Favorite Organizing Tricks

In this week’s ZoomLetter, I shared 4 of my favorite ORGANIZING TRICKS.
What follows is an addendum to each of the first three of them. (To check out all 4 original tricks, scroll to the bottom of this post).

1) Additional e-mail trick: If you have the willpower, make it a point to check e-mail just twice a day. To take this one step further, consider adding an auto-responder message along the following lines: “Thank you for your email. Please note that I regularly check email at 11am and 4pm. If your matter requires immediate attention, please call me at the following number. Thank you and have a great day.”

2) Two more TO-DO list tricks: a) Consider dividing your daily TO-DO list into two or more parts based on content, location, or time of day. For instance, I divide mine into “day and evening” sections, placing daytime items towards the top of the list. Alternately, you can experiment with dividing your TO-DO list into “work and personal” sections or into “in the office and on-the-road” sections. b) When it comes to longer-term wish list items (i.e. planting that garden, taking that dream vacation, cleaning that closet, or taking that painting class), try keeping them all on one “intention” list (perhaps as a document saved to your computer). Then, each week during your 15-minute personal planning session, scan the “intention” list and see how you might add a small piece of one intention to your daily TO-DO lists for the coming week. For instance, “call travel agent” jotted on Wednesday’s TO-DO list or “research classes at The New School” jotted on Thursday’s TO-DO list starts to make taking that dream vacation or that painting class MORE REAL in bite-size chunks.

3) A twist on eliminating piles: If folders aren’t your thing, consider using open bins. Any type of boxes or bins will do (i.e. plastic, cardboard, wicker). The trick is to make sure not to use lids, so it’s easy to throw things into the bins. This will eliminate the tendency to leave papers accumulating out in the open on desktops or counter tops. You can assign names to the bins just as you might do to folders: “the action bin” and “the catch-all bin”, and you can put off sorting the bins until they start to fill. If you’re looking for something important, the worst that can happen is that you’ll have to sort through one or two bins (rather than looking all over the house). For young kids, try making tossing items in bins into a fun game.

If you have more organizing tricks that you’d like to share, I’d love to hear from you! Please leave a comment to this blog below…

To learn more about personal coaching, visit www.JZBcoaching.com.

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THIS WEEK’S ZOOMLETTER: 4 OF MY FAVORITE ORGANIZING TRICKS

2) TOUCH E-MAIL ONCE: The old rule about touching papers once applies to e-mail, too. If your e-mail inbox feels like an overwhelming TO-DO list, it’s time to stop using e-mails as visual reminders that lie around like piles of paper. When opening an e-mail, commit to do 1 of 3 things: a) delete it, b) reply to it (if doing so will take less than 1 minute), or c) make a note on a separate daily TO-DO list to respond later. This eliminates the need to continually scan through e-mails or re-read them (both big time-wasters), because you rest assured that if an e-mail has been opened, either it has been acted upon or has been “captured” as an action item on your TO-DO list. Keep in mind, too, that in many cases, time spent deliberating over how to craft an e-mail “to strike just the right tone” can be cut in half by picking up the phone.

2) SCRAP THE LONG TO-DO LIST: A lengthy TO-DO list that includes everything from work meetings to salon appointments to grocery items to longer-term wish items (like finally planning that dream vacation) can overwhelm the sanest of us. Instead of keeping one long-running TO-DO list, commit to putting aside 15 minutes once a week for a “personal planning session”. I like to hold mine on Fridays. Every Friday, I transfer my work appointments and personal appointments for the upcoming week onto individual, daily TO-DO lists (this is a snap if you use an electronic PDA, but if you’re like me and do it longhand, a ringed steno notebook or weekly planner comes in handy). After the appointments are in, I add other action items to each day, according to what errands I want to run and where I’ll be that week. For instance, I generally add an item like “work out at the gym” most weekday mornings, while I might add “do laundry” to Thursday’s list and “buy groceries” to Tuesday’s list. This way, items aren’t left floating on a long list, but rather, have a day of the week assigned to each of them. Another nice thing about taking the 15 minutes for a planning session once a week is getting to scan the upcoming week from a 30,000-foot view, allowing a vantage point to plan ahead. For instance, if I see “corporate presentation” on Wednesday afternoon, I can make sure to add “prepare handouts” to Tuesday’s TO-DO list.

3) ELIMINATE PILES: When opening mail or sorting papers, keep 4 items close by as a short-term “filing system”: a) a garbage can, b) a folder labeled “catch-all”, c) a folder labeled “action”, and d) your daily TO-DO lists (or PDA). The most obvious is the garbage can – for items that can be tossed.  (As a wise reader points out, ALL clean office paper, receipts, cardboard, inserts etc. should be recycled, and not tossed into the garbage can). The “catch-all” folder comes in handy for items that don’t require action but may be good to hold onto for future reference (i.e. coupons, notices, receipts, etc). Alternately, for items that require action (i.e. bills, invitations, etc.), file them in the “action” folder and make a note – right then and there – on your TO-DO list of the action you want to take (i.e. pay insurance bill or RSVP to Jane’s birthday party). When it comes time to take the action, you’ll know just where to find the bill or the invitation — tucked away safely in the “action” folder. After the action has been taken, you can transfer the bill or the invitation to the “catch-all” folder (for safe-keeping, if you want to hold onto them). This filing method eliminates clutter on counter tops, takes the pressure off needing to sort or file upfront (since you only have two folders to contend with), and means you always know where important papers are (either in the “action” folder or in the “catch-all” folder). Once a month or so, carve out some time to go through the catch-all folder, discarding some items and transferring others to longer-term filing systems as needed (for example, if you save statements or bills for tax purposes).

4) ADD A GOOD SENSE OF HUMOR: As helpful as a TO-DO list and a fab organizing system can be, nothing beats a sense of humor when it comes to feeling good in the midst of the crazy-busy lives most of us lead. Cut yourself some slack, be kind to yourself and to others, and remember to laugh when the best laid plans go awry or something falls through the cracks. Others will appreciate you for it, and you’ll add years to your life and quality to those years.

As a personal coach, I help busy individuals self-style approaches to taming “overwhelm”, finding time, and keeping organized. If you have a valuable tip for doing any of the above, I would love to learn about it and share it with our readers. Please don’t hesitate to reach out!

Here’s to being human and having fun,

Jen's signature

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2 Responses to “Favorite Organizing Tricks”

  1. Au Pair Says:

    very nice web site. My English is not so good, so I do not understandt it well, but it seems very good. Thanks

  2. Lindsay Says:

    My favorite new thing that is helping us- Mail sorting. I bought a magnetic mail sorter with two “pockets.” One I labeled “TO PAY” and one I labeled “TO FILE.” Our main home door is metal so I stuck it right inside the door. Now every time I come inside with the mail I stop and sort it immediately- rather than throwing it in a pile and hoping it makes it’s way to my desk in the other room. I also have a paper bag (which I will replace with a nicer looking basket at some point) in which I throw all of the envelopes and junk mail to be recycled.

    I AM LOVING this system!

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