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What to Keep Where and For How Long

What to Do When Your Desk Is a Disaster by Ronnie Eisenberg , a nationally recognized time-management and organizational expert.

Many of my clients are truly frantic because their desks are such a mess. They can't find slips of paper on which they wrote important phone numbers; they know they received information they sent for, but it's buried in a pile of paper; they were working on a chapter of a novel, but the notes for the next chapter are gone. Here's how I counsel them when I make a house call:

  • Address your desk problems in blocks of time. You may be able to straighten out the clutter in a few hours, or you may need a weekend. Sometimes it's better to devote a couple of hours a day to the job until you're done.
  • Have on hand a trash can, a pen, file folders, labels and the other desk organizational aids mentioned above that suit your needs.
  • Clear the space you want to organize (the desk surface, one of the drawers, etc.). Then make a big pile of all the paper.
  • Evaluate each item, categorize it and put it away (in the desk drawer, in a file, in one of the desk organizers, etc.), throwing out as much as possible.
  • Even when you are feeling overwhelmed, just keep sorting and categorizing. If you devote the necessary time, your desk can be cleared.
  • Enlist the help of a partner;a spouse, a secretary, someone who can help you keep going.
Organization is a skill that can be learned. The most difficult part is breaking your lifelong bad habits (like letting your paperwork pile up). The key to getting better organized is to start with one small step and then take others one at a time. You may find that what you've put off for years takes only an hour to do. And once you see the benefits in one part of your life, you'll be motivated to go on.

If you implement the ideas given here, you'll be free from chaos and feel in charge of your life. Once you've started, stick with it. Getting organized is the first step; persistence and follow-through will keep you that way. Now, go get started.

Here are some tips to help you work better:

  • Make it a rule to always refile things. You can establish a special place (such as a desktop standing file) for current projects, but otherwise put everything away.
  • Put loose papers in clearly labeled files ("Tasks," "To Read," etc.) or color-coded ones (purple = medical, green = legal matter).
  • If you're concerned about remembering where you are going to put some notes you'll need for an upcoming project, note the location in your planner on the day or month the project is due.
  • Use your planner. It is invaluable for recording ideas in the working/developing stage. Instead of jotting down notes on scraps of paper and never knowing where to find them, you'll have one place to look when you want to refer back to that million-dollar idea, a clever paragraph for a sales letter, a new marketing idea, anecdotes or the details of a telephone conversation.
  • Set aside time daily for doing paperwork. Choose an hour when there are few distractions;if at home, in the early morning before the family gets up or if at work, before the staff comes in. During this time, use an answering machine or your voice mail system to screen calls, have your secretary hold calls or have a co-worker answer your phone (you can return the favor at another time).
  • Use the desk clock as an important ally. If you're procrastinating about something, tell yourself you'll work on it for "just 15 minutes." And use the clock to help you stop early enough so you will have time to put things away at the end of the day.

    5 things you should do Daily in your office

    1 Defragment your computer- you'll waste too much time waiting for things to happen if you dont do this Daily!
    2 Make sure all notes & addresses are transfered to your day planner
    3 Remove manuels & catalogs from desk top & put them in their proper place
    4 File as you go- dont wait to put things away
    5 Run your virus scan if you do email or downloading

    Paper chase continued on the next page

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