Just because your workspace is immaculate - with papers, pens and files all neatly arranged - doesn't mean that you're organized. Too often people confuse the semblance of organization with the real thing. Organization is not how something looks externally, rather it's a state of mind.
Keeping it all together
"What people tend to do is they make the piles [of paper] look neat," says Janet Taylor, President of Totally Organized, LLC, " however what they're doing is putting information that may not be related together which becomes a problem when they go to look for all of the separate pieces that are needed for one project. "Organization is about putting information that is similar together in some form or system whether it's on your desktop, in a drawer, or in a file," said Taylor.
Successful people are list makers. But it's not only important to make the list, you must learn how to use it. Taylor recommends keeping it simple with as few items as possible. Tasks should include business and personal activities that reflect a balanced life. Also you must keep your time in mind when putting together your to-do list. "Try to create a to-do list that works around your schedule," says Taylor. "I personally create a to-do list for the week and depending on what my time is on any given day - Monday through Friday - then I incorporate those items on that list into my day."
Tame email overload
It seems that many professionals are drowning in a sea of emails these days. So we asked Taylor, what can be done to manage an overflowing inbox?
"I always tell people that just because somebody emails you that doesn't mean you have to respond immediately," she said. Taylor recommends discerning the urgency of the email before responding. "I'm currently working on an office space design for a library so of course when I get those emails I look at them," she said. However with less urgent matters she scans the email and schedules a later time to respond. "I think you have to get into the habit of disciplining yourself not to be on email all day long. For me I check my email first thing in the morning, mid day and then at the end of the day because you can get addicted. Of course if you're in the middle of a major project you may want to check more frequently," she said.
Five Year Plan
It's important to keep in mind that beyond efficiency the point of being organized is to improve your quality of life both professionally and personally. According to Stephanie Winston author of the national best sellers Getting Organized and The Organized Executive "Getting organized is not an end in itself; it is simply a means of getting from where you are to where you want to be." To truly get organized one of your main challenges is to clarify your goals. Where do you want to be in five years? To figure this out, Winston urges readers to "design a perfect day for yourself five years from now. Not a fantasy day, but a real day that is completely satisfying in terms of work, relationships with family and friends, and physical environment." Once you've designed this perfect day, set goals that will lead you in the right direction.
Janet Taylor has presented workshops for IKEA, provided tips on KYW1060 and appeared on HGTV’s "Mission Organization."