1-2-3 sort

Article excerpted from the new book, “How to Do Space Age Work with a Stone Age Brain” by Eve Abbott

Every time you start to clean up your office so you can work better instead of harder—that big backlog of information is just too overwhelming. Sorting can actually put you into a better working space in very short time.

The good news is you don’t have to do it all at once. Use the first cut to trash, recycle, shred, and archive leaving just the items requiring Action on your part.

Now do the Action sort beginning with your desktop, desk drawers, then, wall mount shelves or cupboards at your desk. You’ll have a clean Action zone to put these items back in better working order. Then, it’s 1 – 2 – 3—SORT!

Sort and only sort—no reading a newsletter or making one quick call. Also, work for two hours or less, take a break, then, finish it off with another two hours at the most. Otherwise, our stone age brains overload and start putting things in the wrong place. There are three essential Action domains: 1) to Do 2) to Read 3) to File.

TO DO: In the to-Do domain there are some basic categories: Call, Pay, Sign, Schedule, Correspond, Read, Review, Write, Research, etc. Everyone has unique information categories in their work and lives, but, these will get you going and you can add Actions as your piles take on definition and turn into Action files.

When a piece of info is sticking to your fingers, ask yourself:

Am I past the due date? Trash or if you need other info from it, file it.
Will anyone care if I do or don’t do this? If not, why spend time on it? Trash Do I really need to do this? If no—trash. If yes, into an Action file and calendar it.

TO READ: Set up magazine files to sort your reading material as it arrives. Label these by topic, project or subscription. Do not read anything yet! This the time to decide which articles are really worth your time and energy to read.

First, scan the table of contents for relevant articles and ask these questions:
Is this out of date? (If older than 3 months it has to be a classic to be timely) Is this significant in my current work/life? Do I have time to read it? Or, Do I have more important stuff to read that I can’t get to?

Once you triage your incoming newsletters, and magazines to decide which are the keepers; cut out and staple only those articles, and discard the rest. This will shrink your reading pile from three feet to three inches!

Keep the trimmed articles in a file you can take with you to read in bits of in-between time. If you decide to keep for further reference, sort them into your magazine files.

TO FILE: Your first choice is to separate out your personal from your business filing. Then, it’s 1 – 2 – 3—SORT in filing as well. 1) File in this year’s current filing system 2) File into archive file boxes (financial/legal audit trail) 3) Scan into electronic document storage (put it all on CD!)

Current business filing domains:

  • People: clients, staff, teams, vendors
  • Things: projects, programs, products, property
  • Administration: the business of doing business.

Current personal filing domains:

  • Personal/Family
  • Household
  • Finances/Insurance

Place only current years records into your office filing system. Archive filing can be boxed and kept out of your office in a secure dry storage place—you just need to maintain it.

Now, you can manage your information more successfully at work and at home. Just do it, 1 – 2 – 3—SORT!

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