Welcome, everyone, to Day 1 of "Organizing the Writing Life."
It is my great pleasure to introduce Sharon Sarmiento, an Online Business Manager whose work "involves managing the daily operations of online businesses and streamlining processes to maximize personal and business productivity." She also writes an inspiring blog, eSoup, and her passion for helping people thrive in their lives through better organization has landed her in the Boston Globe and more than twenty other newspapers.
In addition to running her own e-business, Sharon is a painter and writer who is familiar with the organizational struggles that creatives face. For today and the following five Tuesdays, Sharon will generously share her knowledge and insight to benefit us all. Today's topic, based on blog-reader questions, is:
The maximum-efficiency desk
Reader question: Kinda basic, but is there a way a writer with more than one project on the go can organize her/his desk to achieve optimum efficiency? What's the secret: piles? filing cabinets? sticky notes?
This is actually not that basic a question because the organization of your desk is a reflection of your organizational system itself.
You've heard the saying, "A messy desk reflects a creative mind", right? Well, poppycock! That's just wishful thinking on our part :-) .
The truth is that a tidy desk reflects a tidy mind, and you'll have much better luck being creative if you aren't distracted by the piles of paper staring you in the face every time you sit down at your desk.
I was going to spend hours coming up with a post about the best way to organize your desk for optimal efficiency, but what do you know--LifeClever has already done my work for me! They have an amazing article called "10 tips for keeping your desk clean and tidy" that is based on the "Getting Things Done" productivity system (this is the system I use). LifeClever--"10 tips for keeping your desk clean and tidy"
In summary, their plan is:
1. Use a system to manage paper
2. Banish Post-It Notes (I guess this answers your question about sticky notes! ;-))
3. Trash those printouts
4. Keep blank file folders and a label marker at your desk
5. Ritualize your status reviews
6. Throw away pens
7. Say no to conference/office freebies
8. Get books away from your desk (that you're not using)
9. Eat away from your desk
10. Limit photo frames at your desk to 3 or less
Obviously the most complicated of these steps is "use a system to manage paper". Whole books have been written on that topic!
Basically, the things on your desk are items that you need at-the-ready within easy reach. Completed items, reference materials, and anything you don't want to throw away go into a filing cabinet.
I would say, "Just don't go there" in reference to "piles" :-) --When I hear "piles," it sort of sounds like a mish-mash of paper items, not an organization of easily accessible information, which is what we're going for! For sure, every person needs standard stackable letter trays for their desk.
I don't really use sticky notes at all. I used to though, and my office started to get overrun by them--everywhere I looked, there was a post-it reminding me to do something--kind of distracting!
Instead of post-it notes, I now use a simple list-making system. The lists include:
* A calendar--to house my to-do items that have a specific date and time
* Next Actions--basically a to-do list without specific dates and times
* Someday/Maybe--stuff I'd like to do someday eventually
* Waiting For--things that need input from other people before I proceed
I keep the Next Actions, Someday/Maybe, and Waiting For lists in a notebook (each list is separated by a divider).
(For more info on creating these lists, you can see my post "How To have more peace of mind and increase your productivity".)
The idea is to have as many information receptacles as you need on your desk, but as few as you can get away with. You also want to have very clear separations between projects and statuses.
Ideally, a well-organized, optimally efficient desk is one that allows you to easily access information while not having to over-think and worry about where things go.
Any questions or comments for Sharon? We want to hear from you — drop a comment, and let's keep the conversation going.
Next week's topic (April 10th): How to maximize time and juggle multiple projects
See you then!