Raise your hand if you have piles of files, a full voicemail box, a cluttered email inbox, or an overflowing to-do list.
For most entrepreneurs and small business owners, this is a reoccurring dilemma. Since business moves at the speed of thought, it happens. However, you can do something about it by managing yourself more effectively in relation to those items coming into your existence.
How do we do it?
We D.R.A.F.T. it to Get Better Organized.
First, we have to understand that we are evaluation creatures. As humans, we are continually judging or assigning meaning, consciously or unconsciously, to all the things that come into our experience. We evaluate by asking ourselves three simple questions on a continual loop all day long:
- What is it?
- What does it mean to me?
- What am I supposed to do with it or about it?
Simple questions. However, if we can’t answer all three questions effectively and / or we don’t have a predetermined plan for the answers, they start to stack up.
Below is a simple process to evaluate the items that are stacking up, or backing up, in your world and a procedure to direct them to the appropriate landing spot where they will reside so you see them only when you need to see them and can act on them.
Take all the piles from your desk, credenza, chairs, and maybe even your floor. Set up five spots. Starting at the top of the collected pile, take each item one-by-one and sort it accordingly into one of the five spots, as listed below.
D – Distribute or Delegate: These are the items that need to be passed on to the right people that can act on it and move it towards completion.
R – Reading: These are the items you told yourself you either want to read or need to read. The two subsets to this are:
Reading to learn (books, articles, brochures, etc.).
Write the title of the books you want or need to read on a reading list.
Place the books on a bookshelf.
Place a reminder on your calendar to reference your list.
When you review your list, select the book you want to read and when you will read it.
Place the title of the book in your calendar for when you will read it.
Reading to decide (events & invitations, captured notes from meetings; items you may not be sure if there is an action or project within it. These can usually fit in a folder labeled “Decision Reading.”
Schedule time for this kind of reading.
Read. Make decisions. Purge reading material when done reading unless it needs to be retained for reference.
File away in either an A-Z reference file or to a Project file if appropriate (see below for more explanation of files).
A – Action: These items are either a single task or a small project which requires you to take action steps for their completion. They ultimately need to get onto your to-do list or calendar and get done.
Once listed on your list or calendar, they can be redeposited to your inbox for easier access, management, and execution.
F – File: There are three primary types of files.
- Reference – Place these in your A-Z filing system for easy retrieval. Be mindful of the life span of the item. Assign an appropriate purge date. If it can be found on the internet, it’s probably best to toss the item and access it from the internet when you need it.
- Clients – Any item that pertains to a client needs to be in their file.
- Projects – Any item that pertains to a project you are currently working on or a completed project that may need to be referenced.
T – Toss or Throw away: As you go through your piles, have your wastebasket as one of the five spots. Toss anything that you no longer need.
During this session, it is not a bad idea to go through a few A-Z files and toss anything that has a purge (expiration) date from previous D.R.A.F.T. sessions.
To complete the D.R.A.F.T. process be sure to do the following:
- Send the D items to the appropriate people.
- Place the R items on your reading list, Decision Read file, or bookshelf.
- Place the A items in a folder or your inbox to process.
- Place the F items in the appropriate R,C,P file sections.
- Place the T items in the wastebasket and empty the wastebasket.
Once you have taken the time to D.R.A.F.T the piles of files around your office, a best practice is to carve out 30-60 minutes at the end of each week and perform a mini-D.R.A.F.T session to stay on top of any accumulated items from the week. Working to get better organized keeps your desk clear and your mind clear going into next week.
Make it up, make it fun, and get it done!