January 18, 2012
Five organizational tips from a self-confessed slob
I'm a slob. This is not conjecture or self-deprecation, it's a personality trait. Ask my mother. When I was a teenager she referred to my room as a pigsty. She'll tell anyone I'm a slob. I actually think she exaggerates, but I admit organization is not my strength.
I've come to appreciate the benefits of keeping physical clutter, and therefore mental clutter, at bay. It doesn't come naturally, though. I have to work at it, so I've developed rules. It's like having my mom here all the time -- a little humbling, but ultimately effective.
Make a dedicated workspace. Many of us spend at least some time working or following up at home. It's tempting to open the laptop in bed ("This will just take a second, honey" -- right) or surreptitiously read emails under the dinner table. Don't.
Instead, dedicate a workspace in the home; a separate office is nice, but a small desk in a corner works, too. By delineating work space from family and living space, you create organizational and mental boundaries, and work/life limits are healthy and centering.
Build a detailed schedule. Our brains are great excuse makers, and as frazzled multitaskers we tend to work like ER doctors (at least the TV ones) on triage. Given any excuse, I will "forget" a task or skip it at the last minute (oops, can't fit in that workout!).
I have a digital calendar where I schedule everything. Once, a friend made fun of my 15-minute-increment entries. But by scheduling all my goals (eating, exercise, brainstorming, email), I'm accountable to myself and more focused with my time.
Keep your inbox clean. I got this from my husband, who works for a very large, insanely organized company. Most of us, it turns out, allow email to wreak havoc on our lives. The key to taking back your life is to use your inbox as a stop-off, not a final destination.
Automatically program emails to funnel into folders. Delete all junk mail immediately. And don't be interrupted by email while you're working on a task -- turn off the preview pane and check mail only when you're ready.
Use visuals. I love my digital calendar, and while I get that some people still dig their old-school Filofaxes or the arty aesthetic of paper datebooks, I prefer to be electronic. Except sometimes, I need to put my tasks in perspective with touchable visuals.
I know workers who print out their daily calendar so they can keep their tasks in sight at all times; others use sticky notes. I've done both, and I'm a list-maker: Something about handwriting engages a different part of the brain and makes things stick.
Finally, my mother's favorite: Clean your room. My mother would like this as a daily occurrence, but I'm just not genetically engineered for that much organization. I say it's OK to let the mess build a little.
Once a week -- I suggest the end of the workweek -- it behooves us to organize our space, recycle, file, tie up loose ends, spray and wipe down, and leave our work area (or areas) ready and receptive for a new week.
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Kristen Fife is a senior recruiter, career mentor, blogger and resume consultant based in the Seattle area.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
- career profile (169)
- cool jobs (74)
- education and training (63)
- entry level (70)
- etiquette (108)
- events (71)
- featured (442)
- finding your passion (98)
- health care (76)
- interviewing (91)
- job fairs (61)
- management (96)
- market trends (92)
- networking (286)
- resumes (103)
- salary (85)
- social media (94)
- technology (118)
- unemployment (57)
- work/life balance (93)