Can you relate to this story. You just got that new book on time management, and you are finally going to get it all in order and caught up! You finally cave in and sign up for the full day seminar on personal organization. Your hopes are high. It’s just like finding that diet that is finally going to slim you down and bring back that youthful energy.
You know the rest of the story. Been there and bought the T-shirt, but you are still a mess. Or you may be a little better, but still frustrated. The bottom line is there is a system that works every time. There is also a health plan that is 100% effective. It is the one you use!
Systems and plans DO NOT work. You do. My philosophy is simple. Simple is best because "simple" gets used. If you are shouting “amen”, I want to provide you a simple personal organization system that I guarantee will work based on one requirement – you must use it! Here it is. You need a box, file folders and labels, a pen and pad of paper. (This is a simplified version of David Allen’s Getting Things Done. I highly recommend the book and system).
STEP 1: COLLECT all of your to do lists, loose papers, magazines, post its, receipts, papers,
notices, bills, notes, and everything else that is out of control or out of place (or bothering you), and put all of it in the box. If the box overflows, get a bigger box. If you have to, call the top of a big table or the corner of a room your box. The important thing is to gather it all and put it in one location. Then sit with a pad of paper and write each thought or idea or project that is on your mind on a separate piece of paper and put it in the box as well.
STEP 2: PROCESS every single item, one at a time. (DISCARD or DOCK or DO or DELEGATE or DEFER) The 5 D’s
Discard It unless you have a good reason to keep it. When in doubt, throw it out.
Do It if you can take care of it in 5 minutes or less, deal with it and get it done!
Delegate It if someone else can do it, put it in a folder with their name, give it to them, and note it on your project list as a delegated item. Your project list needs three columns. The first is the project name, the second is what specific outcome you want, and the third is what next action needs to be taken to move it forward.
Defer It if you can't do it now, put the materials in a labeled folder/box and note it on your project list to be addressed at a future time. Again, for each item, you need to know what specific outcome you want and what next action needs to be taken to move it forward. If it has a deadline when it must be completed, you must also document it on your calendar as well.
Dock It if it is something you might want to refer to later and there is no specific action to take, then store it on a shelf, or in a file, or in a place where you can find it when you need it. If it is worth keeping, it is worth knowing where it is.
STEP 3: UPDATE weekly by setting aside a specific time to review your project list and choose your priorities. Also, set regular times to follow up with each person you have delegated to. Be sure to put all new stuff that comes into your world in the box. Go back to STEP 1 and STEP 2 as often as needed to keep current.
If you follow the system, you will have a project list of deferred and delegated projects, each with its own file folder/box. You will feel lightened because you have captured everything on your mind and on your desk and in your world and put it in one place. You will have completed a bunch of stuff, delegated other stuff, dumped a lot of stuff, and you will sleep a little better. This won’t work if you don’t do it! Try it and modify it to make it work for you. Most importantly, have fun and enjoy the process!