I just got a new laptop computer and decided it was time to get my computing life in order. It would be easy (well, relatively) to just move everything from the old laptop to the new one, but that would mean transferring a lot of out-of-date and unneeded programs, documents and other files. Instead, I am looking at this as a chance to make a fresh start. I am taking my time setting up the new machine. I am asking questions about what programs I need, how my data should be organized and more. The idea is to keep the new computer working faster and better for as long as possible.
The same principle applies to other areas of life and business, too. Is it time to clear out your email inbox, uncover your desk, or rethink your to-do list? Here are some steps that will help you to make a fresh start.
Concentrate on one area at a time. Avoid overwhelming yourself by trying to get control of your work, your home, your online life and everything else at once. Decide that today (or this week) you are going to take control of one aspect (e.g., your to-do list) and start there. Then move on to the next area.
Clear out the old. When email gets out of hand, some people simply declare “email bankruptcy,” delete everything in their inboxes, and start with new emails coming in. That seems a bit extreme, but there may be times when that is necessary. Likewise, if you are cleaning off your desk, you might start by sweeping everything into a box so you have a clear surface to work with, then organize into the space in a way that works.
Make a plan. What is most important? Set priorities based on what has the greatest value to you. That can mean monetary value, but it can also include personal satisfaction or other values. Make sure that those high-value priorities will get your attention and not be lost in the clutter.
Get help. If you aren’t sure how to go about it, get help by reading a book, taking a class or hiring an organizer or other professional to help you. The time and money you invest will be repaid with your increased productivity and reduced stress.
Do it. Just attack the problem areas head-on. Be ruthless. Throw out stuff (physical or virtual) that you do not need. Take those no longer relevant, never gonna do ‘em projects off your to-do list.
Stay on top of it. As new things come to you, deal with them right away. Don’t let unread magazines pile up because you are going to read them “later.” Read them or toss them. The rule about only touching things once may not work for everything, but it is an ideal to work toward.
Need some inspiration to get started? Every organizer I have ever spoken to says that they invariably find checks, cash and other valuables buried in piles of paper when they organize someone. Streamlining and de-cluttering will not only help you find things you have lost, they will keep you from missing opportunities in the future.