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20 Tips to Stay Organized

June 16, 2000
No matter how large your organizing project may seem, it is manageable and it will move along more quickly than you think. Start slowly. Do not plan to complete it at one sitting or on the same day. To keep your energy up and your enthusiasm in place, stop when you get tired. Return to the task when you are refreshed.

This is better than forcing yourself into a marathon sorting job. The task will be less overwhelming if you break the project into small chunks of time. Maintenance is the key to success. Getting items back to their home quickly will ensure that you don't face another overwhelming organizing project next year.

  1. Commit yourself to making decisions now about what to do with each piece of paper. Handle paper only once. Ask yourself, "Do I really need it?" If so, file the document at once in the broadcast category to which it refers.
  2. Keep close to you only the things you use frequently.
  3. Store little-used items farther away. Even on a shelf, keep the least-used items in the back. Keep those items you use frequently in the front, for easy retrieval.
  4. When clearing the top of surfaces, start with one stack of papers and sort from the top down. When finished with each stack, you will see a clear workspace, and your progress will be easy to monitor. This forces you to decide on each piece of paper and when finished, you will see the top of your desk again.
  5. Spend 15 minutes twice a day clearing out your in-box. Don't let it turn into a holding, aging or procrastinating tray. Sort incoming mail into categories by priority or by action.
  6. Break the habit of writing things down on numerous scraps of paper. Write notes in the appropriate place the first time; in the client file, onto the calendar or on your to/do list.
  7. Be realistic about the amount of information you can read and absorb. Limit the number of subscriptions you take, and copy articles as soon as you read them. Pass the periodical along to someone else, throw it away or recycle it.
  8. Make lists regularly. Daily To-Do lists, as well as larger project lists help you get and stay organized. Use checklists to help do routine things more easily and quickly.
  9. Say "No" more often. The best way to get off-track is to say "Yes" to every request. Every time you agree to a new demand, you say no to a previous commitment.
  10. Don't buy anything unless you have a place to put it. To keep excess at bay, if you add an item, you must remove an item.
  11. Label everything that contains things: binders, folders, suitcases, etc.
  12. Organize bookcases by placing similar materials together.
  13. Schedule multiple appointments for the same day instead of spreading them throughout the week. This reduces your travel time and parking hassles.
  14. Buy enough greeting cards for special occasions like birthdays, anniversaries, get-well and thank-you at one time so that you need not make special trips to the store.
  15. Keep two files, one for instruction manuals and one for guarantees. Staple the receipt to the guarantee or warranty page. Then when you need to return an item, all the information is handy. Purge periodically for appliances that have worn out, broken, or been sent to charity.
  16. Label photos with the date and people's names as soon as they are developed.
  17. Keep a pair of scissors near where you read newspapers and magazines. You can easily clip those articles you wish to save.
  18. Keep only one project or file open on your desk at any time. This reduces the likelihood of stray papers becoming attached to the incorrect document and misfiled.
  19. When unsure about a what to do with a document, ask yourself, "What would I do if it were one week before vacation?" Act accordingly.
  20. Clear the top of your desk at the end of each day. It completes the day's work, makes a clean space for you to see the next morning and stops paper buildup.