Now that many academics have their summer schedules with lighter instruction loads, it seems like a popular time to think about organizational projects.
Organization and decluttering has been on my mind in particular the past several months for a couple of reasons. I began doing a major rehaul of my work office last December in preparation for a move sometime in 2016 to off-site offices while the library went through renovation. With 10 years in the same office, the clutter and backlog of files, papers and journals was daunting to say the least.
More recently, my focus on organization reached a new high as I accepted a new job as the Graduate Engineering Librarian at Kennesaw State University and had to totally empty and move all my stored knowledge and academic output off my university servers and out of my work office. Suffice it to say that work organization has now led to a heightened focus on organization/decluttering challenges within my home as well. I’ll begin with a few of my discoveries and foibles and end with some helpful resources and tips that might inspire some of you to tackle decluttering projects of your own.
Discovery Number One: While a convenient way to have all my project work and ongoing research conversations organized, detailed foldering within a work email account is a disaster when your library decides to change email providers OR when you leave jobs and want to be sure your research knowledge is not lost.
Yes, I know. We have spent a lot of time here talking about GTD, Inbox Zero, etc… regardless, old habits die hard and I had quite the history of knowledge in my work email/online calendar.
My solution: I used two different methods to rehome my email knowledge. First, where I already had similar topic notebooks in Evernote, I emailed items directly to the proper Evernote notebook via my Evernote email account. (The Evernote Knowledge base has all the details for this!)
For items that I didn’t want to lose access to, but were not ready to dedicate a whole Evernote notebook to, I created a new Outlook email account, and then, using Thunderbird as a transferring interface, I loaded both my Outlook accounts into Thunderbird and then it was a process of drag and drop emails from similar folders in one account to the other.
What I learned: While I found work around methods to preserve my knowledge base, what I already knew and was re-iterated to me throughout this process is the importance of NOT using email as your knowledge base, no matter how tempting it is!
Discovery Number Two: Big Organizing Projects can be a great way to take a mind break from thought-intensive or stress-inducing work days. During those times (especially early afternoon, post lunch slumps), taking just a 20 minute block to time to tackle one small part of my office was a great way to get my blood flowing, and my mind clearing. And those organizing tasks that involved throwing items away (which many did!) could be really great for stress reduction… gleefully ripping paper or tossing stacks of outdated materials was really energizing. It was also very satisfying to look at that single shelf, desk corner, drawer that has been organized or even emptied and see the task accomplished.
Discovery Number Three: All those carefully saved files which you think has so much helpful information for your successor? Chances are they aren’t interested in sorting through your piles of information or files. You can try meeting with them, if that is an option, but chances are, they are just going to throw everything away that you leave… so you might want to save them the trouble and leave your next office occupant a clean slate to work from.
Discovery Number Four: Starting with your own clean slate, whether it be a new job/office/email account or just a newly cleaned one, can be a wonderful opportunity to put better organizational procedures into place for yourself. For me, I’m doing much better so far at keeping my inbox to a mimimum level. Decluttering Projects are a great way to make a fresh start!
Here are some practical suggestions for Summer-time reorganization/decluttering projects you might wish to tackle:
- Invest some time into learning a nice notebook software like Microsoft OneNote or Evernote. Get key knowledge bases set up in these tools and use scanning, emailing, online clipping or manual input of your existing knowledge into these new online tools.
- Password Review: Go through all your various devices and online tools and make a list of all (yes ALL) your passwords. Explore some of the online password managers. PCMag did a nice review of the best ones. Review the strength of your passwords, strengthen those which need it, then either use one of the password manager tools, or retool your passwords to be both strong and memorable for you.
- Combine a positive activity with a chore. Listen to music or an audio book when doing your mindless online sorting of emails or organizing your databases. Relieve stressful days with paper-ripping, trash tossing organization task breaks.
- As you go through your re-org, start two master lists: What is working? What Isn’t Working? These insights can be very helpful as you develop and adopt new procedures and tools to improve your organizational habits for the long haul.
Some Additional Organizing Sites to Further Inspire You:
The 5 Best Organizing Websites To Help The Perpetually Messy
Organizing Home Life’s 31 Days of Home Management (with printable forms)
Home Storage Solutions 101: Do’s and Don’ts Guide to Donating and Decluttering
Lifehacker: Top 10 Office Decluttering Tricks
Be More With Less: Declutter Your World in 10 Days Challenge