Get Organized NOW. Revised article

Peggy Duncan
Duncan Resource Group, Inc.

You’ve invested in computer technology, bought fancy day planners, and attended time management seminars. But somehow you still end up working too long and too hard to get the job done. What’s really going on? Why do you still feel overwhelmed?

In our efforts to manage time better, we often overlook improving the one thing that eats up most of our time—inefficient work habits (a cluttered workspace, a useless filing system, inefficient use of technology, and more). All this leads to missed deadlines, having little free time, and unnecessary stress. The culprit, in large part, is our having too much STUFF and having no systems in place for dealing with it. This causes us to waste too much time. Eliminating clutter reduces stress, so let's do it NOW!

GETTING STARTED

Eliminate clutter one pile at a time (get some oversized garbage bags so it will be easy to throw things out). You’ll have to make very brutal decisions about every piece of paper in those piles on the desk, on the floor, in the cabinets, and every other place you found to pack something. In deciding what to keep and what to throw out, a good rule of thumb is if you haven’t referred to a document in six months or can get the information somewhere else, or don't need to keep it for legal reasons, dump it. Trust me, 80% of all that paper you insist on keeping just in case will probably never be referred to again. STOP KEEPING ALL THAT STUFF!

When tackling the junk drawers, empty one at the time out onto your desk. Take your time; do one drawer a day if you feel overwhelmed. Applaud your efforts every step of the way. Go through everything and throw out as you go, including all those condiment packs you've collected over the years, ink pens that don't write, dusty paper napkins, and the many doodads you've collected at different events. To keep everything tidy, purchase drawer organizers—they create a place for everything.

CREATING A GOOD, LOGICAL FILING SYSTEM

Once you’ve purged the excess, you’ll have to do something with what’s left. A filing system should be logical so there is never any doubt about where you might have filed something. Also, anyone else needing something in your files should be able to find it. Here’s how to do it:

1. Create main, broad categories (use nouns). Use a unique colored tab to distinguish the main categories.

2. Subcategorize each main category (as in an outline), keeping like subjects together (alphabetize within categories). Use the A-Z system only when it’s a vendor- or client-only file, or something similar.

3. Test your system to see if others can find what they need.

4. Create a simple index, and leave it in front of the file drawer (do this especially if others have to access your files, and they're large reference files).

5. Purge often! STOP KEEPING JUNK!

While a document is in your hand, file it—don’t pile it! Taking two seconds to put a document back into the file will save you minutes and perhaps hours later when you go to look for it again. And spend the last 10 minutes before closing to clear your desk. Having a good filing system makes this easy.

CREATING A COMPUTER FILING SYSTEM

You need to create a filing system for your computer files that is very similar to your paper filing system. Create main folders (or directories) and subfolders using the same outline format described above. Use descriptive titles so you always know exactly what the folders contain, and create logical sequences so you don't have to guess where you may have filed something.

Getting organized is exhausting. But you can do it. If you feel overwhelmed, call in a professional to help you. When it’s over, you’ll experience an awesome sense of control. You can see! You can think! It’s exhilarating!

___________________________________ Peggy Duncan is CEO of Duncan Resource Group, Inc., in Atlanta GA. Her company works with small businesses as well as corporate employees to help them become more efficient by getting organized, streamlining processes,and by using computer technology better. Peggy is also the host of the TECHsupport TV show (Atlanta cable), and a columnist with the award-winning Atlanta Tribune. For more info, visit her at http://www.duncanresource.com.