Monday, April 19, 2010

The Art of Organization

We all have our specialties in life... our little talents. Mine is organization. It's funny, because growing up I was the messiest kid around. (Note: I was never dirty... there's a difference between messy and dirty. I was just messy.) Seriously - my parents would periodically take everything off my floor and fill up a garbage bag or two. You better believe I had to really clean my room and earn back those garbage bags. (I remember one time, begging my Dad to let me me grab my only bra (my starter-bra) from one of said garbage bags! They used to preach to me, if it's important - you shouldn't be leaving it on the floor! (He did take pity on me and let me grab my one bra... too funny.) However, I have always loved school supplies... my sister and I used to sit down every night, probably the entire week before school started, and sort and organize our school supplies over and over!

Then I grew up and went to college. Do you remember your dorm room? You have got to be neat and organized, because if you're not, there is no way you're going to fit all of your belongings in that tiny little space! In college I somehow went from messy to neat-freak. Not really sure how it happened, I don't think I even realized that it happened! The friends on my floor thought I was hilarious with my neat-freak ways, and would periodically move things around on my desk, then laugh when I walked into the room, went straight to my desk and put things back in order. In my sorority house I became known for having the neatest room in the house... I found myself getting irritated when roommates would leave clothes out, or when one roommate would always manage to leave her polar pop on my desk... it wasn't going to fit on her cluttered desk!

Somehow, I became the local organization expert! I've helped friends organize their closets, given them tips on what little tools they could use to organize their kitchens, etc. If there was a job called "Professional Organizer", I would totally do it. And I would rock at it. Then I married a true, lifelong neat-freak. You can imagine what our house looks like! We struggle to be okay with it when people come over and don't take their shoes off, or if the put their purses and bags on the kitchen counter... or don't use coasters, or any other little thing that normal people do that drives us nuts. I like to adjust picture frames so that sit an exact 45 degree angle to the corner of the table... it drives me nuts when the blinds are crooked, and I truly cannot stand water around the sink, or when the dish towels are hung haphazardly.

Now as a Corporate Chickee, I've become the local neat-freak once again. Coworkers constantly comment on how neat and tidy my desk is... and how organized my work is. It's nice to be appreciated! So, I've decided to share some of my organization-tips, free of charge! Share your's too so we can all get even more organized!

1. Clear away clutter! I don't know about you - but mounds of paper everywhere make me start to feel like I'm drowning. In paper. If it needs action, file it in a to-do folder, or even in a nice neat stack in your in-box, if it doesn't need action it needs one of two things - to be filed for reference, or to be thrown away!
2. Color coding. Color coding is an excellent tool for visual people. Everything at my desk is color coded - one glance at my calendar and I have a good idea of how much time I'll need to prepare for client meetings, internal meetings, when I'm scheduled to work out, urgent tasks that need to be completed for clients, and even which nights I have personal functions after work.
3. Get on the Post-It Program! I love those little post-it tabs - they're stronger than regular post-it notes and smaller, and come in a variety of colors. You guessed it - I color code those as well. Red ones are assigned to new accounts, green ones mean I need to track shipments to a client, yellow, blue, and orange are all specific types of accounts that need extra steps, etc. One look at my binder of events I've planned for the next three months tells me what I need to do - now and later, for up to 3 months!
4. Lists. Every evening, about 30-minutes before the end of the workday, take some time to organize your desk, and make a list of everything you need to do the next day. That way you won't forget that project that you're halfway through, or to return a call to a client tomorrow morning that you didn't have time for today, and so on. I even take this one step farther. On Friday afternoon I make my list for the entire next week. I have a typed-up list saved on Word that I print out fresh for the next week. It already has on there the things I HAVE to do each week, regardless of whatever else I have going on. Then I write-in the details, make mini-lists on that one big list, etc. Then each evening, I update my list - cross off the things I've done, add new things, and so on. This helps me keep everything in one place. And it's okay if something gets transferred from last week's list to this week's list ... there are only so many hours in a day. And sometimes, if it's not urgent, it's not getting done. We all have those days!
5. Create a filing system. One that works for you - if you want to file alphabetically, or by date, or my favorites... doesn't matter. As long as it makes sense to you (and perhaps to an assistant who may need to understand it!), that's all that matters. You're more likely to really USE your filing system if it's organized in a manner that works for you.
6. Keep a voice mail log book. Record every voicemail you get, write down the number and the date they called. This way you won't forget to return someone's calls for days at a time! As an added bonus, you have their cell phone number written down from when they gave it to you three weeks ago!
7. Clear your desk! This was addressed already - but I can't say it enough! Put everything away at the end of the day. Your pens, your calculator, your files (even if you just stack them up in the corner of your office). Coming into a clean office each day puts you in a good mood and makes you feel productive! It's the same concept of why you make your bed each morning - to come home to a nice neat bedroom each evening!

So, those are a few of my organizational tidbits - share your tips!!

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