Use clear plastic files to keep action items together and in view
Look at your desk right now. See all those pieces of paper you've left out so you'll remember to do them? Those are action items. They have varying priority levels, and sometimes an action item is a single piece of paper needing to be filled out, for example, or it could be a project that has a bunch of related pages. As most of us are visual, we need to keep action items out where we'll remember to do them.
So when I say use a plastic file for your action items, let me stress that I am NOT talking about shoving all your papers into a manilla folder labeled "To Do" that lives somewhere in your drawer. Many of you have tried the "To Do" file in the past, and you've told me that you never looked in that folder again. It's too out of sight. I'm recommending using see-through folders to collect and categorize your papers needing attention.
Clear plastic files are great because you can see what's in them, it's easy to label and re-label them (if you have an electronic labeler with plastic labels, they'll peel right off when the project is done), they can help keep you organized on the go, and the color can help you find what you're looking for at a glance. Here's an example of these kinds of file: http://www.staples.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/StaplesProductDisplay?storeId=10001&catalogId=10051&langId=-1&productId=121631&cmArea=SEARCH
I find that plastic files work for two types of action items: recurring actions, and temporary projects. Here are some examples:
- If you file a monthly expense report, label a green one (for money, of course!) and use it throughout the month to stash receipts until you're ready to submit them. - Do you collect business cards of prospective clients? Set up a plastic file labeled "To Enter in Contacts" where those cards can live until you get them entered in. - Let's say you're shopping for a new vendor for a specific product. You could make a temporary action file using a sticky note as a label to hold all the potential vendors until you're ready to make a decision. - Another way to use these plastic files is to help you prioritize. Consider labelling files "Today", "This Week" and "This Month." Or "Now", "Soon" and "Later". - If you travel between offices or work from home and in the field, you might need files called "Take to Office" or "Take Home" or "To File". "To Read" is another good one to have with you when you find yourself with a few minutes of down time. - You can also use them to organize work you either do with others or give to others. Set up a file for each person you manage, and one for the things you need to talk to your manager about.
Whichever action files you set up, keep them somewhere visible for you so you'll remember to work on them and rifle through them periodically. Right out on your desk is fine, or use an angled file holder so you can see all the labels.
Karen Ussery, Organizing Specialist, Speaker and Author Organized For Success: Organizing, Time Management and Life Balance Founder, National Association of Professional Organizers Arizona Chapter
visit www.organizedforsuccess.com to take the "How organized are you really?" Quiz phone (602) 248-2884