Do you have a designer satchel filled with Post-its of illegible scribbled notes to yourself on them? Scraps of paper, or napkins (gasp!), with phone numbers jotted? Business cards scattered about? Or, do you have so much on your plate that you feel an impending sense of doom because you barely have time to breath?
You’re overworked, super busy, and plain simple, unorganized. Put your Blackberry down. Take a breath. You know what, maybe even grab a manicure. Then follow my five steps to organization, to go from pull-your-hair-out crazed to experiencing a sense of normalcy. You’ll be surprised by how productive you can be and how much you can do without feeling like, well, a crazy person.
1. Smart Phones and Smart Calendars
We are all attached to our Blackberries and iPhones, but most of us don’t use our gadgets efficiently. It’s possible to do more on our phones than BBM and Twitter. Utilize the calendar on your phone. If you’re never without your phone, you should never be forgetting dates or deadlines. Get over that fear of technology, or pure procrastination. You can even sync your phone calendar with your existing Outlook or Google Calendar– the key is to have one central calendar. This way, all important dates are with you at all times. More importantly, make sure you set alerts to remind yourself of every event. It’s the point of a smart phone to tell you these things.
2. Lists. Lists. Lists.
Maybe it’s my obsessive-compulsive nature, but I find it therapeutic to create lists for things to do, things to buy, everything! After years of constant list-making and a few mental evaluations later, I realize it’s also a very useful organizational tool. Create lists on your phone, or if you’re a traditional gal, keep a snazzy notepad with you at all times to write down things you need to do right when you think of them. Now, that last bit is key, to write everything down right when you think of it. This really does help take the weight off. Also, lists are good for in-the-moment thoughts to clear your head or for evaluating goals, so that you actually reach them. Just make sure you keep your lists updated. Ah, efficiency, so that’s what that feels like.
3. Quick Reaction Vs. Quick Response
E-mails. You get hundreds of them in a day. You respond to a third. You delete a third. And that last third gets lost in oblivion, red-flagged or not. Stop this. Most people that email you deserve a response… eventually. Note that I said, “most.” You can leave creepy guy from the bar out of this. Learn the difference between quick response and quick reaction. There’s no need to respond to an email right away, unless it’s high priority.
Quick reaction, on the other hand, is what we should all adopt to keep our emails organized. Always react when you get an email and decide whether you’re going to respond immediately, delete it, or respond later. If you choose the latter, save those emails in a folder. Now, here’s the important part. Remember to take those “red flags” seriously and only flag emails you will actually respond to. Check your flagged mail folder every afternoon and follow up with as many people as you can. This habit will prevent stray emails because you’re reacting immediately and preventing forgotten emails because every email will have its rightful spot.
4. A Clean Space Is a Happy Space You
It’s simple. Keep your office space clean and organized, both at home and at work. If you’re one of those literary types that just thrives off of having stacks and stacks of papers, magazines and books around, make sure they’re neatly stacked, categorized, and organized—yep, having insurmountable amount of stuff does not give you an excuse to have a mess on your desk. This “stuff” can really overwhelm.
5. Evaluate Your Tasks
Lastly, organization is mostly psychological. It’s essential to go through a certain thought process when you’re faced with tasks and plans. First, decide if you will pursue it. Second, record it in its proper place (i.e. calendar, to-do list, etc). Every task, plan, and sometimes even thoughts, have their designated place. Third, take action and follow up in a timely manner. Do it enough and it will become routine.