Being organized is a critical component of professional productivity. When everything is in its place and easy to find, work gets done more quickly and with the least amount of friction. As an added benefit, I find it more pleasant to work in an organized environment.
Therefore, I try always to maintain control of my inbox and my computer desktop, and to ensure that the top of my work desk is clean. My goal is to have all emails responded to, archived, deleted, or set as tasks within 24 hours. My computer desktop should have no files (everything should be uploaded to the cloud), and my desk should be neat at any given moment.
For about a month, a few months ago, however, my work computer desktop held fifteen files that were related to this blog, and I also had quite a few files on my laptop desktop and its downloads folder. My desk had about ten unrevised documents. I can usually tell how overwhelmed I am by how messy my physical and digital space gets. When I have too much on my plate, little things start to fall by the wayside. The lack of organization gets me into a vicious cycle of guilt and more mess that takes away energy when I need it the most.
More importantly, when documents and files accumulate, I sometimes lose critical items that I need to respond to immediately. Often, I procrastinate taking action on things that are difficult for me to confront at that moment. So, inspired by this blog topic, I decided to build guidelines around the necessary maintenance actions that I need to be taking. I tried a new idea to keep myself in check. Once a month I set up a repetitive task for myself as follows:
Verify that I have:
Empty computer desktop
Empty downloads folder
All digital documents organized
Empty recycle bin
I chose a monthly frequency because it helped me ensure that I was sticking to my goals, yet it was not so often that it wasn’t adding value. I added the task on Wrike, which is the software we use for our processes at the company. For more on how we use Wrike, please read my blog post: 6 Reasons You Will Love Wrike Like We Do.
Because I tend to fail often in keeping this level of organization, I also decided to ask a colleague from work to help me maintain this practice as a favor. If nothing else, I thought it would help me keep everything in order out of vanity. So, at the end of this task I added:
Tag (colleague’s name) so she can audit my work
It has now been a few months since I set up this task. Similar to an appointment at the doctor’s office, the reminder has acted as my monthly check-up. It has prompted me to take the time to deal with everything that has cropped up during the month, and this has, in turn, helped me to stick to my goals.
Interestingly, I haven’t had to ask my colleague for help because I have become more organized ever since I implemented this idea. I have gotten into the habit of keeping my workspace tidy especially when I feel overwhelmed. My files and documents tend to be organized more consistently than they were before. The best benefit though is that I have a safety net in case I start procrastinating again, and this has helped me feel more at peace.