Are you trying to get organized so you have more time to write? Here are six rules guaranteed to make you more productive and more organized when you add them to your life.
1. Work with Yourself, Not Against Yourself
When you're trying to become more organized, it's tempting to try and fit into the existing organizing system of an "expert." They seem organized and they promise that if you try it, you'll be organized, too.
What's more effective is to understand your personality and what works for you. There are MANY solutions and you may have to experiment to find the system that best fits the way you work--your mind, your body and the way you think. And this might be a combination of ideas from many different experts.
Give something new a fair trial, but if after a month or so it feels awkward or counterintuitive, let it go and find something else!
2. Focus and Pay Attention
If you find that you always seem to be busy but that you never have anything to show for it, this could be the most important tip for you.
When possible, do one thing at a time. Don't let your mind or hands wander to another task. Picture the finished project in your mind, and focus only on that. Get in the "zone" – you're able to be so much more effective when you're giving your whole mind, thought and attention.
When we split our attention between different tasks ("multi-tasking"), most likely none of them will get done right, if at all. As well, you can find yourself in a perpetual state of having many "open projects" started but not completed. Each project moves forward just an inch at a time.
If you choose ONE, you can move it forward to completion much faster. To choose one, you need to estimate which project will give you the best results when it's finished. It sometimes takes an outside perspective and feedback to help you make that choice, and a coach is a great tool for this.
Putting aside other projects clears the clutter from your mind, attention, desk, workload and focus.
3. Invest Your Time
Just like we invest our money, we have to invest our time in the best way. Setting up your new organizing systems can be considered an investment.
Applying this tip can have the greatest impact on your level of organization. By investing your time at the beginning of a project to examine how you can complete it most efficiently, you can save yourself a lot of frustration later. Saving just 20 minutes each day gives you an extra 120 hours each year.
For example, set-up a mailing station with all of the supplies you'll need to ship out book orders. You can also set-up a schedule of weekly errands such as the bank and the post office. If you know you'll be heading out to the post office on Wednesday, then when an order comes in on Friday you don't need to stop what you're doing and prepare that order immediately. You know you have a different time set aside for shipping.
4. Make a Habit of It
Once you have these plans in place, work at making them a habit. You can create a new habit (or lose a bad one!) in 21 days. For only three weeks of effort, you can create a lifetime of good working habits.
As you are creating a habit, you'll need some kind of trigger to remind you to do it – alarms on your computer (Outlook or PDA), a "to do" list or a written schedule for the day with time blocked out for your specific tasks.
Start small with one new habit at a time, and then see if you can add more (pull back if it gets to be too much).
5. Use the Right Tools
Make sure you have the right tools handy when you need them.
From the low-tech (I only use retractable pens – the kind that "click" on and off – because there's no caps to lose!) to the high-tech, there are many ready-made solutions out there to keep you organized. As we mentioned in Rule 1, it's important to find tools that work FOR YOU.
Another example – did you know that if you use PayPal as your shopping cart, they're automatically tied in with the US Post Office and you can print your shipping labels right from the PayPal site? This has been a huge time-saver for me when shipping my Organized Writer CDs.
6. Work Forward
Organize for your work ahead; don't organize what's already finished. We're often tempted to organize our old bills, receipts and invoices. Sometimes we're afraid or hesitant to move forward until we've finished old stuff.
It's much more important to set-up the system and files for what's coming at you next. Look at what has been creating the biggest stress in your life and start by improving that area going forward. Then, when you have more of your future work under control, you can deal with the old paperwork (the old bills, receipts and invoices).
As you work on bringing these six rules into your life, you'll be amazed at how much more time and energy you have to pursue your writing and remember the number one rule – only use what works for YOU!