Vacation Series: Organization

BirchWhiteElfaDecorReach_xImage courtesy of The Container Store

By Kimberly Reyes (@CommDuCoeur)

It’s August, and while some of you are probably cruising down the French Riviera (jealous!), some of us are getting blasted with air conditioning as we pound away at our keyboards trying to get our ducks in a row before the busy fall season. That’s why all this week, Pixels & Pills is writing one post a day about making the most of your office hours while clients and colleagues are away on vacation.

Today, it’s all about getting organized.

Stop groaning. Seriously. I can hear you from here. Its not becoming.

And dont give me that line about messy desks being the hallmarks of creative minds. Pixels & Pills is all about creativity, but if you’ve ever visited the Palio or Zemoga offices, you can see we have a knack for keeping things in order. Getting organized can seem intimidating, but nothing will make you more productive, and youre guaranteed to reap side benefits (Hey, who knew there was a window in that corner of the office?).

Physical Organization

The more organized the place around you is, the easier it is to think. Heres a foolproof way to get it done:

  1. Choose a chunk of space. Maybe its a file cabinet, or maybe its just one file. Maybe its your backpack or your bookcase. Whatever space you decide on, thats what youre organizing – no more, no less.
  2. Clear a flat, bare area to set everything youre taking out. It can be a tabletop or just a section of floor.
  3. Move everything out of the space youre organizing and lay it out on the flat area.
  4. Clean the space. Dust, disinfect, Febreze – whatever it takes.
  5. Sort everything in the flat area into four piles. Throw Away, Give or Return to Someone, Belongs Somewhere Else, and Keep: the piles are pretty self-explanatory.
  6. Chuck everything in the “throw away pile. Now, not later.
  7. Take each item in the “belongs somewhere else pile and bring it where it belongs. Now, not later.
  8. Pack up or otherwise prepare the “give or return items. Now, not later.
  9. Look critically at each item in the “keep pile. You dont need four pairs of scissors: you need one sharp pair. Make sure youre keeping only what can help you most.
  10. Replace the final “keep items into the clean space. Give each item a home: the scissors are always on the left-hand side of the drawer; the Metro card for the subway is always in the backpacks inside pocket. If theres only one place that each item goes, its that much easier to find it, keep it – and get on with life.

Digital Organization

When weve got what feels like unlimited storage – our own office networks, Gmail, Flickr, Facebook – it can be easy to scoff at the need to organize anything digitally. I’ve fallen in this trap too many times: deadlines pile on, and organization moves to the bottom of the priority list. Suddenly, I’m on the phone with someone and need to cite a document…but is it in the Downloads folder? My desktop? One of my hundreds of document folders? Then I find myself uttering those eight dreaded words: “Can I get back to you on that?” Here are a few quick rules as you limber up the finger nearest the “Delete key.

  1. Dont save drafts or trials. Once you have a final copy, you dont need the weeks or months of revisions that came before. If you cant stomach letting them go, or your regulatory system requires storage for a certain time, at least put them in a separate “drafts folder that youll delete after a determined period of time. The same goes for pictures and videos. Keep the best ones, the ones youll share, the ones youll work with. Dont save the 35 clips you had to take to get that great 36th take, or the 77 pictures that didnt quite capture the moment that the 78th did.
  2. Dont save ancient history. Pictures of your childs first steps, yes. Tax returns, yes. Expense reports from 2002? Not so much. Sort by date, and start with the oldest files; youll immediately see how much you dont need to keep.
  3. Back up. Until now weve been talking about how to pare down your possessions, both physical and digital – but dont forget to back up what matters. External hard drives and online backup sources are extremely reasonably priced, and the peace of mind is priceless.

Temporal Organization

Even if your office is a spotless oasis of calm, even if your computer desktop is pristine, if you dont know when your meetings or calls or deadlines are, youre not organized.

  1. Find your plan. Whether its a your Outlook calendar, iCal or PDA, or a wall calendar or a paper planner, find the method of organizing your time that works comfortably with you – and stick to it.
  2. Use it. Make scheduling something that you do religiously. Take a minute before your week begins and before your day begins to be sure you know what youre doing.
  3. Challenge it. There are people with the same Filofax theyve had since 1974 and there are people who latch on to a new “life-changing system every January 1st. Find a system and use it, but consider a change when your life changes. When you move to a new job, will it help you to move onto the new companys networked calendar?

Youve got four months to finish out 2010 as your best year for you, your team, your colleagues, your company, your clients, your doctors, your patients. Get cleaned up and get to business!

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