Monday, January 18, 2010

Clutter Be Gone!

Albert Einstein once said "If a cluttered desk is the sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then is an empty desk?" Although I'm not a mathematical genius I can tell you from my experience coaching individuals an empty (i.e., clear) desk is the sign of a clear mind.

Just take a moment to look at the two pictures above. Which picture makes you more energized to get to work? Which picture would you be able to leave at the end of the day and not be consumed with all the work that is left undone? Which desk would you be able to sit down and focus on a project. It's doesn't take a mathematical genius to know that sitting down at a clear desk with only the work at hand would make it far easier to focus and get the job done quickly and efficiently.

Today I want to take a quick moment and share with you a tip I read once that has been the most effective strategy for maintaining a clear desk that I have uncovered in my many hours of study on time management. It's simple, inexpensive and easy to put into place.
Step 1: Purchase two accordion files. One numbered 1-31 and one labeled for the months of the year. Also create a hanging file in a drawer close by for reading.

What I have discovered is that often the piles begin to accumulate because of projects and tasks that are not due yet. Individuals are often afraid to put anything away because they don't have the proper system in place and are concerned that they'll forget something. Unfortunately when a desk is overrun with clutter tasks are often forgotten anyway.

Step 2: Dedicate 2-3 hours to go through every piece of paper on your desk. File what needs to be filed in client or project files. File reading that can't be read at the moment in the reading file and then begin to file everything that has a due date in the accordion files. Anything due the current month would go in the 1-31 file on the appropriate date and anything due in the months ahead would go in the monthly accordion. If a project due has more than one piece of paper you can always create a vanilla folder with the name on it to insert into the date or month so that you can accumulate all the pieces for the project as they come in.

Step 3: Now you have a clear desk and you are ready to keep it that way. At the end of the day when all the work is done and the desk is cleared, pull the paperwork from the date file for the next day. Take a moment to review the work planned for tomorrow and compare with your calendar to determine when you will be able to accomplish it.

Step 4: Show up to start your day prepared and focused for the work that is to be accomplished.

Extra tip for Outlook users:
Perhaps you're inbox looks like your desk. Did you know that instead of keeping emails in your inbox for items that have future due dates you can click and drag a copy into your tasks or calendar and set date and time reminders so that Outlook reminds you. On the due date a reminder will go off in Outlook and you'll open the task and there is the content of your email.

It will take 21 days to make this habit stick and 3-6 months before the habit becomes a normal part of your routine but the energy and effectiveness you'll have by stepping into a clear environment each day will be its own reward.

If you need more help consider joining Compass and working the monthly action plan (MAP) titled Overcome Overwhelm where you'll get the daily direction, support and monthly coaching you need to de-clutter your desk, your life!

Karen Zeigler
Speaker & Life Coach


Nancy said...

Thanks Karen,
Have my two accordian files in hand and off to conquer my desk.