Time is the scarcest resource we have. It does not increase with
demand and cannot be saved to use later. You’ll have to figure
out how to get more out of the time you have. If you work it right,
you’ll be able to do everything you need and want to do.
One of the best ways to gain more time in your day is to get
organized. From the closet to your desk, if you can’t find
that blouse or report the instant you need it, you’re wasting
valuable time. Ironically, the number one reason disorganized people
give for not getting organized is that they don’t have the
A moderately disorganized person loses about an hour a day
looking for things in his or her office. Based on a 40-hour
if your income is:
$25,000/year, you lose $3,000
$40,000/year, you lose $5,000
$50,000/year, you lose $6,300
$125,000/year, you lose $16,000
This cost goes up for the chronically disorganized person and
once other people are enlisted to help with the hunt.
Eliminate clutter one pile at a time (get some oversized garbage
bags so it will be easy to throw things out). You’ll have to
make very brutal decisions about every piece of paper in those piles
on the desk, on the floor, in the cabinets, and every other place
you found to pack something.
In deciding what to throw out, good rules of thumb are if you:
(1) Haven’t referred to the document in six months to a year,
(2) Can get the information somewhere else, or (3) Don’t need
to keep it for legal reasons. Trust me, 80% of all that paper you
insist on keeping just in case will probably never be referred to
Creating a Good, Logical Filing System
A filing system is your best defense in fighting clutter. It
should be logical so there is never any doubt about where you have
filed something. Here’s how to do it:
- Create main, broad categories (use nouns).
- Use a unique colored tab to distinguish the main
- Subcategorize each main category (as in an outline),
keeping like subjects together (then alphabetize within the
- Alphabetize sections for clients and vendors.
- Test your system to see if others can find what they
- Create a simple index, and leave it in front of the file
drawer (do this especially if others have to access your files, and
they’re large reference files).
- Purge often! Stop keeping junk!
- Create a similar system for your computer files.
While a document is in your hand, file it—don’t pile
it! Taking two seconds to put a document back into the file will
save you minutes and perhaps hours later when you go to look for it
Getting organized is exhausting, but you can do it. If you feel
overwhelmed, call in a professional to help you. When it’s
over, you’ll experience an awesome sense of control. You can
see! You can think! You can plan!
Peggy Duncan is the author of “Just Show Me Which Button to
Click! Computer Training for Busy People,” is an efficiency
consultant, and head of Duncan Resource Group, Inc., in Atlanta,
Georgia. For more tips, visit www.duncanresource.com.