Nov 072011

Are you one of those people that can’t create unless your mind is clear and relaxed? What a coincidence – me too! This is why I spend a lot of time organizing my work space and my home. I want to be as productive as possible. Here are some organizational tips that have worked for me and may work for you.

1. You know that pile of paper you have sitting on your desk? Go through it and dump what you don’t need right now. Do it! If you don’t, you’ll have a bigger pile waiting for you next week. Think paperless.

2. Check off all of the unread messages in your e-mail account at once and delete them all. Each morning, read and respond to the messages that matter and delete the ones that don’t. Unsubscribe from e-mail lists you care nothing about. This will keep your e-mail inbox under control. At one point I had over 1600 unread e-mail messages. I tried this and now I get about 50 messages a day, which I look through and delete first thing in the morning, which makes me feel as though I’ve accomplished something huge!

3. Do you know what you spend your time on? For a single day log how you’re spending your time hour by hour. Create a pie chart to identify your time wasters. Now eliminate them.

4. Every week spend time filing all of your bills and important papers in your file cabinet.

5. Go through your magazines. What you can’t or don’t have time to read, toss. Pull out clippings of the stuff you think is important. Scan them, create pdf’s and organize them by subject in folders on your computer. Throw out all clippings once scanned.

6. Back up your computer every week. Trust me, if you work on your computer, you should back up your ish every week. This is especially important for writers. Backing up is a way of life for us. If you don’t have an external HD, look for an online place to back up your files or e-mail your files to yourself just in case. You never know. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

7. If you’re anything like me, then you keep a lot of stuff, even product guides. They are the bane of my existence, but I refer to them often so I can’t toss them. I thought about scanning, but it was too much, so mine lived in a drawer for a very long time. Big mistake! Here’s what I did to organize that mess:

Step 1: Tossed all guides in other languages.
Step 2: Organized the guides I kept by subject.
Step 3: Utilized large plastic zip-locking bags.
Step 4: Slapped a label on each bag and stuffed them with the appropriate product guides.
Step 5: Got a bin and put the zip-locking bags inside.
Step 6: Labeled the bin “Product Guides” for easy reference.
Step 7: Stashed them in my closet and out of my way.

8. Designate blocks of time in the day to get things done. Try not to spend more than a few hours at a time on anything. You could burn yourself out and not want to do anything else and that would suck.

9. Everything has a place. If you take something out, put it back in the same place by the end of the day.

10. Take time to take care of yourself and your family: exercise, laugh, sleep. Do things that are good for you and you’ll be your best and most productive self.

I recently finished reading, The Productive Writer by Sage Cohen. It’s excellent and tackles a lot of the issues us writer’s face while trying to organize our “writing life.” There are several detailed and clear-cut examples to follow. Cohen’s advice is practical and makes sense. I enjoyed reading this book and recommend it to other writers.

If you’re drowning in clutter, then check this video out and follow the one-minute rule:

I am so going to read The Happiness Project soon.

Have a happy and productive writing week y’all. 🙂



  8 Responses to “Organize Your Space and Mind”

  1. Such a great message. I needed to hear this.
    It’s awesome that you’ve been able to control these areas of your life. 🙂 One of my biggest goals for the past year has been to check off everything on this list you’ve made! It’s difficult to always get things back where they go when my schedule’s jam-packed with places to be at every minute of the day…but, thankfully, I have started doing some of these slowly, one place at a time. Started to feel burnt-out a week ago and realized I need to start making time for me…to chill, to read, and to get organized/restore order.
    #1 and #2 are two of the biggest issues for me. Thanks for the reminder. It’s time I do #2. #1 is not as easy as it sounds.

  2. @Hashbrown – Glad you liked this post. I think the most important thing on the list is making time for yourself.

    None of the things on this list are easy and I know what you mean about the e-mails sounding easier than it is.There will be a point where you just can’t take it anymore. LOL! Sometimes it’s good to start from scratch. I consider it a gift. When I first started deleting e-mails, I did a search in my inbox for the ones from department stores and deleted them at once, then I did the major overhaul work after that. It’s scary and it takes time, but it is sooo worth it. Good luck! 🙂

  3. Nice tips, Nina. I work better with less clutter, too. But I think you are more diligent about clearing it away. I’ll go check out those giant plastic bags.

  4. I can do number 8. 8 is do-able……do you think you could come over and do the rest? It makes me feel like such a failure to delete or throw things out…even though I know you’re right…it’s weighing me down from more important stuff.

    Good post!

  5. Great, informative post.
    I suppose that a cluttered physical domain can often be linked tol a cluttered mental domain.

  6. @Elizabeth – I try my best. Zip locking bags are your friend. 🙂

    @Stobby – I love looking through and organizing other people’s stuff. If I had more time and if we lived in the same country, I would help you out. Also, sometimes, I give stuff away. That helps with the guilty feelings. Good luck!

    @Mish – I don’t think it’s like that for everybody, but for me, I have a hard time focusing on what I need to do if I can procrastinate by organizing. I wish I could work through the clutter. That would free up so much time!

  7. Great information and I love the one minute rule. I guess I do that a bit, but now that I know it’s a rule I won’t get stressed looking at a room full of one minute jobs. Wonderful!

  8. @Catherine – Thanks! Me too! The one minute rule is genius!

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