Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Some thoughts on being organized, from a pretty impressive procrastinator -- Part Two

As you read on in this post, I will tell you why I don't normally suggest writing blogs in two parts. I will also tell you why this is a Part Two of a two-parter blog.

So? Read on. :)

Click here for Part One, if you missed it.

5. Go through your file drawers to toss things, too.

File drawers are meant to be organized, and to hold on to the things you should actually bother keeping, yes, but eventually they become outdated.

Say you have a file folder with some documents from a company you were once in touch with about possible employment. The business card first given to you at a networking event, a copy of your application, the version of the resume you gave them.

It might be a good idea to hang on to that business card from that place at first, but after a while you should probably move on. That person probably no longer remembers you, and the paper is just taking up space in your life and your brain.

You'll be able to trust your gut. If you met someone and had a great professional connection, you'll know to keep that business card -- and chances are it won't get filed in the first place, because you'll be using it to initiate a conversation, and then you'll be able to conjure up the person's name from memory -- and you may even be calling that person "boss."

Some things can become scrapbook material – an acceptance letter to a program, your first real paystub, whatever – but a lot of it can be taken out of that file drawer to have space made for something else.

And if you really can’t part with it, scan it and save it to your PC.

7. Have a space for incoming mail.

I don't actually have this, but so wish I did. It's on my list to get a cutesy little tray from Target, or use one of my organizer containers that I already have for this purpose.

Paper is one of my biggest problems.

I hate dealing with mail when I first get it, so I toss it aside. Then when it’s time to tidy my apartment, I gather all the papers together into one pile, to make things look semi-neat. Then, inevitably, bills don’t get paid, insurance cards don’t get put in wallets, etc. And, of course, I can’t find anything.

I'm telling you, Guys. I'm terrible.

If I would just put the mail in one spot, then it would look tidier to begin with, and then I could deal with it once a week or so, and not end up with boxes full of papers to sort. Yes, boxes. Plural.

8. Delete most emails (after you've read them), and keep your goals realistic (these are related; stick with me).

One thing I have managed to do this year is keep my personal email inbox tame. This I have never been able to do, so this is huge, and it was unplanned.

How do I manage?

I answer emails more quickly than I used to, and I delete them once the information is registered, dealt with, or copied down elsewhere -- say, in my planner.

As long as I keep my “trash” folder intact for a time, I don’t have to sweat this too much, as I can trust that something I may have preemptively deleted is still actually around for retrieval.

Also, now that I’m used to seeing a very sparsely inhabited inbox, I work faster to get things done so that I can delete the emails and see the number of messages shrink before my eyes.

Right now I am working out details of attending a soccer game, for example. Because there are two emails about it in my inbox, I have been taking steps to find out who’s going to the game, how many tickets we’ll need, who’s paying up front and getting paid back later.

Before, I would not only have the emails hanging out, but I would end up dealing with things at the last minute, annoying my friends in the process. Now, I want to delete those emails! So I'm getting on top of the tasks needed to get done so that I can delete the emails.

I’m becoming more productive in order to keep things more compact.

As for the emails one should keep, I do this:

One, I keep a "positive feedback" folder. At work, this folder has particularly nice messages from coworkers who appreciated some work I did. This is great to scan through for a pick-me-up on rough, or blah days. I’m reminded that people care and appreciate my work.

Additionally, in my personal email, I have a writing response folder. This contains messages in which people have responded positively and personally to my blog. As any writer will know, having these comments around is hugely helpful and encouraging. And it’s so easy to forget those things that people once said, so definitely keep them around.

Another thing I’ve done this year is make a ridiculous amount of email folders. If I buy tickets to a concert, I make a folder for the concert and file the payment confirmation in there. When the concert is over, I delete the folder. Easy peasy.

I do this at work, too. No folder is too nuanced. It's easier to scan through 100 email folder titles to find what you're looking for than to scroll through 1,000 messages in your inbox.

In correspondence, don't spend extra time explaining your untimely follow up.

It’s so tempting, and so like us, as over-achieving Americans, to start an email with: “I’m soooooo sorry I never replied to your email. [Long list of reasons why.] [Explanations.] [Excuses.]”

Cut this step out, I say.

Just say, “I’m the worst at replying to email, my bad,” and then get to your next thought. I’ve decided we spend way too much time explaining where we’ve been.

We’re busy. End of story. Move forward.

Don’t make yourself more busy by writing a novel to your publisher about why you weren’t busy working on your novel. Just say sorry and then start being more accountable.

Similarly, if you haven't blogged in, oh, a century, don't bother over-apologizing for your absence. At most, make a quick self-deprecating quip, and then get to your point.

Also, don't make writing promises on your blog. You won't (usually) find me promoting a "Part Two" post (except right now, but this was all written in one piece, and I broke it up to make it into two smaller pieces), or setting out to try all the brands of nail polish and then report back to you. Or whatever promise it is that takes a long time. For me, my style is to just write about whatever, whenever, so I try not to stray from that.

I'm more likely to tell you, randomly, about a new nail polish color I got, than to say "I'm going to wear a different color for a week each, for five weeks, and then rank them." I know myself. I know I won't follow through on such a promise. So I'm not going to make it in the first place.

For others, you may thrive on finishing a series of posts -- so stick to it if that's your thing. But don't try and suddenly rebrand yourself in the midst of something you've already established. I find that overaiming goals -- think P90X -- tend to hurt us and crush our self-esteem more than anything else.

Even if we can meet that 30 day challenge the one time, then what? We start to calculate every day following as a day that we're not participating in a challenge. If we make realistic goals for ourselves -- and I will continue to preach the importance of this -- then we can continually achieve, continually grow and feel positive, all the while giving ourselves room for grace. (In fact, I've realized, I've written about this before).

A messy apartment shouldn't be soul-crushing. It should merely be something that you will pick up eventually -- just hopefully tomorrow versus next month.

9. And finally, being organized is kind of fun, and makes me hyper-happy-giddy. And disorganized people can be organized.

My mom once said to me, “Bailey, I think you’re very organized, in your own way.” She wasn’t being funny or trying to soften my hurt feelings at the prospect that maybe I wasn’t organized. She said it sincerely, and I’ve never forgotten it.

As a child, I remember being not necessarily tidy, but very organized, with the way I put away board game pieces, how I kept my folders for school, how I compartmentalized tiny items in a drawer or cabinet.

As I’ve gotten older, and I’ve gathered more responsibilities, I’ve just become more lax in keeping it all together. My life was smaller when I was small, so I was able to keep it all neat, and cutesy to boot. Now I simply have more to keep track of, which is OK. Grace, People. Give yourself some grace.

I think I am secretly a perfectionist, but I am the type of perfectionist who won’t work on something until I am ready to fully work on it.

Ultimately this is exhausting, and it keeps me from ever actually starting things.

So, I try and be kind to myself in realizing that I can actually organize the you-know-what out of any little nook or cranny; I just, 99% of the time, don’t.

So I try and remind myself how clean spaces make me feel: happy. I remind myself that the process makes me feel similar. I don’t like to walk away from an episode of “Felicity” to clean, but once I’m doing it, I feel good.

And I’m really good at sorting, deciding what to toss, etc. I’m not a pack rat, so I have that going for me. I’m lazy, but I do manage to accomplish things in life, be a loyal friend, etc.

We all have our strengths and weaknesses. I’m trying not to be so label-oriented with myself. Type B. Extrovert. Messy. Hyper.

Yes, I’m all these things, but I’m not ALL messy ALL the time.

I’m giving myself grace. I hope you give yourself grace.

And I hope that by 2016, one can see the floor of the trunk of my car.

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