get organized, part 1

Being organized saves time.  (Duh.)  And yet, so many of us are NOT organized.  We fear the effort it takes to become organized, or we dread the amount of time it will take, or we simply don’t know where to start.

Well, to be efficient meeting planners, we have to be organized.  That’s all there is to it.  Don’t dread the process.  Don’t fear the time commitment.  Don’t worry about where  to start.  I’m going to walk you through all of it.  Slowly.  Using small words.

Where to begin??  Let’s start with something that will have an immediate and visible impact.  The desk.

Look at everything on your desk.  All of it.  The papers, the piles, clips, pens, purse, gum, coffee mug, phone…  Feeling overwhelmed?  Don’t hyperventilate.  You’re OK.  It’s going to get better, quickly.

Step 1
Pick up each item that you use each and every day and set it aside (either in a clear space on your desk, on the floor, in a box, whatever, just corral these things).  For me, that’s my calculator, stapler, 20-year calendar, telephone, computer, to-do list, mug and inbox.  Your goal is to keep only these items on your desk “all the time”.

Step 2
Look at the other things on your desk.  What’s there?  Is there anything on your desk that has another home?  Now is the time to put it in its home.  Do this with anything on top of your desk that has a home elsewhere.  Files, binders, lunch, mittens…  Put it away, give it back to its owner, take it home, whatever.  Just get it off your desk.

Step 3
Now, look at your desk again.  Looking any better?  Hope so.  Now’s the time to go through each thing that’s still on the desk and decide whether or not you’re going to keep it.  Papers from a project you completed a month ago?  Magazines you might never read?  Current work?  File folders you haven’t bothered to label?  Use the old “keep/toss” method (keep things you know you’ll use/refer to regularly and toss everything else).

Step 4
Act on the items you’ve decided to keep and pitch the items you no longer need.  Make labels for those file folders, and actually file them away.  Create files for your current work and put it somewhere handy, like your top file drawer, right up front.  Recycle the magazines you know you’re not going to make time to read.

Step 5
Once your desk surface is visible again, wipe it down.  Clean it with Windex, soap and water, just water, anything you can get your hands on.  It never ceases to amaze me how much better I feel when the surface is both superficially and ACTUALLY clean.

Step 6
Last step!  Woo hoo!   This is the fun part.  Pull out the items you set aside in Step 1 (stapler, phone, etc.).  Think about how you use them.  Do you dial your phone with your right hand, but hold the receiver with your left when you talk?  Put your phone on your left side, so that you can hold it with your left hand and not have the cord flopping over your right hand while you take notes.  I’m right-handed, so everything goes on the right side of my desk, except my phone, which is on the left.

Once you’ve completed these initial steps, you can objectively think about what else to bring back out.  Some experts state that only current projects you’re actively working on should be on your desk, and everything else should be put away.  I have about 1,000 projects I’m actively working on, so I file everything and use my to-do list to remind me what to pull out next.

Next time, I’ll talk about the actual files – electronic and physical.

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