Does your desk breed paper every time you turn your back on it? Layer upon layer of miscellaneous paper, magazines, newsletters, invitations to this and that, reports, files and vital tasks you mustn’t forget to attend to? Every couple of weeks, with grim determination and fired by a sense of desperation, do you approach this monstrosity supposed to be a desk, ‘I’m not doing a single thing today until I clean up this mess,‘ you mutter through clenched teeth.
You spend an hour or two of your most productive time (if you’re lucky) shuffling pieces of paper across the surface of the desk, and eventually it’s all sorted out. New and reorganised piles decorate the perimeter of your working space, and you sit back with a sigh of satisfaction, saying to yourself, ‘That’s better. I won’t let that happen again.’
Guess what? For many folk, within a couple of weeks, the pattern is repeated!
Let me tell you about school teacher Roz, whom I met some years ago. She was halfway through my very first course on Getting A Grip On The Paper War. She taught a class, was in charge of the music department, the maths department, had library responsibilities, two desks, a pigeonhole in the staff-room, two diaries, and often two bags! She hardly knew where she was, let alone anyone else knowing where to find her! And most of her paperwork systems were a disaster.
Following is the note she waved proudly when she came back for the second session, written by her principal. (True story – I’ve still got the letter!)
The staff and myself are very impressed with the area to the north of the foyer. We can now recognise it as your office, and not a second-hand dealer’s yard containing a treasure trove for bargain hunters. The organisation is awesome, and the definite spin-off is, in the process of organisation we found that caretaker from 1987 whom we thought had travelled overseas!”
It was people like Roz who motivated me to write ‘Getting a Grip on the Paper War’, and people are constantly telling me how it has changed their lives.
Once while in Germany at the Frankfurt Book with my publisher, Reeds, a bright young woman approached me and greeted me like a long-lost friend. I was soon to learn that Regina wass a Rights Executive for Harcourt Education UK, one of Reed’s sister companies.
She grabbed ‘Getting a Grip on the Paper War’ off the display shelf.
‘I was taking this to Warsaw to promote at a Book Fair recently, and decided to look at it on the plane. Within moments I was hooked – it’s so easy to read. I got so excited I began taking notes on all the scraps of paper I could find in the seat pocket. When I got to the hotel, instead of going out for dinner I decided to stay in and continue reading – by that time I had my notepaper from my luggage. Screeds of notes later, I finished – Warsaw had to wait!
‘It’s all so commonsense! As I read it I kept thinking, “of course” but somehow I had to see it written down to realise the logic. Thank you so much – my desk is so much better now. I have my odd moments of regression, but what a difference!’
Sometimes it’s a lonely road being an author, but it’s stories like these that make it all worthwhile. Thank you, Roz, Regina, and all the many others who’ve shared their successes. Keep up the good work!
For those of you who struggle, it breaks down to three main areas:
- Have you got the right equipment and layout?
- How to sort out the clutter and set up good systems
- How to maintain the systems (I guess you could say that’s the self-discipline side of things, but once the simple systems are set up it becomes far more self-perpetuating and easy).
If you’d like more explanation, check out the book.
From our readers – On managing emails
From Phyl Goodwin, Waiariki, Rotorua, who attended a course with me. We’d been talking about chunking emails for more control. She now puts a footnote at the bottom of all mails – ‘I clear emails at 9am and 3:30pm daily’.
This smart little phrase helps manage expectations, leaving her free to get on with her work through the day, instead of knee-jerking in and out of her email programme ‘because there might be something urgent’.
I personally believe that if something is critical, email is almost always the wrong medium. Instead, use the phone if you want to be sure of a connection. For all you know, the recipient of the email might be on leave or out of the office for the day.