We live in a busy society, and we’re constantly on the move. As we transition from one task to the next, organization is more than just an ideal to strive for; it’s a necessity. Not surprisingly, book stores house an entire section of guidebooks – all dedicated to the art of ordered living. But you don’t have to spend twenty dollars just to make sense of your work and living spaces. Whether your office is located in your home, your car, your company’s headquarters, or all of the above, you can apply these simple rules and achieve an organized environment.
AT HOME: Categorize Your Paperwork
Many households create a catch-all location for their incoming mail and paperwork. Popular locations include dining room tables and kitchen countertops. Of course, your dining room table was not intended to function as a mailbox. And before long, these areas tend to become a giant mess.
But you can eliminate the “pile problem” and organize your paperwork, by distributing items to specific baskets. Create one basket for bills, another for important receipts, and another for coupons or gift cards. Baskets should be stored in a convenient place – ideally, close to your door, so you won’t be tempted to drop paperwork on the counters again. If possible, store the baskets in a drawer or a cabinet, so they’re not susceptible to spills and other mishaps. Finally, as baskets start to fill up, scan through the contents and discard outdated materials.
If you subscribe to newspapers or magazines, find out if your subscription includes online access. If so, cancel your paper copies and eliminate the extra clutter. You should also make a habit of placing store catalogs directly in the recycling bin. (All of their contents are viewable online, and you’ll be less tempted to shop if the catalogues are out of sight.)
AT WORK: Create an End-of-day Cleaning Routine
By the end of each day, try to address – or at least file – all of the incoming calls and e-mails you received. Some people receive hundreds of daily e-mails, and can’t respond to them all in one day, but everyone can make an effort to delete old voicemails, junk mail items, and unnecessary forwards, before heading home. This way, the items that still need your attention will be more prominently displayed.
You should also find an “end-of-day” place for all the papers that are spread across your desk. Depending on your job, you may need to categorize them according to their client file, priority level, or some other distinction. The important thing is that nothing is left dangling out in the open.
A daily clean sweep of your desk accomplishes two things. Firstly, you won’t feel so overwhelmed by your work load when you arrive the next morning. And secondly, you won’t risk losing an important form or revealing confidential information to everyone who walks past your desk. If you don’t think you’ll remember to follow this routine, use your computer calendar to send yourself daily reminders.
ON THE GO: Use Both Technology and Hard Copy Resources
Today’s cell phones work like small computers. You can check your e-mail, find a phone number, and even get directions just by tapping your phone. Still, cell phones are not fool proof. You may lose signal or experience a dead battery at a very critical moment. One way to subvert the problem is to travel with a phone charger that can plug into your car. You might also want to keep a spare charger in your glove compartment or your purse, in case you need to recharge your phone outside the car.
Another solution is to carry an old-fashioned address book with a calendar. You never know when your phone might fall into a puddle or otherwise malfunction. An address book helps you store all your most important contacts – doctors, teachers, coworkers, kids’ coaches, etc. And it’s just as portable as your cell phone. Paper lists and calendars are also convenient when you need to pass the information on to a babysitter, or if your phone is ever stolen.
Jennifer Applin is a freelance writer and will soon be the mother of six young children born within a 5-year span. Her writing focuses on strategies for busy parents to juggle it all.