready to be focused on getting organized who doesn’t use a system that is personalized to their needs.
- Recycle or shred documents on a regular basis. Hard copies of documents are becoming obsolete. Computers help you store and access documents as easily as any file room so consider what does and does not have to be kept on a regular basis. Sometimes, it can be as simple as considering whether or not you are the only person in charge of this information. For instance, if you are a committee member, do you need to keep copies of the agendas from each meeting? Probably not. If someone needs a copy of something they will go to the committee chair not an individual member for the official record. If you are keeping it for your own reference, consider what is useful and what is extraneous and how the useful pieces should be stored.
- Don’t go out to buy new storage items until you know exactly how you will use them. It is easy to get seduced by the clean pictures in a catalog or online site but that doesn’t mean you will use any of it in your office. Use old folders to start your systems and then count how many fun colored packs you need. Sit at your desk each day and determine whether you would prefer to lay your folders down on the desk, see them vertical in an open holder or hidden away in a file drawer. Each person’s way of getting organized looks different.
- Consider your time in the same way you consider your paperwork. If you know you often get an hour of “unexpected” phone calls each day – plan for that as much as you can. Perhaps it is as simple as allowing for four 15-minute breaks throughout the day that can be used for what ever comes up.
- Create a calendar system that works for you. Does your smart phone work as a reminder for you or do you need to look at a spiral bound calendar? Do you respond to your own notes on dry-erase wall calendar or do you constantly look at the exotic bird calendar from the bookstore? You may have to try out a few different systems to see what works, but if two weeks go by and you have missed a meeting – try a different method of reminding yourself.
- This is one you might not like, but avoid taking personal calls on business hours. Yes, we all need to blow off a bit of steam, but an hour call to a sister or friend can easily suck up an hour of time that will leave you behind schedule and feeling frantic and disorganized.
- Take Control. No matter which system you use, remember that you are in charge, not the paperwork, phone calls, or general clutter. You have to choose to make yourself more organized. If hiring a professional organizer will help you through the process, go ahead but he/she is not going to be able to go through the paper on your desk. You are still going to have to look at it and decide what to do with it. So set the time and just do it.
- Remember the pay off. Feeling organized will save you time and make you happier. And is there really a better pay off than that?