Seeing that next week is "National Organize Your Files" week, I thought I'd share the best resources I've found for keeping myself organized.
First and foremost, get yourself a copy of Michael Linenberger's Total Workday Control Using Microsoft Outlook (2nd Edition). Odds are you use Outlook, and your inbox is overflowing. This book single handedly changed how I use Outlook. As I am writing these words, my inbox has one email in it (April 15 mind you) and that is one that just came in from my wife; it was empty when I started writing this sentence.
Linenberger has terrific reasons for keeping it empty, and I embraced them wholeheartedly. A big one: Your inbox is meant to receive information, not hold it there forever. When you get finish reading an email, you should just do one of the following:
- If it takes only a minute, reply to it. Then delete it or file it.
- If it doesn't require any action, and it is unimportant, delete it or file it.
- If it requires action, then create an Outlook Task.
Linenberger also has great techniques for filing your email and being able to quickly retrieve it.
Notice how I mentioned in #3 above "create an Outlook Task." The Task module is vastly underutiziled. Many people try it but then stop using it because they get tired of the incessant reminders. Did you know you can turn them off? Did you know you can create some views to show you what you need to see? I didn't until I read the book. The Task system, properly configured (Linenberger shows you how) can be very useful.
Two other really good resources:
- Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen. This book has been around since I think 2002 and I learned of it from Linenberger's book. When it isn't tax season, my office stays pretty well organized as a result of following his ideas.
- Master Your Workday Now!: Proven Strategies to Control Chaos, Create Outcomes, & Connect Your Work to Who You Really Are by Michael Linenberger. This is Linenberger's new book and, while it refers to his Outlook book, it doesn't require Outlook and is really an expansion on his approaches. I'm working on this book right now. Ok, I have to restart it. Couldn't read it after 12-13 hour days at work the last few months. I too have read many a book to get yout to be more goal focused. Linenberger gets it right: we all have too many urgencies that other systems ignore. He's much more practical.
Good luck getting yourself organized!
Addendum: If you choose to implement Linenberger's methods from Total Workday Control, consider investing in the Outlook add-ins made by Clear Context that make it even easier to do. Amongst other things, you can push a button to turn an email into a Task. Well worth the money.