Our clash over what constitutes an acceptable amount of detritus led me to promise him I would get properly organized for the new year. Though I probably would have said just about anything to get him to finish steam cleaning the carpets, he does make a good suggestion. And while you may not have this bad of a clutter problem, getting better organized can help you better manage your information and be more successful at work. Here are a few suggestions:
Clear the decks: According to “How to Get Rid of Clutter for Dummies,” your first task should be to look over your clutter with an unsentimental eye and start two piles: to save or to trash. Can’t make those tough choices? Get a “clutter buddy” to help determine what’s worth keeping. If all else fails, put your piles of clutter in a box and write the date on it. Pitch what’s still in the box exactly one year later. At work, this can often take the form of endless file folders. Try marking each file folder – if you haven’t opened the folder in a year, it’s probably time to pitch it.
Digitize it: Okay, a lot of you are probably thinking, “well, what if I need that file two or three years from now?” There’s a simple solution – digitize your files. From scanning a few file folders to bringing in outside vendors to digitize years of files en masse, digitization can quickly rid you of a huge clutter problem while still providing access to the files you need.
Trash your desktop: You know the awesome sunset picture from the lake that you designated as your computer’s wallpaper? Yeah, we can’t see it, because your computer screen is a thicket of desktop icons. What are the chances that at least 10 of those icons are documents related to long-completed projects? Yeah, we thought so. Take an hour to organize things into simple folder structures, and as David Strom suggested in an earlier WorkIntelligent.ly post, create shortcuts to the folders you use most.
Send in the cloud: Need to organize your digital documents and notes? There’s an app for that. Lots of apps, it turns out. Download apps like Evernote or Dropbox to keep your files and information stored safely in the cloud, where you can then access it from multiple devices. And be sure to take a look at what Kevin Purdy suggested about cloud-based note-taking programs earlier this week.
Analyze this: Finally, Lifehacker recommends that you sit down and think about why you have so much clutter. Anyone who has seen an episode of “Hoarders” knows that some of us are just attached to stuff. Some people view possessions as a security blanket, while others just hate making decisions. Still others want a clean office, but they manage their time so poorly that cleaning never makes it onto the schedule. What’s your excuse? Once you identify why you’re needlessly hanging on to junk, it may help you to be less sentimental in the future.