"I don't have enough time to write!" Have you ever thought that? Chances are you'd have ample time if you could just simplify your life. In this guest post, 'decluttering' expert Brenda Spandrio gives us five ready-to-go ways to create more time in our lives and make our writing hours more productive.
Since you are a writer – a creative type – you consider yourself above such a prosaic idea as being organized. Most artists and authors consider keeping a neat and tidy workspace (electronic and physical) a waste of time. They are busy creating! The next great novel is begging to be written!
Who has time to file when there are worlds to create and conquer?
The reality is that you end up wasting more time not having routines in place. Simple systems can mean the difference between making progress on your novel and having to spend a day duplicating research on your story’s setting because you can’t find the file you saved (or thought you did).
While technology has made finding and storing information easier than ever, if you don’t have a routine for how, where (and why) you are saving items, you’ll waste a lot of time, energy and file space for stuff you never look at again.
These five tips will help you manage your digital information so that you can be less stressed and more productive with your writing projects.
1. Design your file naming protocols.
One of the most common filing mistakes is improper or inadequate naming. Thank goodness the days are gone when document names were limited to 8 characters (or aren’t you old enough to remember the Stone Age?).
And thank goodness for more robust search capabilities on the computer.
But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t create good habits. One of the first habits to establish is to develop your own file naming protocols.
Be clear: My own file name “fails” include: “InfoPubFreeReport,” “POST,” “Self” and “TS001090305.” Come back to them later and what do they mean?2. Ask the right questions.
When file names aren’t clear, you waste time opening random (but promisingly named) documents or scrolling through hundreds of files to find what you want. When you save a document, take the time to check that the File Name makes clear sense.
Trust me, a few weeks from now you will have no idea what you meant by “1_ConAcceptanceNotice1_i11.”
Be specific: Don’t just call files “DRAFT-1,” “DRAFT-2” and so forth. Be as specific as you can: “2015-01 Writer’s Village Guest Post-How to Organize Documents.” If you come up with a better title later, update the File Name accordingly.
Be consistent: Use the same file naming protocol for your low-tech notes, too! Whether you jot an idea on an index card or sticky note, write a page or two on your yellow pad, or maybe use an electric typewriter (they are making a come-back!) be sure to label it with your standard naming protocol.
That way when you scan or type your notes into the computer, you know right where they go.
The reason you often fail in your efforts to keep things organized is that you are so concerned with “where” something “should” go that you ignore the other more important questions.
To help determine the best place to file your documents, start with asking:
- What is this and which project is it associated with?
- Is action required? If so, when?
- When do I plan to use this next?
- How often will I be referring to this?
Other questions will help you decide if you can delete the file altogether:
- Does this item have a specific purpose or use?
- Is it difficult to obtain again? Or could Google find this for me easily?
- What’s the worst thing that could happen if I don’t keep this?
Evernote, OneNote, Ubernote, Dropbox, Trello, Google Drive, Scrivener… How many accounts do you have? How many do you actually use?
It’s easy to get carried away with all the new software and programs available that promise to help you be a more organized, productive writer. These tools are useful and they can help you, but only if you take the time to learn the best way to use them. Otherwise, they just become another place to dump stuff that you eventually forget about.
Consider focusing on just one or two of these programs for the next three months, scheduling time to learn the different features. That way you can determine if a particular tool really does work for you.
4. Act as though your systems are in place.
I don’t believe in getting organized. Surprised? I know that sounds weird coming from an organizing consultant, but most of the time it’s just a way to procrastinate.
However, I do advocate being organized – and there is a difference.
You can be organized right now by acting as though your new systems are already in place. That means that for every new document you create or download, you file it according to your new – better – system so that you can be sure to find what you need when you need it.
It also means that you don’t have to spend several hours (or days) cleaning up your old files. Instead, every time you use a document, take a moment to rename it according to your new file naming protocol and make sure it is filed in the correct folder or program.
5. Plan time to declutter and organize.
Acting as though your systems are in place is going to keep new digital clutter from occurring, but you still need to have a plan to deal with the backlog of old files so that your computer runs better – and so that you can find that long-lost masterpiece that you started a couple of years ago.
Schedule 15 minutes, 3-5 days a week to go through your files, deleting those you don’t need and renaming the ones that are still usable.
You might start with your Desktop. Or you could begin with My Documents. What matters is developing a consistent routine so that you can get through them all eventually.
When you declutter and organize your electronic workspace and adopt simple routines, you’ll soon find that the steps you take to maintain order will become habit. Doing this will reduce your stress levels, make your writing time more productive, make your life more enjoyable.
And give you more time to write!
What tips have you found useful for decluttering your life? For organizing your digital files? And for finding more time to write? Share your ideas with us in the comments below. Every comment is guaranteed a fast, helpful reply!
Brenda Spandrio works via Skype or phone with both residential and small business clients. Not only does she help you tackle the clutter, she works through your time and paper management issues; space planning; filing system creation; financial management; setting up a home office and more. More importantly, she uncovers the unconscious thoughts and behaviors that challenge your ability to create and maintain order.
Check out The Declutter Lady blog, download the "Quick and Easy Guide to Clearing the Clutter" and schedule a free 30 minute session!
Posted by Brenda Spandrio. Posted In : Guest Posts