Q: What can I do to get organized? I am feeling overwhelmed.

Ahhh! A new year begins. It is time to stretch the old bones and the weary brain cells, and say farewell to substandard work habits of yesteryear. As we all know, it is extremely difficult to focus on specific tasks when your office, or work environment, is chaotic and disordered.

The image of the stereotypical librarian lends itself to a very organized person, someone who revels in classification and order. This always amuses me because most of the librarians I know (myself included) work amidst chaos as they juggle daily tasks and multiple roles, forcing organization to take a backseat to getting things done.

The New Year is the best (although by no means the only) time to take stock of, reorganize and prioritize your current work habits, work environment, and work goals. And, if you happen to be looking for a job, or wanting a change from your current job, you need to get organized, make a plan and set some goals!

Let’s look at ways to become more organized, which will hopefully lead to a successful and productive 2008.

  1. Clean up your space and de-clutter. Whether you inhabit an office, a cubicle, or a desk, you probably have extra paper, books, projects, and random items piling up. It is time to climb out from under the piles of stuff, get out the trash can and be realistic about a.) What you can accomplish, b.) What you need to complete, c.) What is impossible or unrealistic, and d.) What you want to take on if you have time. Everything else can go in the trash except for the books, you need to return them, as they are probably overdue.
  2. Create working (useful) piles and put those (not so useful) piles that are less urgent aside for now. Use file cabinets, bookshelves, or your desk to contain these files, just try to keep them small, neat and manageable. If you have to, go shopping to find functional containers to store your piles and files, rearrange your space to make it more usable, and utilize personal items that work for you. You will be much more content and productive in an environment that suits your needs, your style, and your work habits.
  3. Clean out your email! This is got to be one of the worst clutter magnets for any librarian I know. It is appalling how much time we spend emailing and checking our email, and how little time we spend on organizing and de-cluttering our email files, folders, and boxes. We should treat our online documents (email included) as we treat our printed documents.
  4. Start writing lists. Lists of goals, lists of things “to do” for the day, for the week, for the month, and don’t forget the wish lists. Once you write them, you need to use them and update them as you go. Make this an ongoing task for the year.
  5. Once you find an organization tool or trick that works for you, put it into practice and see if you can continue for the year. Make that a resolution. Getting organized can be extremely satisfying, and setting goals and making plans for the future can be both energizing and inspiring. So, what are you waiting for?

Here are a few resources that just might inspire a little de-cluttering and goal-setting in your life.

Penelope Trunk’s Brazen Careerist: Advice at the intersection of work and life
How to make a New Year’s resolution that you’ll keep

Productivity Cafe by Susan Sabo

Psychology of Clutter by Dr. Amie Ragan

Real Simple – Organizing Strategies

Successful Organizing Solutions (S.O.S.) by Nancy Kruschke McKinney

2 thoughts on “Q: What can I do to get organized? I am feeling overwhelmed.

  1. Wow, you said it with “Getting Things Done” and I want to recommend that as a book title by David Allen. (http://www.amazon.com/Getting-Things-Done-Stress-Free-Productivity/dp/0142000280/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1201302389&sr=8-1)

    It hit me about 6 months into my new job as Director at Butler Community College. The place was 5 times the size of my previous job, and I felt 5 times as disorganized. I read the book and gained the control I needed for “stress-free productivity.” Take a look, you will really enjoy his workflow processing and organizing in particular.

    Micaela
    http://livelibrary.blogspot.com/

  2. Thanks for the tip, Micaela! I bought the book, and just started reading it. Already, I find myself nodding in agreement with much of what’s he (the author) is saying. It’s great to know that his ideas worked so well for you.

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