Last week, we discussed how time is something that we never seem to have enough of. Once you’ve looked at how you spend your time and made changes, the next step is to save time when you do things. You can accomplish this in a number of different ways, many of which fall under personal organization.

Here are some examples of how lack of organization can add more stress to your life and make you less efficient:

  • You’re late for an appointment because you spent 20 minutes looking for your car keys.
  • You need to make a phone call about a bill you paid late because you misplaced it.
  • You can’t find important documents on your desk or on your computer.
  • You show up to appointments without important items and end up having to make another trip.
  • You forgot to call a loved one on their birthday.
  • It takes you an hour to pay a bill as you need to locate your checkbook, reconcile it and then search through a stack of unsorted mail to find the bill.

So what can you do about it? You need to get organized. And yes, getting organized takes a lot of time and often can’t be done overnight. But there are some things you can do to get started. Here’s a list of tips broken down into certain categories.

Organizing Bills and important documents:

  • Get a mail organizer with 31 slots (one for each day of the month). You can use it to sort your incoming mail as well as other papers that you need to take action on. Make a commitment to dedicate 15 minutes per day for dealing with whatever is in the slot for that given day.
  • Sort your mail when you first get it. Discard, shred or recycle all junk mail. Deal with important items right away. If you’re unable to take action on a particular item immediately, then file it in your mail sorter right away.
  • Create a filing system for your paperwork. If you don’t have a filing cabinet, get one (plastic filing bins work well too). For my system, I use hanging file holders for each category (expenses, income, credit cards, bank accounts, etc…) and in each one I have one or more file folders. Create at least five folders and the appropriate categories for your situation.
  • Get a bookkeeping program to track your finances on your PC. This way you can quickly and easily find things.
  • File away new mail and completed items from your mail sorter using your file system.

Organizing your appointments:

  • Get a wall calendar, pocket calendar or calendar program to use on your computer if you don’t already have one.
  • Spend at least 20 minutes entering any appointments, holidays, events or important dates that you know of.
  • When you learn of important events, put them in your calendar immediately.
  • When you finish an important in which there will be a follow up visit such as one with a doctor or hairdresser, schedule your next appointment before you leave and then enter it on your calendar right away.
  • As you learn about birthdays, add them to your calendar. If you’re using a wall calendar, commit some time each January for transferring birthdays, holidays and other yearly events to your new calendar.

Cleaning up & removing clutter:

  • Start with big items so you have an immediate sense of satisfaction.
  • Discard broken, worn or expired items right away.
  • If you have unused items, try to return them (some places may allow you to return goods without receipts — although it can be tricky), sell them or donate them.
  • Divide unsorted papers into 10 smaller piles and commit an hour each day over the next 10 days to deal with them. Commit to discarding, dealing with or filing with each item in the pile for each day.
  • When you buy something to replace something else, discard the old item.

We’ve only scratched the surface of personal organization but these tips will help you get started. Dedicating a little extra time each day to getting more organized (and staying organized) will pay off in the long run.

Personal Organization

2 thoughts on “Personal Organization

  • March 23, 2008 at 8:56 pm

    James –

    Good advice. I recently did a series of interviews with newly promoted executives in my company. Quite a few of them mentioned “getting organized” as one of their biggest challenges in their new roles.


  • March 28, 2008 at 10:12 pm

    Thanks for the comment, Dan.

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