By Barbara Hemphill
If you think of “Getting Organized” as a big project, think again! Organization is a skill – and like any other skill it requires tools, principles, and practice. In fact, being better organized, especially at work, can save you time and increase your productivity and effectiveness. Whether you are working at home or trying to impress the boss at work, these ideas will help you get started.
1. Today’s mail is tomorrow’s pile. Ignore the mistakes of the past and set up a system that will accommodate every new piece of paper. Then incorporate the old into the new – or get rid of it altogether!
2. Are you overwhelmed with too much stuff in your life? Clutter is postponed decisions®. To eliminate the clutter on your desk and in your life, think The FAT SystemÔ: File, Act, Toss.
3. To help you decide the best way for you to get organized, ask yourself “What will I do?” – not “what should I do?” Organization is not a moral issue, and does not have a “right” or “wrong” way.
4. Use technology to help you get and stay organized. For example, a contact manager software, such as Outlook, for managing contact information and filing software. Or try Taming the Paper Tiger for managing physical files and resources and Enfish for managing electronic files.
5. Minimize the unnecessary paper in your life by using your calendar more frequently. Instead of keeping the paper, put the information (location of meeting, for example) on your calendar. If you need to keep the paper, create a ticker file system 1-31 for the 31 days of the month and Jan – Dec. File the paper in the day you want to do it.
6. Less is more! Have nothing which you do not know to be useful, think to be beautiful – or love. Hemphill’s Principle: If you don’t know you have it, or you can’t find it, it is of no value!
7. Put like items together (e.g., office supplies, travel items, seasonal decorations, memorabilia). Find a space or container large enough to hold the largest amount you want to keep. When it is full, toss or give away!
8. Make appointments with yourself -- whether it is to clean off your desk, spent more time with your family, or write a book. (Write a page a day and at the end of the year, you will have a 365-page book!)
9. Store items according to where and how often you use them – and label them clearly so others can understand the system you are using. To avoid accumulating clutter, eliminate any container which does not have a specific purpose.
10. In every organizing process, things will feel worse before they get better. This is normal, and not the best time to stop for a cup of coffee!
11. Organizing is a skill to help you accomplish something that is important to you. Ask yourself, “If I were organized, what would I be able to do that I can not do now?” For example, thinking about being comfortable with unexpected guests will keep you motivated to get rid of clutter.
12. Asking for help when you need it is a sign of wisdom, not weakness. You can help others with things you know and do well. Together we are better.™
13. Do you have difficulty letting go of things – even if you don’t use them? Finding someone else who needs them more than you do will make it easier. Deductible software will help you track donations and maximize the deduction you can legally take.
14. Overwhelmed with “to read” piles? Develop a “Just-in-time Reading” system. Tear out articles and file them according to subject. Keep a list of your files (which can be automatically generated by filing software such as Taming the Paper Tiger), so when you need the information you will be able to find it quickly.
15. The purpose of a filing system is not to put papers away – it is to be able to find them again! Think “finding system” and ask yourself, “How can I find this again?” Hemphill’s Principle: If you don’t know you have it, or can’t find it, it’s of no value to you!
16. The right information at the right time reduces stress and improves productivity – and makes you appear smart! Use your calendar to manage your time, and your filing system to manage your information.
17. Put all the electronic files you create into one folder (which can be subdivided into additional folders.) This makes finding the information you need, and backing up or transferring data much simpler.
18. Half of any job is using the right tool – one that is right for you! Thinking a Palm Pilot will get you organized is like thinking a piano can make you a musician. Do not be unduly influenced by the latest and greatest gadgets.
19. Group papers together in their largest category – and break them down when the file becomes too bulky to manage. On the other hand, putting one piece of paper in a file folder is perfectly acceptable – if it helps you find it when you need it!
20. A File Index is to a filing system what a Chart of Accounts is to a budget. You need a Chart of Accounts to manage your money, and a File Index to manage your information. Filing software, such as Taming the Paper Tiger, will generate a file index automatically and allow you to easily share physical files with people who need to know.
21. Use a Rolodex as a “mini-filing system” – a place to put bits of information too small for a traditional file folder – i.e., holiday schedule for next year, social security numbers for your family, combination for gym lock. (If you are a Palm Pilot user, this may not be necessary.)
22. Keeping an inventory of your personal belongings could make a big difference in your lifestyle in case you or your family are struck with a natural disaster or a family emergency.
23. Bulletin Boards can be great organizing tools. Separate information into two categories: Information or Inspirational. Mixing the two purposes on one board gives a cluttered appearance which detracts from the function and the aesthetics.
24. To decide if something is organized, ask three questions: “Does it work?” “Do I like it?” “Does it work for others I care about?”
25. End everyday by asking yourself, “What’s the most important thing for me to accomplish tomorrow?” Then do it first – before you check your e-mail!
Try some of these ideas and you will be well on your way to a productive environment – a setting in which everything around you supports who you are and who you want to be -- so you can accomplish your work and enjoy your life.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Barbara Hemphill is one of the country’s leading business organization experts. Author of the best-selling Kiplinger series, “Taming the Paper Tiger,” Barbara is working on the next book, "Taming the Digital Paper Tiger." A past President of the National Association of Professional Organizers, Barbara helps businesses get organized to increase productivity and profits. For more information, please visit: www.productivityconsultants.com or call: 919-773-0722.
© 2005 Barbara Hemphill