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After my recent feeble attempt to assist with financial austerity (you remember the iron incident), I redirected my efforts this past week to a more, shall we say, useful target.   My work.   Work makes up no small part of my weekly existence, and a good portion of this is spent in my home office in front of a computer.   After putting some thought into this aspect of my life, I found myself testing a few tactics that I found quite refreshing, if not downright Zen-inspired.   I list these below for your reference.  You will find these particularly useful should you, too, get shot-down by the family anti-austerity police.  I will list these as “sub-types” of austerity (Nick, perhaps you can use these to rekindle your Organization Camp concept, but it’ll cost you 50 bucks)…

Desk-top Austerity:  I made a point this week of removing all items from my desk-top at the end of every day (excluding my lamp, phone, etc.).   Normally, at the end of a day my desk would be awash with clutter.   This should be no surprise, since this is pretty much a 3D projection of my mind.   But there is nothing more stressful than waking up to that in the morning.    So, this past week, I’ve made a point of returning everything to its rightful place by the end of the day; if there was no rightful place, I created one (which I probably should’ve done 20 years ago anyway).   For those items that are “work-ongoing”, I placed these in a neat pile on my chair, ready to be accessed again the next day.   A simple thing, but boy, does a clutter-free desk ever help get your day off on the right foot!

E-mail Austerity:  Okay, there is only so much you can do to limit your e-mail load.   However, you do have control over how you deal with them.   Yet another new organizational leaf turned over by me this week was the cleaning up of my email list so that I could actually see the bottom of my Inbox.   Yes, I know!  Imagine my surprise and delight to learn that a bottom actually exists!  Much like a clean desktop in the morning, opening up Outlook to see that blank space at the end is like, like having an Organizational Orgasm.   How’s that for a term?  As I assessed each e-mail in my Inbox I did one of three things:  1) Deleted it if not needed, 2) Filed it if it might have some future value, or 3) Replied to it (and then deleted or filed it).   It was kind of scary to see so much unneeded stuff just sitting there, even scarier to find a scattered e-mail that I should’ve replied to some time ago.   I have also begun using the Task option.   Rather than having a scribbled to-do list on yet another piece of paper, I now schedule in these things as Tasks with a due date and a reminder to boot.   Works beautifully!   Finally, I’ve begun to close down all e-mails and other files at the end of the day, and fully shutting down my computer.  Not just hibernating it.   In this very action, there is psychological closure to one day, and turning of the page for the next (and it’s good for your computer, too).

Priority Austerity:  Who says men have one-track minds (okay, ignore the orgasm comment above)?   It is more accurate to say that men have selectively one-track minds.   For example, I have on a very rare occasion been accused of only hearing what I want to hear.   Organizationally-speaking though, my mind is more akin to the Autobahn, with priorities whizzing about at breakneck speed, all “very” important yet all only partially completed at any given time.   This can be a quite stressful existence.   This past week, I have committed myself to really taking the time to “prioritize the priorities”.  I know this sounds like standard corporate mumbo-jumbo, and it is.   But even corporate-speak usually has an iota of sense at the base (although if I hear 1+1=3 or 110% one more time, I’m gonna FREAK!!).   Now, where was I?  Oh, right, priorities.   By getting a firm handle on what is really a priority, and not something just masquerading as one, you can then focus your energies to get the important ones fully dealt with in a sequential manner.   This sounds much simpler than it is, but it’s well worth the effort and certainly enhances your efficiency and productivity.

So there you have it.   Not rocket science, I know, but a few suggestions that will hopefully contribute to your own quest for Zen.

Yours in organization,