Everyday, I get hundreds of e-mail, text messages, and 50-page reports asking my opinion or decision on a myriad of concerns. Of course, it is not humanly possible for me to read all these in a day. And there was a time I did not even have the time just to filter what’s important from what’s not. The sheer effort of trying to clear up my e-mail inbox and my work desk always defeated me.
If you feel this way, take a deep breath and read about my journey to unclutter my life where you can pick up some tips to apply to your own attempt at organizing yours.
[related|post]Understand how things get done
The first step in my journey was to read Getting Things Done, fondly referred to as GTD and written by David Allen. Its main principle is to keep the mind free of clutter so you can devote full attention to what’s important or urgent at the moment. GTD is anti-multitasking.
I used to be a multi-tasker. I could write and plan while listening to music, reading mail, and talking on the phone. But as I grew older, doing several things made me less productive and wore me out. I would start the day aiming to finish a report, but an idea would fire me up and I would go to Google and do some research. Before I knew it, most of the day was over and I was still stuck writing page one.
Now, whenever an idea occurs to me, I just write it down in a notebook and return to what I was originally doing. On Fridays, I devote one to two hours scanning my notebook of ideas to see what I can put off or what I can include in my next to-do list. I also gather all unfulfilled tasks, calendar events, and prepare my list for the next week. Read more about GTD at Wikipedia here.
Clean and tune up your computer
After reading GTD, I buckled down to clearing up my workspace. I spent a couple of days sorting my pile of papers, separating junk from the important files, which were stored in folders and labeled according to topic or subject matter. I felt much lighter after the exercise. Next, I cleaned up the files in my computer. I did almost the same thing – I went through all directories and files, deleted unwanted files, and sorted the rest. (For old files I might need for future reference, I backed these up using Step 3, below). A slow computer takes up so much of my time so I surfed the Web to find out how to speed up my Windows XP. I found the following useful websites and tools: http://www.beemerworld.com/tips/servicesxp.htm and http://www.tweak3d.net/tweak/xp15minutes/. Also, remove unnecessary services that slow down your computer.
1. Backup old files
If I found a file that I did not need immediately (old email messages, five-year-old contracts, etc.) I compressed these. For compressing files, I used a free, open source compression tool called 7-zip, which can be downloaded here. Since it’s open source, I’m pretty sure it does not have spyware and viruses.
For old files that were not important but were either very large ones (like videos) or were still nice to keep, I burned these into CDs. The more important and smaller files, I sent to Gmail. Note that backing up files through Gmail may be more reliable than storing them in CDs. After all, CDs could be scratched and formats may change. Gmail is always available and the Google folks even take care of backing up the files for me!