Chapter 4, day 2.
You need to have some sort of tool in place to keep track of reminders of actions, agendas and projects. Whether this be a day planner, a small spiral notepad, an electronic handheld device, or a piece of paper listing all that you need to undertake during a particular day, is up to you. You have to decide what is simple and easily reviewable for you. What works well for one doesn’t for someone else. What is easiest for you to remember to review and keep track of appointments and your To-Do lists?
As you go through your in-basket, the post-its, stapler and paper clips will come in handy for those less than 2 minute actions. The stuff that will require more than 2 minutes will go into another of your trays. Another tray for stuff to file. Then, it’s time to go over your project inventory, plugging things into your calendar, action and agenda reminders and tracking things on your lists, such as “Waiting For” items, as well as the other lists that you’ll need to frequently review and update.
Lists can be kept on papers in file folders, or on a computer word-processing file or Excel spreadsheet or whatever is a comfortable, organized fashion that works for you. Loose-leaf notebook, planner, files, digital. Just remember, whatever you’ve used in the past and is not working for you, you might want to try a different approach. Not only should it be user-friendly, but it should also be fun.
Remember the two different filing systems: general-reference filing, which is for storing articles, brochures, notes, printouts, faxes, pieces of paper – anything that you want to keep but doesn’t fit into your specialized filing system. Discrete filing is for those contracts, financial info, etc. Mr. Allen suggests keeping these separate but, for me, I keep all of my filing together, organized alphabetically, since that is more time effective when I’m looking for something. I have 4 two-drawer filing cabinets and have each drawer labeled: A-E on drawer 1, F-J on the 2nd, and so on.
Mr. Allen says that it should take you less than one minute to pick something out of your in-basket or print from e-mail, decide if it needs a specific action or whether it should be placed in a file. You can quickly label a new file, if you need one, with your stash of handy fresh file folders and your trusty labeler, stick it and go to the next item.
I’m so happy with myself today. I worked my buns off yesterday putting some of this stuff into action. I went through stacks and threw about a ton of stuff in the garbage, found some stuff to donate to Goodwill, or Freecycle (Google it. There may be one or more in your area), or stuff that I could cast-off to a friend that needs it. I actually cleaned out my office closet and can see the floor now! Yea, me!
Keeping your file drawers less than three-quarters full will make filing and retrieval much easier and swifter.
Also, don’t go buy those $29.95 file cabinets. They are simply not worth the hassle. I speak from experience here. I have these sale cabinets and they are cheap, cheap, cheap. When the drawers are overused or two heavy from being stuffed too full, it’s a complete drag trying to open that drawer with that awful screeching sound (to be compared with fingernails raking angrily across a chalkboard), and then it’s nearly impossible, once the drawer has been opened, to get the dang thing shut again. Don’t make the mistake I have. Make an investment. Buy a higher quality file cabinet – the kind that’s a bit more than the $30 special – the kind where the drawers glide out smoothly and are closed just as gracefully, and get the kind where you can forego the hanging files. The hanging files take up too much room. You don’t need all that superfluous hardware in there. Make it simple. All you need are the manilla file folders themselves, along with the movable metal plate in the back of each drawer that allows the folders to stand by themselves. I realize you may not be afforded that option at work, as it is the corporate thing to have the side-opening hanging-folder system, but if you can get away with it, do away with the hanging-file system. You’ll be so glad you did. Not only will this save you time and stress, it will give you more room in your drawers for more files. I plan to invest in higher quality file cabinets once I’m earning money again. 😉
Calendar in one day per year for purging your files. You’ll need to decide what can be thrown out, what can go to a closed file site or off-site storage for safe-keeping later when you may need it again. And you should also have a day where you go through your inactive off-site or closed filing, as well. One day, a particular file is going to be old and not needed any longer. You need to purge those, too, maybe every 2-5 years?
Now that you’ve blocked off time, you’ve set up your work area and you have your tools ready to use, you need to make a conscious commitment to apply your full attention to the work you are about to do. Do not make calls or take calls or leave for an appointment. This is time you need to devote and hold sacred for accomplishing these tasks – the tasks of organizing your office, your home, your life. Get it under control. This is an appointment (for several hours per however many days) you have made with yourself and your office or whatever area of your life you are organizing, be it your kitchen, your craft/hobby room, whatever. Make the time and do the time.
That’s the end of Chapter 4. Tomorrow, Chapter 5: Collection: Corralling Your “Stuff.” This Chapter will probably take 1-2 days to go through.
Think about what kind of book you’d like to be doing for a study after Book 3, which is One Month To Live. If you want, leave me a comment and let me know what you come up with. Hallie has been talking about wanting to choose a book, since these others have been just a bit above her head. She’s thinking of a cookbook for kids or adults – basic cooking, maybe quick and easy 20 minute meals. She mentioned Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking but I think we’d be biting off a little more than we could chew. Pun intended. Plus, I think that’s a hint that we’ve watched Julie and Julia one too many times. Another book she’s thinking of is a book on Volunteerism. She’s been talking about establishing a volunteer organization for cleaning up our communities for a while and since she’s wanted to pick up litter on sides of the roads and in parking lots since before she could walk, I think this would be a great thing for her. Plus, as a previous Girl Scout (and always a Girl Scout at heart), she’s a go-getter and makes great plans to do things and has better follow-thru than me, although I will give myself a tiny bit of credit for actually following through with this daily reading and studying, daily blogging, and putting what I’ve read into action daily, for over 50 days now. Without fail. I hope I can keep it up. I love sharing my heart and my thoughts with you. I love typing and writing and so, I think I will continue.
Make it a perfectly productive Tuesday. Enjoy the day. Love ya!