Last time, we covered distraction. This time lets try and tackle one of those other workday destroyers. I’m looking at you, disorganization. Maybe you are neat as a pin, carry an always-updated calendar, and have never once lost your keys. Congratulations for having it together! For the rest of us poor schlubs, however . . .
1. The Physical: Happy desk happy you. Fortunately, this is also the easiest to deal with. Take a look at your schedule next week. Can you pinpoint an hour of downtime? Good, that will be cleanup time. Block it out on your calendar, send yourself a reminder, and treat it as an unchangeable appointment. If that’s impossible, come in on the weekend if you have to. Get a trash bag. Get file folders. Get labels. Go through all your papers, all your files. Be honest and ruthless. If you don’t need those memos from last quarter, chuck em. If you do, file them. A tickler file is still among the most popular, but there’s plenty of systems out there. Figure out what works best for you, and then stick with it. If you find it too hard to keep it up throughout the day, set aside 5 minutes every evening to file away the stack on your desk.
Back to cleaning. Once the paper is dealt with, do the rest. Put your pens in one place. Clean out your drawers. Stick your menus in a folder. You get the idea. When you’re done, take everything off your desk and wipe it down. Spray out your keyboard. Clean your monitor. Trust us, this stuff will make a difference tomorrow. You deserve this workspace.
Now, figure out when you have 10 or 20 minutes free on a consistent weekly basis. Put it on your calendar. Every week when that ping comes up, you’re going to do some maintenance. It’s going to be a pain in the butt at first, and then, eventually, it’s going to become unnecessary because you’ll find yourself doing the deed in an ongoing basis. Well done, young grasshopper.
Next week: The Digital
In our humble experience, the trick to organization is not to undertake too many tasks at once. Maybe your (real) desk, (computer) desktop, and (email) inbox are all a mess but if you go after all of them at the same time, you’re not going to make any longterm headway. In order to really overcome, its necessary to address the underlying behavior which takes time. Which is to say: it’s not an easy fix, but it is, pinky swear, eminently doable. Go forth! Conquer.