Diane Elkins is an office organizer and consultant who helps entrepreneurs deal with clutter.
Elkins’ Davidson, N.C.-based company, Positive Workspace, works with clients in person as well as nationally via virtual services.
Q. Whether you’re an entrepreneur or just a busy person juggling work and family, it seems like we could all use some help with simplifying our lives. What tips do you have from your experience as a professional organizer?
A. We all face a similar challenge of having a lot to get done every day to keep up and get ahead. Piles of paper, too much stuff and a lack of focus can adversely affect decision-making and productivity, as well as your personal well-being.
Although each workspace and work style is unique, there are some things that can benefit many. Here are my favorites for simplifying the workday and feeling more in control.
1. Pomodoro technique. This simple time-management method helps keep your mind fresh and focused by breaking your workday into 30-minute cycles. Work on one task for 25 minutes without interruption and then take a five-minute break. Every four cycles, take a 15- to 20-minute break. This technique is the opposite of multitasking and allows for more deep-thinking work to get done with higher quality. It’s very simple to use, and the results are immediate.
2. Write three daily must-dos. Write descriptive tasks for the three things you must get done today. That keeps you focused and moving in the right direction. Carrying a notebook with you is easy. A paper to-do list is easier to edit, and you can include sketches and special characters to help you remember ideas.
3. Paper control. At the very least, have an in-basket to collect papers entering your office — preferably a small one so you will have to tend to it regularly. Cut back on unwanted mail with PaperKarma, a free app for removing your name from mailing lists.
4. Vision board. Create a collage of pictures and words from magazine clippings to help you focus on your dreams and goals. Find pictures of what you like, what inspires you, and what makes you smile.
5. Storage. Keep flat surfaces clear by having a place for everything and everything in its place. If you don’t know where to put it, you will never put it away.
6. Take care of yourself. Take guilt-free breaks and maintain a healthy diet. Clear your mind and get active — take a walk, exercise or try standing up at your desk. These activities are especially helpful when you’re having a bad day.
7. Form a team. Find an accountability partner, coach, mastermind group and mentor. Consider hiring someone to do the things you don’t want to do.
8. Visual reminders are important. For some people, “out of sight, out of mind” is very real. Give yourself visual cues and keep current project folders in a desktop file organizer.
There is a big difference between busywork and good work. By structuring your space and your day differently, you will get more of the right work done.