One of the personal characteristics listed in the Summary section of my LinkedIn Profile reads as follows:
“Organized – My desk, my work, my email inbox, my car, my closet, my home….you name it, it’s organized.” (Help keep me honest and test me on this the next time you see me!)
For me, it’s a bit of a personal addiction. One of my pet peeves is wasting time, be it mine or others, so having things organized increases the probability that I won’t spend hours picking up around the house, cleaning out my email inbox, looking for my car keys, dealing with IT issues, or whatever it is that can end up wasting valuable time throughout the day.
It struck me the other day when I was at a client’s office and staring at mountains of paper, files, sticky notes, etc. that “being organized” is a unique skill-set. I know it seems some people are born with an “organization gene” coded into their DNA, but the reality is YOU TOO CAN BE ORGANIZED!
So please indulge me a bit as I share the following tips that can absolutely save you time, money, and pretty much change your life if you commit to implementing them:
1. Minimize Clutter – Ever done “Spring cleaning” around the house? Remember how great it felt when you were finally done and those closets were clean and organized? What if EVERY DAY was like that? I’m a strong proponent of keeping things “picked up”, whether it’s around the house, in my car, in my office, on my desk, in my closet, in the storage rooms of our house…wherever. If you live or work in an environment that is cluttered with papers, files, sticky notes, laundry, or just plain junk, you subconsciously are creating an environment around you that screams “STRESS” and “I’LL NEVER GET CAUGHT UP” and “I’VE LOST ALL CONTROL”. Your environment is controlling you instead of the other way around. So dive in and come up with a system that works for you or work with someone that knows how to organize things. Even more importantly, and more challenging, is that once you have cleaned out your car, picked up around the house, cleaned up your files, etc……KEEP IT THAT WAY. Minimizing clutter is a daily effort, but if you commit to doing it, you will regain control of your environment, minimize stress for you and those around you, be more productive, and have more personal time for yourself. It’s not easy, but it can be done and it’s absolutely worth it.
2. USB Key That Stores ALL of Your Passwords and Usernames: Have you ever forgotten your username or password for a web site? Have you ever had to hit “Forgot Password” and then wait for a new password to be emailed to you? Do you have a piece of paper somewhere that has all of your usernames and passwords written on it? Jason got me hooked onto the USB Password Key when we first started working together. IT. IS. AMAZING. Check out Jason’s blog post about this awesome tool that is absolutely a life changer. It takes 1-2 hours to get the key set up and train you how to use it and then you are on your way!
3. Email Calendar Program: Jason and I both use Microsoft Outlook’s Calendar to manage our day-to-day lives. Whether it’s meetings with each other, meetings with clients/prospects, date nights with our wives, vacation time, remembering to set the trash and recycling cans out on Sunday night, setting my fantasy football lineup, remembering birthdays and anniversaries for close friends and families, or scheduling specific “ME” time….whatever it is, it goes on the calendar. We use reminders, the “recurring appointment” feature for items that happen the same time/date each month, year, etc. Our calendars ensure that we are on time and that things don’t fall through the cracks. Bottom Line: If it’s on the calendar, it gets done.
4. Keep Your Email Inbox Clean: Anyone that tells you that an overflowing inbox doesn’t bother them is lying. This is absolutely a skill and it takes practice and repetition to become an Email Master! Over the years I’ve gotten into the practice of dealing with emails when they come in. I read them, file them, or delete them. If there are emails that require action from me, I will deal with it at the time I read it or add it to a TO DO LIST (sometimes I’ll create a Word document; sometimes I’ll have a TO DO LIST appointment on my calendar, sometimes I’ll use a Post-It Note. You have to figure out what works best for you.) By moving things out of my inbox, it gives me control and helps me prioritize. If you aren’t able to do this, then start by setting up a calendar appointment (or two or three) each day that is “Email Time” that lets you specifically focus on staying on top of your email inbox.
5. Smartphone: According to this article, 1 of every 2 Americans will have a Smartphone by Christmas 2011. I previously had a Blackberry and my life-changing moment happened when I got the iPhone 4. It’s fast. Efficient. Easy to use. Let’s me check email regularly (another way to control your email clutter…I use the same principle here: Read it. File It. Or Delete It.), make calendar appointments that sync automatically with Microsoft Outlook on my laptop, and soooooooooooo much more. We highly recommend investing in a one of the various Smartphones out there. They save time, money, and absolutely change your life.
6. RSS Feeder: I know many people see RSS and they think it’s a technical term so they run away from it as fast as they can. DON’T! This is another life changer that will save you tons of time. Jason wrote this blog article about RSS Feeds back in May. Check it out. You can also watch this short video: “RSS in Plain English” . Personally, I use Google Reader and highly recommend it.
These quick tips are just the beginning. There are tons of other things you can do to organize your personal and professional lives. The first thing you need to do is to commit to making the change. Once you’ve done that, make a plan and do it for yourself or get help from me, Jason or anyone else you know that has the “organization gene”.
What things do you do to help you stay organized? Share it with us and our readers. We just might include it in a future blog post!