Dear Reader,

Ahhh, the carefree days of summer are here! Yes, I said carefree! But is anyone really feeling carefree these days? As I drive along the coast to work on these glorious sunny days, I enviously watch surfers catching perfect waves. If you’re like me, your life is less like the perfect wave – it’s more like a tidal wave of stress threatening to crash over you! I hope this newsletter will act as a life jacket for those of you that feel like you are drowning. Yes, there is a glimmer of hope that the days of the carefree summer will return! Read on...

Simply yours,

Top Ten List: Tips to Organize Your Office
For the next three issues, I’m going to focus solely on helping you get organized at work. During these crazy times of down-sizing, pay-cuts, cutbacks, and lay-offs, it’s important to remember that the only thing in your control is you! The more organized you are, the more productive and efficient you will be in work and life. This issue will focus on gathering the tools you will need to get organized, along with a few helpful tricks that I love. We’re setting the stage, so to speak, for our future work together to get out from underneath that pile of papers!

1. Create a Work Space A functional work space is critical. All you really need is a writing surface and an in-basket. And don’t share your work space! Even if you’re married or live with someone, make sure you have two work stations. You’ll be amazed at the subtle stress that will be relieved (I also suggest separate bathrooms but that's another issue!).

2. Gather Your Tools Most of you will already have most of these items but here’s the basics for a functional working area:
     •Letter-sized paper
     •About 2-3 trays
     •All things that bind (paper clips, stapler/staples, tape, rubber bands)
     •Automatic labeler
     •File folders
     •Trash/recycling bins

3. Learn to Love the Labeler If you don’t have one, get one.  Buy an inexpensive one that has a cord (so you don’t have to worry about batteries running out) and while you’re at the store, buy a few extra white tape spools (clear labels are pretty but don’t work well on dark folders). Put the labeler on your desk. Having the labeler convenient will make identifying file folders and binder spines easy and fast. Don’t mess with the fancy computer generated label sheets unless you absolutely have to.

4.Tackle the Abyss of File Drawers My tips for file drawers are to keep them as simple as possible. Some of you may have the urge to organize your drawers by areas of focus – this is great until you go back to get something and forget where you put it. I suggest creating one A-Z alphabetical filing system. Also, the drawers should not be more than 75% full.

5.In-Basket – Step One If you don’t have one – get one immediately. If you have more than one, it’s time to down-size. The in-basket is a catch-all for all of your “stuff”. If it needs to be done, this is the one spot you will find it!

6. In-Basket – Step Two Gather all loose ends, to do’s, and other miscellaneous papers you don’t know what to do with and put them all in the in-basket (prepare yourself – this is not any easy task!).

7. Avoid the In-Basket Pitfalls This gathering process takes some time. If you struggle with organization, set aside a few hours to half a day to simply corralling all of your to-do’s into this one location. Know that all of your “stuff” may not fit nicely into one tiny basket – set aside some space next to your in-basket to gather the overflow. And be sure not to get caught up in a project you uncover (just put it in the basket for now) – there’ll be time for that later.

8. It’s Too Big for My In-Basket! For items that are intangible or too big to go into the basket – say you want to buy a new desk chair or bring in personal pictures from home to put on your desk – make a note for each item on it’s own piece of paper and put this paper into the in-basket.

9. The In-Basket Mind Purge After you’ve gathered all your papers into one area, there are probably lingering items floating around in your head of things you want to get done. Sit at your desk and brainstorm all of these goals, chores, or projects that come to mind. Write each one on a separate piece of paper and file it into your in-basket. I mean everything – send card to friend; replace light bulb in bathroom; order more file folders; plan wedding (this is one of mine!), etc.

10. It’s All In – Now What? Congratulations! The first step is always the hardest. The task of gathering all of your to-dos and seeing them all in one place can be overwhelming! Now the goal is to go from “in” to “empty”. Not an easy task! We will focus on this issue in the next newsletter but for now, let’s start with a simple sort I call T.G.I.F. For me, this acronym has a double meaning – the standard Thank God It’s Friday – but also Toss, Give, Immediate Attention, and File. Each Friday I go through all of my in-basket items and assign them to one of these categories:
     • Toss: Anything outdated or irrelevant must go! Toss them (by toss, I mean recycle of course!).
     • Give: You’ll come across items that should be delegated to others – so give them away!
     • Immediate Attention: This is the pile that can make your stomach turn. You’re sure to unearth items  
     that should have been done yesterday. After you’ve completed the simple sort, address these items
     • File: Create a stack for all relevant information that needs to be filed. Next month I’ll address more
     specifics of filing and tracking to create an efficient system.