I took a break from curriculum this weekend to spend some time with my kids and Troy - wrapping it up with a day of organizing in my office.
The amazing thing was if you saw my office and all my piles of files - it was overwhelming. So much so that every time I came in here I was wondering what I had forgotten. My life has been so busy the past six months I had let a lot of things slide. I knew getting rid of that nagging feeling had to start with organizing the files in my office. So yesterday afternoon, I did it.
The crazy thing is it took just a few hours, but I went through every paper, every item. I have been a fan of Getting Things Done for a few years now. Keep in mind that I progress with things pretty slowly - especially when it comes to making permanent change. In the past few years I have finally mastered keeping my email inbox to zero. However, when it came to my office inbox, it was a scary place.
One of the tools I have been using for keeping my email inbox to zero is Omnifocus. I have it on both my Mac and also my iPhone (they sync with each other via Mobile Me).
When I get an email in that I can't respond to quickly, I just press CMD+SHIFT+E on my keyboard (you set this up in preferences), which opens a new item in Omnifocus and copies my entire email in the notes of that item. I just click Save and then it is done. This is especially helpful with large projects that I do a lot of email on - I have a reference folder under the project and just move the email in there. This allows me to keep emails organized - no more searching Google for the exact email related to a specific item when I have a question!
If you've ever read Getting Things Done (I highly recommend the audio version here), you know that one of the first steps to getting things done is cleaning out the physical files in your office. It is about processing those items and deciding what your next step is. As I went through all my files yesterday I questioned why I hadn't done it sooner!
A few of my most-used tools for this are a label machine, a steady supply of file folders and Omnifocus. Quite honestly most of the work I did yesterday was all about making new file folders for reference items. The other was taking little things - receipts to be scanned, Christmas cards with wrong addresses, car registration reminders - and entering them in as TO-DO items in Omnifocus. I then stored the item in a Misc. To-Do folder so when I am ready to approach the item I know exactly where to find the supporting materials.
Another piece of Getting Thing Done is organizing your tasks not only by due date but also by context. So if I am sitting at my Mac and I have an hour, I can look at my list in Omnifocus and literally pick off and complete tasks that are out there with the context of Mac. When I run errands (on my list for today after this post) if I have extra time I can knock some of the extra items off my list.
My goal this week is to focus on keeping my inboxes (both email and desk) to zero. I realized last night as I finished the last file that things seem manageable now because I know what all those papers mean and I know what I have to do and I can do it in segments here and there.
One last thing, in the past year I have started scanning in all my important receipts for tax items. I found this amazing software that I use with my personal scanner (you can also purchase a scanner and software from them). NeatWorks has been an amazing help with my taxes.
I dedicate just a few minutes each week to scanning my receipts (the software has OCR so most of the time it reads the receipt and populates the database for me). I then add categories and sort things out in folders based on business, home improvement, etc. The great thing is when tax time rolls around, I have all the amounts I need along with the ability to print a PDF report or physical print report with the list of itemized items and pictures of the receipts right next to them.
This has been invaluable to me because most store receipts these days fade in just a few months - which is a complete nightmare for the small business owner. I love that I can stay on top of this with technology.
So there you have it - a few things that are helping me get things done and stay organized. I'm always on the lookout for other things - so how about it - what keeps you organized in your life?