Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Anita’s Top 5 Tips for Staying Organized

With so much going on in my life, it can be difficult some weeks to keep it all together. In any given week I might need to interview an executive for an article I’m writing, write the article, help a client create a book outline, review a client's book content, provide feedback on a book proposal, draft some snappy copy for an ad, and review content for my e-zine (which you should be subscribed to; if you’re not, sign up in the upper left corner of this page). And that’s only the writing projects. That doesn’t even include personal errands, calls with my business coach and my mastermind group, exercise, chats with my girlfriends, quality time with my sweetie, or that often elusive activity called rest. 
So, with all of that, you might be wondering how I keep all of my projects straight and still manage to enjoy my life. Here are a few tips that I use to keep from getting scatter-brained:
  1. Prepare: Someone once told me that “Success happens when preparation meets opportunity.” When I play that quote over in my mind, I’m inspired to make time to prepare for the upcoming week so that when unanticipated things come up (and they always do), I’m already prepared for all of the usual items and can better manage the unexpected ones. For example, designate one day to consider your wardrobe, meal plans, meetings, presentations, documents, follow-up calls and other items you know are a part of your week. Prepare what you can for these activities so you don’t have to waste time thinking about it later. I actually review my calendar on Sundays and prepare my wardrobe for the entire week based on who I plan to meet with, the events I need to attend and any presentations I have scheduled.
  2. Clear the clutter: I’m what many people would call a neat freak. I’m baffled that neat people are called freaks when it’s the messy ones who seem totally freaked out to me. That said, your surroundings--car, home, office--are a direct reflection of what’s happening between your ears. When your mind is cluttered and confused, so will your environment be. So what comes first, clearing the clutter in your mind or that in your environment? Honestly, I don’t think it matters which you do first. But getting your surroundings as clear as possible of paperwork, laundry, dishes, and unused or unnecessary items can do wonders for helping you think more clearly. 
  3. Find a place: Looking for things is one of the biggest time wasters I can think of. It’s right up there with clearing spam emails and reading ridiculous Facebook posts ... but I digress. I like to have everything in a designated place so I don’t waste time looking for items. Review your living and work spaces and take a week or a month or however long it takes to designate a place for items. Clothes belong in the closet or drawer, not in a pile near the door. Papers belong in file folders or notebooks, not in a stack atop the desk or the kitchen counter. Make a place for your keys, wallet, purse, glasses, cell phone, and other often-used items and place them there when not in use so you’ll know where to find them when you need them.
  4. Systematize: There are certain activities that I do regularly. I’ve found that having a system saves time and eliminates the frustration of re-doing things. I have systems for placing follow-up calls, emailing new contacts, sending out my e-zine, scheduling meetings and several other tasks. Think about the activities you do regularly that could be systematized. Write down the order in which a particular task should be done ideally for optimal efficiency and results, and practice doing it that way each time. 
  5. Make lists: At any given moment I could be thinking about 20 things I should be doing. To help keep me from losing my mind trying to remember them all, I simply make a list. I keep a small spiral-bound notebook in my purse so when I think of something I need to do, I write it down and handle it in the appropriate time. Or, I use the voice record function on my PDA to record notes to myself of ideas, tasks or other items I’ll want to take care of at a later date. Try making lists of things you need to address such as projects, ideas, birthdays and anniversaries, events, and errands. Designate one day to record all of your to-dos onto one list for easier management. What’s important is to review your list regularly to ensure you address the items that need attention.
Please dont’t get the idea that every week is perfectly organized and flows smoothly for me. There are times when I have so many projects to manage that I want to scream, “Calgon, take me away!” However, when I take a breath and regroup to practice the above five activities, I find life to be much more manageable. 

By the way, I was recently invited to be a guest blogger on Organize to Revitalize, the blog of certified professional organizer, D. Allison Lee. Check out my latest post here.

So, tell me, what's your top tip for staying organized?

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