I want 2015 to be a great year! Don't you?
I know I must be at my best for that to happen and a large part of that is personal organization.
I did not always see things that way.
The other day, I mentioned to my wife that I really needed to straighten up our home office.
After doing a double take (literally, a double take) she asked me, "Who are you?"
For years she said I could not find anything on my desk at the office. I would tell her, "Leave it alone! I know where everything is!" And, of course, I didn't. Things got lost in the shuffle.
When I worked for a newspaper that I won't name (I am so embarrassed this happened ... and it wasn't this one) I lost a particular document and swore I never received it.
Years later, when cleaning out my desk, I found it. It had slipped beneath the folders in my filing drawer. How awful! I still cringe!
But I learned better. It took time and more than a few moments of anguish, but I learned better. Now, I'm proud to say you can see 83 percent of the top of my desk at the office!
So, if personal organization is important, where do you start?
I belong to Google+ and to a group about productivity. The problem is, if I took time to read every email sent to me from members of that group, messages about productivity would consume me and I wouldn't get anything done.
What have I learned that would help you? Here are a few ideas that will rock your world, if you will implement them.
First, much of this, but now all, can be found in David Allen's "Getting Things Done." READ IT! It is without doubt one of the most important books of the 21st century (to date, at least.)
That being said, here is my gift to you for the new year:
1. Practice the two-minute rule.
If you see something that needs to be done, and it can be done in two minutes or less, DO IT NOW! You will be surprised how much more tidy your office, your home and your car will become.
2. Make lists!
I prefer Wunderlist, a free software package for PC, Mac, Android and iPhone. I've tried other packages but always return to Wunderlist.
Lists are important because they clarify your thinking, they are a means of prioritizing what is important to you. I could go on and on. If you're interested, let me know and maybe I'll devote future columns to the subject.
3. Keep a calendar.
I used to be a Daytimer fanatic back in the early '80s. Daytimer is a paper based calendar. Then I became frustrated with having to write and rewrite things to do from one day/week to the next (depending on which version of the Daytimer calendar I used in a particular year.)
I was also frustrated with lack of being able to search for an event or a "to do" or a follow up to something I had already done.
Finally, I quit using Daytimer and started "winging it" from day to day. Then one of my bosses told me, "You need to get organized. I recommend Daytimer." (Go figure.)
Now I use Google Calendar because I can access it on my phone, my PC at home, my Mac at work and even on my new Wndows 8.1 tablet using the Windows tablet calendar app! Google and Microsoft, the company that makes Windows software are fight to the death competitors, so it's surprising to find I can use a Google product on a Windows app.
David Allen suggested solid, time sensitive appointments be kept on your calendar and everything else be put into a to do list - on paper or computer.
4. Use an In Basket and keep it clean!
No, I don't mean you should not put filthy pictures in it (although you probably shouldn't.)
I mean an In Basket should be a very brief, temporary, holding bin for things that need to be put away. If you don't know where to put something, it's OK to leave it in the basket temporarily, as long as the basket doesn't become its new home.
You can even put reminders in the basket for things too large to put in the basket itself, such as "find a place for the stuff on the top shelf of your office closet." Then, throw the note away when the task is finished.
5. Finally, dream big!
Set big goals for yourself. What would you ideally be doing a year, three years and five years from now?
Today is not the time to think about if the goals are possible or how to accomplish them (that is for a future time, when you review your goals.) Write them down.
It's not enough to put them in the back of your mind. Thee is power in writing down what you want to accomplish.
I believe our minds have the power to figure out how to get the big things done on a subconscious level and writing down our big goals is like sending a written memo to our subconscious -- "When you're not busy, this is what I want to do."
To answer my wife, who am I? I'm a much happier person when I don't have to use my brain to remember things and can use it to think about what I consider important! But she already knows that I'm happier.
Frank Phillips is a reporter for The Brazil Times and a freelance writer. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.