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10 Quick Tips for Getting Organized

There is no right or wrong way to get organized, so just do it.

By Barbara Hemphill

If you think of getting organized as a big project, think again. Organization is a skill, and like any other skill it requires tools, principles and practice. In fact, being better organized, especially at work, can save you time and increase your productivity and effectiveness. These 10 ideas will help you get started.

  1. Today’s mail is tomorrow’s pile. Ignore the mistakes of the past and set up a system that will accommodate every new piece of paper. Then incorporate the old into the new—or get rid of it altogether.
  2. To help you decide the best way for you to get organized, ask yourself, “What will I do?” not “What should I do?” Organization is not a moral issue, and does not have a right or wrong way.
  3. Minimize the unnecessary paper in your life by using your calendar more frequently. Instead of keeping the paper, put the information (location of meeting, for example) on your calendar. If you need to keep the paper, create a tickler file system, 1-31 for the 31 days of the month, and January through December. File the paper in the day you want to do it.
  4. Do you have difficulty letting go of things—even if you don't use them? Finding someone else who needs them more than you do will make it easier. Deductible software will help you track donations and maximize the deduction you can legally take.
  5. The purpose of a filing system is not to put papers away—it is to be able to find them again. Think “finding system” and ask yourself, “How can I find this again?” Hemphill’s Principle: If you don't know you have it or can't find it, it's of no value to you!
  6. The right information at the right time reduces stress and improves productivity—and makes you appear smart! Use your calendar to manage your time and your filing system to manage your information.
  7. Put all the electronic files you create into one folder, which can be subdivided into additional folders. This makes finding the information you need and backing up or transferring data much simpler.
  8. Half of any job is using the right tool—one that is right for you! Thinking a PalmPilot will get you organized is like thinking a piano can make you a musician. Do not be unduly influenced by the latest and greatest gadgets.
  9. Use a Rolodex as a mini-filing system—a place to put bits of information too small for a traditional file folder—for things such as the holiday schedule for next year, Social Security numbers for your family, a combination for gym lock. If you are a PalmPilot user, this may not be necessary.
  10. End everyday by asking yourself, “What's the most important thing for me to accomplish tomorrow?” Then, tomorrow do it first—before you check your email.

Try some of these ideas and you will be well on your way to a productive environment—a setting in which everything around you supports who you are and who you want to be—so you can accomplish your work and enjoy your life.

© 2005 Barbara Hemphill

Barbara Hemphill is one of the country's leading business organization experts. Author of the best-selling Kiplinger series, Taming the Paper Tiger, she is working on the next book, Taming the Digital Paper Tiger. For more information, please visit or call 919-773-0722.


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