Ever wonder what it’s like to have an organizing lesson with a professional organizer? Are you curious about how it works to have “virtual” organizing sessions? The following is a real-life example of an email exchange with one of my current clients. I’ve edited the email to remove any personal identifiers or for clarity.
Thanks for your always inspiring columns. It is good for me (and others, am sure) to be reminded and makes for pleasant reading with my morning coffee! Thank you for your kind words – I’m glad they are helpful to you.
I do have problems, –it seems that my problems are, at least mostly, what we’ve already discussed. Please stop thinking in terms of problems. The real issue is to identify your habits and personality traits so that you can work WITH them instead of trying to fight them!
I manage to have a lovely desk at the beginning of each week: three small piles (one desk work, one accounts, one [group I’m involved with]) that i plan to take care of in the next few days. I schedule about 45 minutes for morning “office work” including checking my e-mails almost daily. This is a good start.
But all too often I get sidetracked doing something more urgent, realizing that it needs to be done and I won’t have enough time later in the day–or that has carried over from a prior evening (as in this morning). We need to identify how these items end up becoming so urgent. Are you not processing them early enough? Do they crop up from nowhere or are they a result of procrastination? Or that comes up and I feel it is easy (just a few minutes) to take care of it now, while it is fresh in my, and those involved, mind. We already know that these things take much longer than we anticipate. The key here is to not open the message until you are in a position to deal with it. One reason we get so sidetracked – and that things slip through the cracks – is that we open an email to check what it is and decide we can deal with it later or try to deal with it now when we don’t really have the time. This can be a problem for me, too, so I move the message (opened or not) to Calendar in Outlook and schedule looking at it at a more appropriate time. I can show you how to do that when we meet.
And, the folders may have a bit too much to accomplish in the allotted time–what I think will take 3-5 minutes takes 15-20. As mentioned above, things take much longer than we anticipate. We know that, so I recommend adding at least twice as much time as you think it will take. Nothing is going to take us (who tend to be disorganized) only 5 minutes. Everything takes at least a minimum of 15 minutes, so just realize that at the get go and forget about 5 minutes.
And, I often add things that come in to the bottom (or top) of the pile. I think we have talked about figuring out next actions in the past. When new stuff comes in, things you haven’t processed should have their own inbox. Once you look at an item, determine the next action and then put it in the appropriate place (we can talk about what that means at our next session).
So, by the end of the week the piles are a mess. I just finished going thru each and pulling up the most urgent things. That way– time permitting–, when i sit at my desk during the day I can take care of one or two before getting to the task at hand. I find if i put them away in folders, i often forget about the entire folder. This is where the planner comes in. You don’t have to remember the folder in your head – the action item is written in the planner, along with WHERE that item is (i.e. which folder or pile or file cabinet).
Some of these are a back log, and so I do schedule “catch up” time on the weekend but it is never enough. Also, i find i waste more time “getting re-acquainted” if i let something go for several weeks…. I recommend either keeping a “log” (which is essentially a piece of paper) attached to the item with progress report notes jotted on it, including what you have to do next. That way you don’t have to remember what it’s all about.
btw, I don’t have a time scheduled for our meeting, did we ever schedule? No, we haven’t yet scheduled our meeting. I have [available dates] open, both beginning after [available times]. Let me know what works for you.
So, there you have it — real answers to real questions about organizing yourself. (By the way, emails like this are included in my session fee.)
Have you ever worked with an organizer? Why or why not? I would love to hear about your experience in the comments below.