Thursday, October 30, 2008

30-Day Organizing Challenge: Day 3

Today's goal: Create some structure

One of the things I've heard from many of you is just having some kind of structure for your office or personal space can be overwhelming. Where to start?

I thought I'd share some of the organizing systems that work for me:

I'll do a whole post on this another day, but one of the great boosts to my serenity came when I stopped being a slave to my pinging email. I look at it once a day, and now I have all the newsletters, emails from flaks and emails from specific groups to which I belong sent to their own email folders. That way, most days I only have the most pertinent emails in my inbox. My rule is, with most emails, that I either have to act on it today or file it--or I can delete it. But it doesn't stay there forever, and I don't forget to respond to people anymore.

I know it's a bad word for some, but I actually love filing, because it means that all the stuff that's sitting around has a place to go--and if it doesn't belong in a folder for a story assignment or a client, it sits on my desk till I face it. Since I hate piles, this works for me, but your mileage may vary. (It also means that the piles to the left and right of my monitor I mentioned before have been there for quite some time.)

We've touched on email, and now I'll touch on the stuff that comes into the house every day through the snailmail slot. My rule with these is this:

* If it's junk mail and has my name on it, it gets shredded.
* If it's a credit card or donation request I don't want, it gets shredded.
* If it's a catalog, it gets recycled.
* If it's a receipt for a tax-deductible business expense, it goes in files labeled for each category according to my accountant's wishes.
* If it's a personal receipt (for instance, from the grocery store, from dinner out, etc.), it gets shredded.
* If it's a personal piece of mail I won't need for taxes, I scan it and shred it.
* If it's a personal letter from a friend or loved one, I put it on my bulletin board or file it away in a box in my closet.

Planning my Day
I rely utterly on my Franklin Covey planner and on a weekly workflow list I draw up every Sunday night(another post will be coming on this, too). At the end of every day (usually around 10 p.m., when I should be unwinding), I flip to my weekly workflow plan and add my to-do items to my list for the next day. That way, when I sit down at work in the morning, I don't spend time trying to decipher the important items from the urgent-but-unimportant items. This is a system I adopted after quite a few crises on my end.

We've talked about what works for me, now for the things that don't:

Magazine storage: My magazines, which I refer to for work, are busting or from everwhere--under my bed, under my desk, under other tables, etc.--and I don't know how far back I should keep them before I can toss or donate them.

Book storage: I get books for stories, usually written by people I've interviewed. Or I get books for my own development (Telling True Stories, The Elements of Style, How Race Is Lived in America, Six-Figure Freelancing and The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People all jockey for space on one sad shelf in my office, but some books are still in storage because I don't have room for them.)

These are some of the things I'll be working on improving over the next month.

What systems work for you and which give you trouble?

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