I am not naturally overly organized. As a rule, I know where everything is and everything is exactly where I put it. Recently looking at the clutter drove me crazy, and I panicked. What if I lose something? Worse, what if I accidentally throw something away? The thought alone was being a distraction. Please understand that I was not looking at a desk that was overflowing with papers. I had one pile of papers for my blog and one pile for my novel I thought that wasn’t too much paper to have sitting on my desk until I read an article that said that the cleaner your work area the freer ideas can flow. So I have decluttered my desk and my mind to get those good ideas flowing in the right direction. That direction is through my fingertips and into my laptop. While I was at it I decluttered my laptop and my brain. The following is a list of 15 things I did to help me get organized and enjoy the fruits of staying that way.
- Capture your ideas
I write my ideas when I have them. That way I won’t risk losing them and I won’t have to stress about it.
2. Take charge of unruly research
I got rid of unneeded research and I organized what I needed into a file folder under the project’s name. It was quite easy to do, it only takes a few minutes to keep up with it.
3. Get a room of one’s own (metaphorically)
Getting a space where you can be alone with your thoughts, where you can keep any handwritten notes is important, but if you can’t have a room how bout a table and a drawer or a corner and a desk.
4. Get control of your writing tools
Learn to use your writing tools, whatever they are to the best of their abilities. I am not an expert and I haven’t made the leap over to Scrivner, So; I am still working in Micro Soft Word. I imagine the more books I write, the urge to get Scrivner will become too strong and I will succumb to its charms.
5. Attend to your published work
If you are publishing in magazines, you will want to track your submissions and your publications. If you are submitting novels to agents, you will also want to track your submissions as I used a simple spreadsheet that I created in Excel. Now, however, I use a different spreadsheet to track what stage each novel is in as I self-publish.
6. Clean the Clutter
I don’t have a desk or an office. I work from my bed (as I’ve explained before) I need to lie down to work because of severe back pain. So I have a file cabinet and some drawer space in my bedroom to keep office supplies in. But, I started making my bed every day and working on a made bed instead of an unmade bed. It has made all the difference. My computer was brand new when I bought it, so I didn’t need to clean a bunch of files. But I am being careful with my organization of files and my search history files.
7. Follow the five-minute rule
If I can do it in under five minutes, I do it immediately. It would take longer to write a note to remind myself to do it.
8. Make a to-do list
I make a to-do list every day and I’m not done until I have completed at least three things on my list. Some days that make for long days.
9. Make a follow-up list
The follow-up list for phone calls and things that I couldn’t finish because there was a part of the process that needed to be complete before I could do my piece of the process. For example, I can’t take care of my edits until the editor gets them back to me. I may need to follow up with her.
10. Write it down
I create more room for creative thought by not needing to remember stuff I write it down. When my husband asks me to make him iced tea while he’s at work I write myself a note so that way I don’t forget and I don’t need to remember.
11. Be proactive
When I attend a meeting, I am prepared with questions and ready to volunteer. I have deadlines and other things ready to go.
12. I create schedules and deadlines
When I’m working on projects, I create deadlines and schedules to keep the workflow moving and so that way nothing gets rushed and I can work in a relaxed way.
13. I mindfully manage my time
Sometimes it’s easy to say you are working when you unfocussed on the work in front of you. So, I mindfully and honestly carefully work on what I’m supposed to be working on even if that means I am letting my mind wander. I try to keep it wandering on the matter at hand.
14. Schedule Breaks
I used to always eat lunch while I worked, and I never took a break, because I am old and feel like time for me is running out. Now I know I need my mind to be refreshed. So I take a quick break every three or four hours and I take a lunch break and pet the dog.
15. Find what works for you
Just because it works for me doesn’t mean it’s best practice for you, but maybe you have to prove to yourself that it is best practice. The only way to know if this is good advice is to experiment. Try one or two things from this list and see how it makes you feel, see what it does for your productivity. The only way to know is to try it.