Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Love My Tickler

It's not what you think....
I'm talking about a filing system...!!!

Tip Seven: Lots of people like the calendars built into their computers. I have not gotten used to that yet. I'm using a cruder system, but it is one that I works for me, at least so far. I set up a two tickler files. One is on my computer and the other is in my desk drawer. It is a essentially a reminder system with documentation attached.

The one in my computer system is part of my email program.
I set up a series of folders and sub-folders.

The main folder is called Tickler
The subfolders are labeled like this: &01Tickler, &02Tickler, etc. through 31, one for each day of the month. I also have 01January, 02February, one for each month. You have to label them like this because the & keeps the days together and because it is a symbol, the computer alphabetizes the symbols first. You have to use 01, 02, because otherwise the computer will line it up, 1, 10, 11, 12, etc., so presumably, you'd have January, October, November and December, before February, March and April.

When an email pertaining to something that must happen on a particular day, I simply drag it into the proper day's folder. If it is for a day in a future month, I will drag it into that month.
The last day of the month is key. That's the day that I have to open the next month's folder and distribute the material into days for the upcoming month. Also, obviously, if you are checking your email on June 10, and something comes in for July 6, you can drag it directly into the &06Tickler folder, since June 6 has already passed.

I have a similar set of files in my desk drawer. I also write personal notes and reminders on scrap paper and jam them in to a particular day. I can also write an email to myself and shift it into a day.

Newsrooms have long used tickler files, but usually editors maintained them, not regular peons such as myself. But David Allen's book "Getting Things Done" reminded me of the files and I decided to try them out.

I love my ticklers because papers no longer sit on my desk as a "reminder" for action. Of course, you can't be reminded when they are buried under loads of similar "reminders."

I have been training myself to look at the files regularly, particularly on Friday when I need to organize the next week's work. Give the ticklers a shot and let me know how it goes. I just like the idea of ticklers. Cheers me up when I'm organizing my desk.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

New Bosses. Old Emails.

Yesterday all my systems collapsed. I had been doing my best to keep my emails to 240 and my desk clear, but yesterday it just didn't work. Everything built up to a big crescendo yesterday.

All morning long we were waiting to hear if our newspaper would be bought and by whom. All of us were in a tither, writing and writing, reporting, trying to learn a little bit about our investors. Naturally, everyone was on edge.

Then, of course, everything happened right on deadline.

If our new owners, who are some local business people, want to own a newspaper, they've got to learn not to push their news right up to the deadline.

So it was completely frantic from about 4:30 to 8 p.m., what with them giving speeches and us trying to write, edit and gossip. Then at about 7 p.m., I learned about warrants being issued for arrest of some union machinists -- a story I had been following. So that had to be written. When it was all done, my email was up to about 280 and I said, forget it, I'm going home. That was enough.

Now, today, I'll get it back down. I guess getting a new boss (or set of bosses) is a good enough excuse to let email drop.

But I'm feeling more hopeful. The whole time that we've been in this anxious process of being sold, I think I just responded by cleaning my desk. Maybe, I wanted to feel in control of something. I was definitely worried about losing my job, especially since I've been here at The Inquirer for so long (nearly 24 years). At the same time, I was falling in love all over again with being a reporter.

I'll blog again next Wednesday. I'm trying to blog on Mondays and Wednesdays, but last week I was off running a church trip and being a chaperone for Central High School's science fair. (I thought I'd have quality time with my teenage son. Hah!)

Now to attack those emails....

Monday, May 08, 2006

Russell Cooke's plan

When I first started doing this organizing series, one of my colleagues wrote to me about his organizational practices. Russell Cooke, who is an editorial writer for The Inquirer, is far more adept than I am in using the computer as an organizing tool.

Russell uses his Microsoft Outlook Contacts program as more than just a telephone listing. He also uses it as a mini-file cabinet, by making liberal use of the notes section. For example, he has a contact for "Travel Plans." In that section, he keeps names and phone numbers for travel agents, travel websites and anything else he needs to book a trip. He has one for his doctors.

He also uses Microsoft Word as a running notebook, keeping all names and phone numbers as he goes, but also writing many key words. Because Microsoft Word is searchable, this acts as a de-facto phone list, and also allows him to find people even if he can't remember their names, titles or jobs.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The Two Minute Rule

Today something is happening here at the Inquirer that strikes me as kind of a joke. We have Brown Bag sessions here at work in which reporters and editors who have developed expertise in certain subjects talk, very informally, about what they do and how they do it.

What's funny is that I'm being asked to talk about organizing my desk. There are lots of things I think I'm good at as a reporter -- developing relationships with people, having good ideas, thinking about holistic and complete approaches to present material, making connections in unusual ways, but I'm being asked to talk about what I struggle with the most, a sense of orderliness.

Of course, in newsrooms, which are legendary for their messiness, someone who keeps a desk clear for three days is probably the equivalent of PhD. OK, so I'll be the expert....

That being said, another tip from my research follows. As a reminder, I will be blogging Mondays and Wednesdays, unless I'm on vacation. Please check back and add your comments.

Tip Six
Once you've collected your items to sort in a box, here's what to do next: Pick the top item and set yourself two minutes to deal with it, either by tossing it, handling the matter, referring it to someone else or filing it appropriately. If it will take longer than two minutes, put it in a project file and on a to-do list, scheduling a time to handle it.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Take A Walk

It's too nice a day to sit inside and organize, so I have a great idea for you that will get you outdoors and also help you with clutter:

Tip Five: Talk over your ideas and organizing strategies with friends (and do it by taking a walk outside!). Ask them for their organizational suggestions, and see if they can find flaws in your logic. But remember: It’s your life and your desk — do it your way.