A major source of joy for me is staying organized. One friend says my organizational skills are intimidating. Another says that’s good. Whatever. It makes me happy.
How do I stay organized? Every Friday for the last two years, I’ve gone through my own streamlined version of David Allen’s Getting Things Done. It started not too long after I checked out his book from the public library. Over the next few months I refined and simplified my version, and here’s what it looks like now:
- Go through my one pile of loose paper.
- Clean up the computer desktop.
- Review my calendar, update it and print a fresh copy. (I use iCal, but the print copy is my master.)
- Review all folders in the “Current Projects” folder on my computer.
- Review pending email and project email folders.
- Go through my stack of 3×5’s which list items to be done.
What underlies this system?
Get a To Do List System That Works For You. Me — it’s 3 x 5’s — my version of what’s sometimes called the hipster PDA. I love gizmos, but for my to do list I need it written, and 3 x 5’s are so lovely and flexible. Once I’ve finished a job, I file it away — ready to refer to as needed (e.g. when annual review time comes along).
Keep Your Email Inbox Empty. I force myself to do whatever an email requires of me right away — whether it’s to reply quickly, delete it, or put it in an appropriate action folder and make a 3×5 card (thus adding it to my to do list). For reasons I don’t fully understand, making the 3×5 is the hardest for me — the place I’m most likely to let my system slip. I think it’s because I’m an optimist and think, “Oh this will be quick.” While it might be quick, typically these little devils are the 15-minute type of quick.
Have a Well Organized Filing Cabinet. That was a big time investment for me at the front end, but it’s paid off in spades. To maintain it, when I’m adding a new folder, I hunt around to see if there are folders nearby that can be tossed. Usually there are.
Pick One Day Per Week To Review. Fridays seem perfect to me. In my job, there’s typically less stuff coming in on Friday, and it makes me ready to jump right back into the thick of things Monday. I’ll do most anything to ease Mondays.
In the end, the most important things this does (why I suppose it leaves me happy) is it helps me prioritize the rather massive amount of work coming my way. This in turn reduces the stress, and it leaves my office significantly tidier. All said, it’s a beautiful thing.