Is technology creating an organizational nightmare for you? E-mail inboxes, files saved to the desktop and confusing folder systems equate to wasted time. The busier you are and the more elements you have to your work flow, the more important it is to have a computer organizational system that works for you.
In a continuation of last week’s column addressing important tasks to keep you productive during this traditionally more laid-back summer pace, today our organizational experts share strategies for managing your computer and online activities.
Conversations with certified professional organizers Pauline Hoffman of Just in Time Solutions and Margarita Ibbott of Downshifting Professional Organizing Solutions and Linked Learning offered insight into the world of organizing. Both assist clients who are looking for strategies to streamline and de-clutter their work life.
The reality is, getting organized the first time takes time, but long term, the time savings will be significant. Imagine saving an extra 30 minutes each day through organization. Over a fiscal year the time savings alone makes the initial investment worthwhile, but the real benefit comes from the elimination of stress, less duplication of work and better follow-up with connections.
So where to begin? First, both Ibbott and Hoffman explained that the goal is to have your electronic system mirror your physical office filing system.
Use the same folders as you do in your filing cabinet. If it shouldn’t be kept on your literal desktop, then it shouldn’t be saved to your computer desktop either.
Hoffman recommends backing up your entire system onto an external hard drive, then keeping only current and required files available on your c-drive. Basically, anything that is six months and older or is not used routinely, should be archived so you minimize the info you need to click through to do your work.
Ibbott uses a simple three-folder system, Family, Work and Fun. From there, she’ll drill down folders within folders to keep organized, sometimes going five or six deep. Hoffman subscribes to a little different philosophy stating that if it takes more than two or three levels of folders deep, you need another sub-folder or category.
Really, this is a matter of personal preference. Both work, you just have to learn what works best for you and be consistent. Mostly it will depend on the amount of work flow and the number of elements that you have to manage. Just choose the most logical solution for your situation and your personality type.
Both agree, the simpler you make your organizational system the better.
Ibbott uses Outlook to manage her e-mails, taking advantage of the folders system and automated rules to ensure she’s keeping on top of all of her work.
When cleaning up messages, she recommends sorting by name to make the process faster. Especially now that Ibbott’s organizing company is running at an optimal level and she’s expanded her social-media training through her company Linked Learning, having a system that can manage a large volume of communication effectively is important. She explained that within Linked In there are options to organize and manage connections that most professionals don’t optimize.
Hoffman has switched all of her online organizational efforts to ComF5, an online-contact management system that she’s found quite useful.
The keys to keeping organized on the computer are:
- Keep it simple.
- Archive unnecessary files so they are out of your way.
- Choose a good contact-management system that works for you.
- Purge once every six months to stay organized.