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Jewish World Review March 19, 2001 / 24 Adar, 5761

He Works/She Works
By Jaine Carter and James D. Carter

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Getting organized takes time; staying organized takes planning

http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- THE advent of the computer has not eliminated the need for the proverbial paper trail. Instead, it appears that most of us still print our e-mails (probably because they are easier to access and read at our leisure), as well as save them on our hard drives. The result is that offices and homes are full of multiple discs as well as pile upon pile of paper.

The U.S. Postal Service has not gone away. We still get masses of correspondence - including bills, brochures, advertisements, magazines and newspapers. Storing all this data could require multiple file drawers - or even multiple cabinets.

Lois Garcia of San Diego, Calif., says she has multiple file cabinets in which she stores various categories of paper. "One file cabinet is for home and personal correspondence. In it I have a special drawer for household bills, separated by category ... electric, utilities, pest control, etc. I have another file cabinet for my home business correspondence ... bills, receivables, correspondence, IRS forms and regulations. Then there is a third cabinet for miscellaneous stuff like magazine articles I feel I want to read someday.

"The problem is that I never seem to have enough time to do all the filing that is necessary, so I just put stuff in piles with all good intentions of getting them put away into the appropriate file cabinet someday. I never seem able to find that time and the piles just get bigger and bigger."

It feels good knowing there is a place for everything. It feels even better to be able to find it. The problem is that our priorities get muddied during the day-to-day hassle of normal living.

You know the routine: You get up a little late in the morning and you're running five paces behind the rest of the day. You can't find that report that was due today because it's in a file on your desk (at least you thought it was on your desk) somewhere under all those papers. Or is it in the bedroom where you had planned to study it before you went to sleep last night?

"To get and stay organized, you really have to tackle time," said Julie Morgenstern, author of "Time Management From the Inside Out." "You have to look at the big picture. No matter how hectic life gets, the most successful people are able to rise above the chaos and keep their perspective because they have an overriding vision of their life. If you don't have clear goals and priorities, you won't know where to spend you time."

Getting organized takes time. Staying organized takes planning. Pipi Campbell Peterson, author of "Ready, Set, Organize! Get Your Stuff Together," suggests a nine-step system of organization: Get motivated, plan time, schedule, simplify daily activities, rethink storage, organize clothing, organize papers, set up office and record data.

Start with a plan. "Planning frees up your time. It allows you to spend more time on your priorities because you spend less time on those things that aren't really important to you," said Peterson. "Planning helps you make decisions because you see things in relationship to the bigger plan, the overall picture."

Being able to make speedy decisions saves time. What to do and when to do it make more sense, and you stop procrastinating.

Part of your master plan should contain an analysis of all your belongings, along with rethinking your current storage patterns. You goal is to find efficient storage for everything you store or use along with a system that will help you stay organized.

How many times have you cleaned out your closets only to find them in chaos a month later?

"That happens because you haven't created a plan for how to stay organized," said Peterson. "When determining storage, consider flexibility, availability, neatness and convenience. Before you set up any storage area, roam around your house and office to discover your 'footprint'."

What is the first thing you do every evening when you come home from work? Where do you open the mail? Where do you read it? What do you do when you have finished reading it?

The trick, according to Peterson, is to handle each category one at a time, take appropriate action and then go on to the next category. For example, access and read all you e-mails, discard as many as possible, deal with the truly urgent and save only what you truly believe you will need in the future.

Then tackle the next category and file, in appropriate files; bills to be paid, correspondence to answer, IRS documents, etc. Cluster phone calls for a time convenient to you. Unless each phone calls takes unlimited concentration, you can talk while you file those papers in their proper place.

Continually rethink and reorganize these segments of your life.

Or, as Peterson recommends, "Personalize, consolidate, separate, discard and maintain."

Jaine Carter, Ph.D. and James D. Carter, Ph.D. are management consultants and authors of the book, ''He Works She Works -- Successful Strategies for Working Couples." Comment by clicking here.

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