Do not plan to complete everything in one sitting or on the same day. Keep your energy up, and stop when tired. Here are more tips to stay organized.
By Odette Pollar (California)
As a family lawyer, you know that things pile up. Papers multiply. Stuff just seems to arrive and remain indefinitely. Your working environment should support you, rather than weigh you down. No matter how large managing a case may seem, it is manageable and will move along quicker than you might think. Start slowly. The case will be less overwhelming if you break it into small chunks of time. And be realistic. Do not plan to complete everything in one sitting or on the same day. To keep your energy up and your enthusiasm in place, and stop when you get tired. Return to the task when you are refreshed. This is better than forcing yourself into a marathon sorting job. These suggestions will help.
1. Resist the desire to buy organizing products. Sort first, toss and then see what you really need to keep. Purchase the proper storage bins and containers after you evaluate what remains.
2. Keep close to you only the things you use frequently. Store little-used items farther away. Even on a shelf, keep the least-used items in the back out of the way of the easier and often-used items.
3. When clearing the top of surfaces, start with one stack of papers and sort from the top down. When finished with each stack, you will see a clear workspace, and your progress will be easy to monitor. This forces you to decide on each piece of paper and when finished, you will see the top of your desk again.
4. Commit yourself to making decisions now about what to do with each item the first time that you touch it. The goal is to handle paper only once. Ask yourself, “Do I really need it?” If so, file the document at once in the broadcast category to which it refers.
5. Break the habit of writing things down on numerous scraps of paper. Write notes in the appropriate place the first time; in the client file, in the calendar or on your to/do list.
6. Be realistic about the amount of information you can read and absorb. Limit the number of subscriptions you take, and tear out interesting articles as soon as you read them. Pass the periodical along to someone else, throw it away or recycle it.
7. Make lists regularly. Daily To-Do lists, as well as larger Project lists help you get and stay organized. Use checklists to help do routine things more easily and quickly.
8. Say “no” more often. The best way to get off-track is to say “yes” to every request. Every time you agree to a new demand, you say no to a previous commitment. Your time is precious.
9. Don’t buy anything unless you have a place to put it. To keep excess at bay, if you add an item, you must remove an item.
10. On the outside, label everything that contains things: binders, folders, etc.
11. Organize bookcases by placing similar materials together.
12. Schedule multiple appointments for the same day instead of spreading them throughout the week. This reduces your travel time and parking hassles.
13. Buy enough greeting cards for special occasions like birthdays, anniversaries, ”thank you,” “get well” and so on at one time, so that you need not make special trips to the store. Before you say that you send greeting cards electronically, think about how you feel when you receive a real card. Does it carry more, less or the same emotional weight as an electronic one?
14. Keep two files: one for instruction manuals, and one for guarantees. Staple the receipt to the guarantee or warranty page. Then when you need to return an item, all the information is handy. Purge periodically for appliances that have worn out, broken, or been sent to charity.
15. Label photos with the date and people’s names as soon as they are developed.
16. Keep only one project or file open on your desk at any time. This reduces the likelihood of stray papers becoming attached to the incorrect document and misfiled.
17. When unsure about what to do with a document, ask yourself, “What would I do if it were one week before vacation?” Act accordingly.
18. Spend 15 minutes twice a day clearing out your in-box. Don’t let it turn into a holding, ageing or procrastinating tray. Sort incoming mail into categories by priority or by action.
19. Clear the top of your desk at the end of each day. It completes the day’s work, makes a clean space for you to see the next morning and stops paper buildup.
20. Get items back to their home quickly. Maintenance is the key to success. This will ensure that you don’t face another overwhelming organizing project next year
Odette Pollar is a nationally known speaker, author, and consultant. President of the management consulting firm, Smart Ways to Work based in Oakland, CA, her most recent book is Surviving Information Overload.
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