You’ve read the Get Organized Challenge Overview (read it now if you haven’t yet), and now you just want a simple plan to follow.

Great! Let’s dive in so you can get started.

Week 1

This week, let’s focus on finding a place for everything, and do it in small chunks. Each day, you’ll spend 10 minutes in the morning when you start work doing one of the following:

  1. Assess: First, spend 10 minutes making a list of the types of things you need to organize. Look through the emails sitting in your inbox, and figure out what types of information there are (ex: tasks, articles to read later, requests you’re waiting on, information for future plans or travel, bills to pay and receipts). Also look at what tabs you have open on your browser — they usually represent something you have to do or read or research. Look at what files you have on your desktop. After 10 minutes, you can stop (unless you feel like doing a few more minutes).
  2. Find your main tools: Spend 10 minutes coming up with the tools you currently use (or want to use) for the main types of information you have. Examples: tasks, project planning, ideas, requests you’re waiting on, travel info, financial bills & receipts, read later, passwords & credit card info. You can always try other tools later — pick some simple ones to use now, if you don’t have one yet. You don’t need to find a tool for every kind of info. [Note: I’m going to do a separate article on some ideas for tools.]
  3. Start putting things in your tools: Think of each tool like a bucket for your info. If you haven’t already been using the tools, start putting info in there now. Just spend 10 minutes a day doing this.
  4. Put things in their buckets each morning: Once you have things a bit set up, spend 10 minutes or so each morning putting things in their proper buckets. During the day, also notice when things come in, and mentally make a note of where they belong. If you have time, put them where they belong immediately — this is not crucial at this point but it’s good to start thinking about it.

Note that we’re not tackling physical things yet. We’ll do that in Week 3. One step at a time!

Week 2

This week, we’ll focus on putting things in their proper buckets. Each day, spend 10 minutes in the morning when you start work doing one of the following:

  1. Review: Spend some time reviewing your task list and any other tools that should be reviewed.
  2. Parse: When you do email, parse it so that each task or piece of necessary info goes in the proper bucket. Tasks go into the task list, articles to read go in the read later tool, etc. [Note: I’m going to do another article on processing email.]
  3. Incoming: As things come in, work on the habit of putting them where they belong. If you absolutely don’t have the time (as opposed to not feeling like it), then don’t worry — you can always put them where they belong in your next morning review.
  4. End of day: If you have 10 minutes at the end of the day, do an afternoon review as well — look through your task list, and other tools, and make sure things are in order. Put things where they belong if they’re not already. You don’t need to get through everything, as you’ll do another review first thing in the morning, but it’s nice to leave with a little bit of order.

Week 3

In this third week, we’ll reinforce our previous habits, and start with physical stuff. Each day, spend 10 minutes in the morning doing one or more of the following:

  1. Assess your physical stuff: Start with your workspace — what’s on top of your desk? What’s nearby? Look through your drawers. Make a list of the types of things you have that need to be organized. Later, do this for other areas of your office and/or home. You can do this in small chunks, and it can continue into the next month or two as needed.
  2. Start making homes for everything: Again, do this in chunks. Have a bunch of bills? Make a bills folder, and review it once a week. Have a bunch of photos? Make a folder for photos to digitize, and scan them once a month (or send them to a service to be digitized).
  3. Set up a regular review: Set up a time for each thing — clear your desk at the end of each day, process mail at a certain time, pay bills once a week, process your inbox once a day, etc.
  4. Put things in their buckets regularly:
  5. Continue previous habits: Spend time reviewing and processing your information, as in previous weeks. It’s important that you stay on top of these, so that they start to become real habits. If you slip up, add some accountability by asking people on your accountability team (join one if you haven’t yet) to hold you accountable — set up consequences if you don’t do it.

Week 4

This week we’re simply reinforcing the previous habits. Spend some time each morning and at the en of each workday doing the following:

  1. Review: Review your buckets, make sure things are where they belong. Check off things you’ve done, move things.
  2. Parse: Spend time taking things out of your inboxes (physical and digital) and putting them in the right place.
  3. Build awareness: As things come in, be aware of where they belong. If something doesn’t have a place, designate one.
  4. Continue to process digital & physical clutter: It’s highly probable that you haven’t gotten through all your clutter yet. That’s OK. Spend just a little time looking for piles and hidden corners, both physical and digital, that haven’t been processed yet, that don’t have homes yet.
  5. Continue to set up regular times: Each bucket should have a regular processing/review time. When do you look over your projects list? Your Waiting On list? Your Read Later list? Your mail? Your bills?

And with that, you have the start of some great organization habits!