I have been working all kinds of wacky projects this week (international labor law, anyone?), and it’s only magnified one of my huge (and I mean huge) deficiencies–a lack of organization.

My desk looks like a bomb went off. Ka-blooey.

(And I need your help.)

Sure, I can talk a good game, but sooner or later my subconscious clubs my conscious brain into submission and things just fall to pieces.  It’s a running joke when my wife comes up to the office to see me; she always writes a note on my whiteboard that mentions the state of complete disarray.

Sometimes I lose things (ouch). Sometimes I lose track of things. Sometimes I wonder if there’s a black hole leading to another dimension somewhere near the back corner of my work space that pulls in random papers whenever it pleases. (At least that answer sounds kind of cool when you say it out loud.)

Oooh, so close…

One of my almost-ironclad strategies includes putting Post-It notes with critical tasks on my computer monitor so I see it when I sit down at my desk. I say “almost,” because more than once I have leaned around and lifted up the edges of the Post-It notes on my screen to look at the screen instead of actually handling the task!

Any neatniks out there? I’m looking for some tips. Let’s hear ’em. I need to get this wreck of a desk in order, and I need to do it now. 

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  • 13 thoughts on “Am I The Only One?

    1. Ben, my friend, I have been there. Your challenge is not getting your desk in order, it is having a way to manage tasks and projects after you have the desk in order. Otherwise you will return to the old ways.
      I can recommend that you at least look at Getting Things Done, by David Allen. It’s not a simple fix. It is a change in habits that takes some time to get going. I don’t actually use the process he outlines, but reading the book gave me a clear sense of why I was a mess to begin with, and I was able to put in my own personal way of managing stuff after that.
      The biggest things I’ve learned along the way: 1) When bringing anything into your office (notes, a book, handouts from a meeting) process it immediately. It either goes to a specific folder, an “inbox” for processing later, or to the trash. 2) Put time in your calendar weekly to review notes, emails, those post-its on your monitor, and plan the next action for those things. It’s like exercise, you have to schedule it or you will keep putting it off.

    2. Ben,
      Short of hiring an assistant like me… there are a few practical steps you can do, which Tim already iterated. After organizing many people, things and ideas over the years and I have found that like most diets, any method of organization will work, if it is worked. But beginning any organizing exercise can be daunting.
      Envision your work space. Like where you work. Simply rearrange a piece of furniture to design a better feel or workflow to create more energy to start organizing.
      Start small. Start with one pile of paper at a time. Place in an Action pile, File pile or Discard. Unless it is a regulatory requirement, eliminate paper copies. Almost any type of information or reference materials can be retrieved from a depository of some sort.
      Use technology. Keep appointments and to-do-lists on a program like Microsoft Outlook. It will remind you of where you should be, what you need to do and when you need to do it. Let technology organize the things that are important to you. It really doesn\’t mind at all.
      Just do it. Easily said. Hard to do. The best lesson I have ever learned in my personal and professional life…the unexpected is going to happen. You can\’t plan for it all, but you can put yourself in a place to be able to absorb it. Good organization today opens up space for great things for tomorrow.

    3. I use the method of dedicated space. It’s like archiving on the desk. I like things to be perfectly neat and in a predefined structure. But life does not work like that. Therefore my desk has a few different sections. Outgoing, need to look at and working on now are three of them. What I am working on now is right in front of me, the size of that particular pile varies least of them all.

    4. Hey Ben! I have been using the pile system for years. I have piles across my desk and spread accross my floor, I may start on Monday with 12 piles and by the end of the week I’m down to 2 (hopefully). This lets me feel like I have accomplished something and helps me to regroup. Good luck!

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