Tip of the Month: Lessons Re-Learned in the Last Weeks of 2009
Professional organizers have organizing challenges, just like everyone else. In the time between Christmas and New Year's, I did some of my own housekeeping, and had some organizing lessons hit home.
1. Paper takes time.
One thing I worked on was getting my basket of miscellaneous papers cleaned up. It's not like there were important items, like bills, in there - but there was a backlog of notes, non-critical mail, newspaper clippings, and such. And each little scrap of paper required me to remember what it was, why I had it - and decide what I wanted to do about it.
2. Inbox zero is wonderful. But inbox 186 still beats inbox 974.
Merlin Mann popularized the phrase inbox zero for an empty e-mail inbox. And an empty inbox (or basket of papers - see above) is a grand goal. But I didn't make it; I didn't get my basket entirely empty. Still, it's in much better shape. I have no idea exactly how many papers I had to begin with, or how many I have left - the numbers above are random - but the basket is no longer frightful. And I got past my inertia of dealing with the stack, so I know I will get it fully cleaned out soon.
3. Good computer backups are critical.
As I decluttered my list of to-do items, I tackled one I'd had for exactly a year, related to getting a computer problem fixed. The problem was an annoyance, not anything critical, so it was easy to postpone getting it taken care of - but it still had to be done, and my warranty isn't going to last forever.
So at 8:30 a.m. on December 26 I took my MacBook and my external monitor to The Apple Store, fully expecting the problem to be related to the monitor. Surprise - the staff found a problem with my computer, and it was a problem that required reinstalling the operating system and standard applications, leaving me with none of my data or other applications. But I had an up-to-date backup on an external hard drive, and restoring everything took just about an hour. (Techie note: I'm on OS/X 10.5.8 and I use SuperDuper to create a bootable external drive - highly recommended!)
4. A quick way to make progress is to decide a whole category of things no longer needs to be saved.
This one comes from my brother, not me. He's planning to make sure that a certain technical journal is finally on-line, and then get rid of all his paper copies (except a couple with sentimental value), saving an enormous amount of space.
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