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Do You Want to “Get Organized”, “Be Organized”, or “Be Productive”? There is a Difference.

Getting Organized

This is the decluttering stage, which most people need before they can be organized and productive. If your desk is overflowing with papers requiring action, papers to file, pens and pencils, other supplies, coffee mugs, water bottles, electronic gadgets, business cards, sticky notes, and various pieces of memorabilia, is it any wonder you don’t have room to work and find it hard to focus? The same with your email inbox. With hundreds or thousands of messages in your inbox, aren’t you always concerned about what might be lurking at the bottom of the list with a looming deadline?

So, the first step in being productive is usually getting organized.

Being Organized

Once you’ve gotten organized, does your desk and office automatically stay that way? Of course not. It’s just like when you clean your house. It doesn’t stay that way. You need to do maintenance. To be organized, make time at the end of each day to clear your desk as much as possible: Put current papers you’re working with away in their folders, or stack them neatly on your desk. For project papers, put them in the project folder/container immediately. For reference papers to be filed, stack them up out of the way, maybe on top of a file cabinet or bookcase. Never mix papers to be filed with those requiring action or for current projects.

If you’re not able to do it at the end of every day, try for every other day or at a minimum once a week. And plan time to file that stack of reference papers when it gets too high or when you start having to look for things in the stack.

Doing this periodically will eliminate having to spend days or weeks getting organized.

Being Productive

What does being productive mean? One definition I like is “achieving or producing a significant amount or result.” Simply “getting a lot done” isn’t necessarily productive. Deleting hundreds of email messages in your inbox may make you feel good. But wouldn’t you feel more productive if you had finished that important report due at the end of the day instead?

It’s about quality, not quantity; about being not just efficient, but effective; about getting your top priority tasks done; and making the best use of your time.

Susan Kousek

Certified Professional Organizer® and Productivity Consultant

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