De-Clutter for Better Writing
Current projects, projects on which you are waiting for
approval, future ideas--things can pile up around your workspace all too easily.
In contrast, "organization allows a person to focus on the
task at hand, have the tools needed nearby to do the job, and concentrate
without environmental distractions," said Terri Fischer, a professional
organizer who has run the company Consider It Done for 19 years.
You probably knew that. But how do you accomplish it? Here
are some common situations that Fischer sees and potential solutions:
· Situation: You are visually oriented, so you
need to see your projects to remember
Solution: Rather than stacks of papers, she suggests
"containment." "Put everything that relates to the project in a container,
something you can put a lid on," she said. "You can see it, but things won't
get scattered and distract you."
· Situation: You have sticky notes all over your
computer or desk as reminders.
Solution: Fischer suggests "judicious use to avoid the
clutter of little yellow notes that become wallpaper." Take action, then remove
the notes. For example, instead of a note to make a dentist appointment,
schedule the appointment. Or put
the item on a task list, which Fischer notes can be structured as a word list,
pictures, index cards (her favorite), or whatever works for you.
Situation: Your work area is crowded with
Solution: The area within arm's reach of your computer, said
Fischer, is "prime real estate; anything there has to earn its keep." In other
words, limit the space to items or papers you use regularly. Place reference
materials or other resources you use often, but not all the time, close by. Archives
and things you rarely use belong further away. At the same time, think if you
really need to save those items. Are they available online, at the library, or
· Situation: You collect ideas for future
articles, interview subjects, or other reasons. When you need them, you forget
where you put them.
Solution: How do you think of these ideas (Future Projects,
Resources, Book Ideas, etc.)? Label a box, folder, or other container with this
title. Flip through as needed or every six months or however you want. Fischer,
who admits to occasional "clutter
challenges," is also a fiber artist and sometimes has too many unfinished
projects. She chose a container for these projects. "I respect the size of the
container," she said. "When it reaches capacity, I have to finish something up
or let something go."
· Situation: This all sounds great, but you'll
never keep it up.
Solution: Fischer is very big on scheduled maintenance time.
Take 3 to 5 minutes to put things away from one project and wrap things up in
your mind. It can be after working on each one, at the end of the day, or
whatever suits your rhythm. Make it fun with music and a stretch. Or just
buckle down and set a timer. "Think of it as a form of compassion," she said.
"You're making things easy on yourself for the next time."
Finally, Fischer urges us to let go of aiming for the
perfect system, with nary a piece of paper askew. "Action is preferable to perfection,"
Terri Fischer, professional organizer and owner of Consider
It Done, recommends these resources:
Organizing for the Creative Person, by Dorothy Lehmkuhl and
Dolores Cotter Lamping
Organizing from the Inside Out, by Julie Morgenstern
Making Peace with the Things in Your Life, by Cindy
National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO)
DC chapter of NAPO
Fly Lady (lots of little tips for home and office)
National Study Group on Chronic Disorganization