Organize like a Professional

When’s the last time that your desk was organized? Clutter free? Or better, when was the last time that you didn’t have anxiety from an overwhelming long to do list? Well, it’s time to get organized like a professional.

If you’re like a lot of people, anxiety and the pressure to perform at a high level is constant. And even when you think that you’ve had a productive day, there is still a list of thing to do.  And unfortunately, your boss expects you to be a mindless worker.

So, I decided to take a little bit of time insure some of these professional organization tips with you. By the end of this article, you’ll have four solid ideas of how to become more organized.  The best part, by organizing like a pro, you’ll have less stress and be happier.

I mean, what would you do with the extra time that you’re going to save?

How Did I Become Unorganized?

So you’re a little disorganized, but that’s totally normal. Life get’s in the way and somehow time just slips by our fingers. What used to be an easy task becomes a mission on its own. It’s easy to get used to a routine and to slowly lose our touch over time, and this is true with anything, including our sense of organization. Think about the first days of school, versus the last days of school. Remember how prepared and organized you were at the beginning, but towards the end of it, you kind lost track? It’s important to realize that it’s a common thing that happens to everyone, and there are ways of fixing it.

One of the reasons that people become unorganized is because they simply don’t have a great system. Sure, everyone uses to do list, But the list never ends. In fact, you’re adding more and more to your to do list on a daily basis. Eventually, you become so mentally fatigue by the never ending list that you up and quit. In the end, never accomplishing more than one thing on your list (and that would be a good day).

43 Folders is Your Salvation to Professional Organization

Have you ever heard of the 43 folders method?

The concept is so simple that even a fifth grader can do it. You start with 43 folders. Empty. Blank. These are the same ones that you could pick up at Staples, Office Max or online.  Wherever you might by any of your local supplies.

First, you take 31 folders and write the numbers 1-31 on the folders. These empty numbered folders represent each day of the month. Really easy right?

Then, you take 12 folders and put the names of all 12 months. One for January, one for February, and so on.

In the end, you will have 43 folders one for each day and one for each month.

So, how to use these folders? Well let me give you an example. You receive an email from your boss saying that you have to travel to a client for a meeting on the 25th of August.

Well, you might make several notes to yourself.  Working backwards, you might note on the 18th and file it saying that you have to prepare for the meeting. Then working back three weeks before, you might make flight arrangements and travel accommodations.  Heck, you might even drop a note into a file reminding you to send an email to your spouse friend or family member about your trip.  All you have to do is place it into the correct date inside the folder.

Easy and flexible. All you have to do is grab your file for the day and look at what is inside. You do your tasks, and you smile as they’re being completed. The possibilities are endless.

Respond to Your Emails Like an  Pro

Listen, every one is bogged down by email. And they keep coming – every single minute of the day.  But, there is a way for you to dominate your email. I’m going to make two suggestions.

First, check your email three times per day. Once at 10 AM, Wanted to p.m., And finally before you leave work. Why don’t I recommend that you check your email and immediately when you walk in the door? Because, you will have the emails that you’ve answered at the end of the day yesterday, To contend with.

My second suggestion is, emails can generally be broken down into five different categories. One category is irrelevant emails. Those types of emails can be deleted immediately.  Then, there are four others.

  • Call a specific person
  • Email a specific person
  • Longer emails that need to be reviewed and scanned for next actions.
  • Informational emails, that you need to store to be recalled later.

Pretty simple right?

Now you could create different folders and move them into those areas. But, do you really want to do that? It takes just as much time to move them as it would to to probably respond to them, So you me just want to complete the task. And here’s how you’re going to do it.

Briefly scan through all of your emails, and figure out which ones can be deleted. Now that that’s done. Let’s move on to making phone calls.

Which of those emails need specific calls backed people? Grab your piece of paper, And write those names down.

Longer emails? Respond to the emails to YOURSELF with what you need to do inside the email.

Lastly, informational emails respond back to yourself mixing in keywords and topic words. So that way it can be  searched in the future.

With the simple solution, you’re going to be old to get through all your emails on a daily basis. Again, you’ll either have to call, email, save, read later or delete an email. Five things total.

Own The To Do List and You’ll be Set

To do list are the longest running suggestion for organizing since the beginning of time. In fact, it would be fair to assume that even caveman headless scrolled and drawn onto a wall.

As our lives to become more complex, our to do list become longer and longer every single day. And unfortunately, the frustration that goes along with a long to-do list grows too. So I’m going to give you a simple suggestion and how to clean up your to do list slowly, but surely. But, the most important thing that you learn from doing your to do list like this is prioritization.

  • Make your list of 10 things to do.
  • Divided into two separate lists. Five things on the left side five things on the right.
  • Now, pick the two most important things from the left side and two things from the right side. Now, you have a list of four things.
  • Take those list of four things to do, and rank them between one and four.

So now, you have a great list of things to do prioritized from 1 to 4.

Guess what?  Only plan on accomplishing the top two things. Why the top two activities? Because those are the most important ones. You have decided that those are the most important activities that you must do by the end of the day.  You’ve already decided. And those are the activities that will help you the most in the near-term.

The Next Action List to Really Help You Take Off

If you made it this far, I’m confident that you’re going to be able to use this final suggestion.  Often, people try to put things on their to do list that are too large and too vague for them to do.

For example, the suggestion that you “have client meeting with Sue Jones” could have 10, 20 or 30 steps to actually complete the task.  Is that manageable? Probably not. So let’s actually break it down into its individual steps.  Ask yourself, who is the person then I need to contact? Is it an assistant that actually calls the person? Do I have my calendar straight to have a meeting? Where is the the the location of the meeting? What will be discussed in the meeting?

There are dozens of specific actions that you can come up for something so vague. So, the key concept is to make it as specific as possible. Ask, what is your next action?

By breaking your tasks into actionable events, it allows you to create simplicity in your actions. One task leads to another, leads to another. All the complexity of a task goes out the window.

Are You Organized Like a Professional?

In the end, you want to be organized to take the stress out of your life. Also, there is nothing better than the sense of accomplishment of being able to check things off of your to-do list. The only way that that’s possible is to get organized like a professional.

So use 43 folders to keep yourself on course.  Decide that you’re going to respond to emails three times per day. Once at 10 AM and once at 2 PM and once before leaving work. Realize that emails can only fit into five basic categories, delete, Email, call, follow-up, or for your information.  Third, Your checklist should only exist of two things. End of story. Fourth and final, make sure that your to do list has next action events. Hey broad nonspecific List isn’t helpful. You want to make your to do list as specific and actionable as possible.

In the end, try to focus on these four activities, and I am confident that you’re going to become more a more organized professional.

Let me know what you think…