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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Organization for Authors

There are many things I feel confident in doing, but organization isn't one of them. I have invested in the books, read, highlighted and sticky-noted them (to prove they were used), and even implemented some of the more noteworthy strategies. I’ve learned some valuable tidbits along the way. But, unfortunately bad habits die hard.

I use many excuses as to why I can’t be organized a few of them are as follows:

I enjoy being creative and a messy desk is the sign of creative activity.
If I spent my time being organized I'd never write!
Why put that paper away when I’ll need it in a few minutes?
I’ll do it later.

Well, all of these sentiments do hold a tiny kernel of truth, but the fact remains, I have often spent hours looking for a valuable piece of information that I can't find. I heard that when all those wasted hours are added up, we can spend as much as 6 weeks of time total in one year looking for things. That makes even the most unorganized person (like me) cringe! It’s not that I don’t want to be organized, I do. But, I consider organization to be work and work is something that takes effort...and then…well…it’s so much easier to lay down that piece of paper rather than using up much needed brain cells to figure out where the paper goes. Besides, in order for me to file I need folders that are labeled and a place to put them and that takes t*i*m*e...the 4-letter work most full time authors don't have in their vocabularies.

As an author, I need to be somewhat organized in my business as well as my personal life. I have used many systems; in fact I feel I’ve tried just about every suggestion that made sense to me. At one time I used notebooks, tabbing important pages with sticky notes or using dividers that I created or purchased. Then, I switched to file cabinets but I have never liked files. When I tired of the file cabinets I went to baskets in matching styles but in various sizes. I even organized the children’s toys in baskets and I loved the way it looked. The problem with baskets is you can easily dump an a sundry of items that don’t belong…quicker than you can say, “clean up now!”

I enjoyed using the baskets for my business as well. The end of the baskets came when then, new accountant walked into my office, and looked with disdain at my baskets overflowing with papers, and said in a no-nonsense voice, “You have got to be kidding me.” She quickly requisitioned file cabinets, folders and a system that I still have in place, today. I still insisted on a basket for office supplies, and miscellaneous items.

My favorite way to organize is digitally. I make back-ups upon back-ups of computer information. I have crashed more external hard drives than I care to mention. I seem to have no problem creating a folder on my computer and placing the appropriate pieces of information neatly where it belongs. Although, I have to admit, old habits remain and when I’m in a hurry, everything goes on the desktop to be organized at a later date. I quickly drag the files in the appropriate folders and if there isn’t one I quickly make and label a new file. Why can’t life be so easy? Just drag and drop.

Here are some techniques I have used that work very well for those oh so important bits of information that every author needs.

1. Place important information I need to access soon in a file folder, in a free standing hanging folder on my desk. I can label a new folder or use a catch all to keep those scraps that would otherwise clutter my desk. When I need a that paper, I remember where I “threw” it, retrieve use it and then file it if needed or place it back in the file to use again.

2. Important phone numbers: Easily my cell phone is the best place for numbers, but then I sync my phone to my computer and I print out my list to place in a 3-ring notebook. I have clear business card holders in the back from networking events, or from customers, vendors, or clients. I love this for ease of use. I can grab the book and find everything quickly. I use this one book for multiple businesses, but you may choose to separate home and business.

3. General Important business information: this notebook is for information I don’t need everyday but it is useful to have access when needed, such as: copies of my tax ID number, information about how to file specific information online, passwords, and copies of business licenses, ISBN numbers, and trademark information, etc.

I invite you to listen to my recent interview with prolific author, Cindy Rushton, as she shares her organization techniques with the listening audience. It was wonderful show. Listen here:

That’s all for now…I think you have enough to get started or better yet, if you have a great technique, please post it below so we can all learn. I have made great strides in getting organized and find it is a daily struggle, one I hope to conquer one day soon! Maybe I need to write a book on organization, that is one way to become organized (or at least tell others how to do it!) Until next time, keep writing!

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