Where do I start? My life is so disorganized!”
Start with just five minutes a day.
“But I can’t accomplish anything in just five minutes!”
Five minutes a day is more than nothing, it’s a containable time period, and by the end of one week – you’ll have dedicated more than 35 minutes to your de-cluttering goal. Here are some road rules to follow, five minutes at a time.
Today’s 5 Minute Fix: Create a Next Action File
A Next Action File is a component that is often associated with a Paper Drop Zone. (See Tip #1) A Next Action File contains labeled folders, an inbox tray or any area where you temporarily park papers. Next Action files should be batched into high level actions to be most effective. Action Files should allow you to make the first tier decisions about items by deciding what the very next action is for each item. This is a skill I call ‘macro-sorting’, and you will see immediate results with incoming papers when you create a system that works for you.
The idea of a Next Action file is to move your papers immediately into action from the moment they enter your system. By doing so, you will eliminate the “piles” of postponed decisions. The key to a successful system is to identify the most common actions you take regularly to process any incoming paper. Next Actions such as Read, Pay, Contact, File, Follow Up, and Pending or Waiting On, are used as folder titles and may work well for you. But – it’s important to know that the action files should be “named” according to how your brain categorizes information. I always recommend using “verbs” so that papers become “activated” from the moment they enter your system, however many people prefer to use “people” or “categories” because those names make more sense to them.
The best advice I can give you is to experiment with your Next Action file names. Think about how your brain works naturally – don’t second-guess yourself in what comes naturally. Use actions or categories that work with how you typically categorize information already. You’ll find that your brain is often more consistent than you think. Action Files can also be designated to other people in your family or office if the NEXT ACTION is theirs alone.