Independent Thinking Blog

Operation Clean Office, Inbox Zero, and Lessons Learned

I intended for my first blog post of the work year to focus on my overall approach to 2010, but instead I find myself looking backwards. Not to 2009 per se, but to the actions I took during my two weeks of downtime that have given me a running start into the new year.

You see, while I blocked off my calendar and did no billable work, I actually got a lot done:

  • Set up a new computer, including transferring all my files from the old one, getting the network connection operational, and downloading TweetDeck, Skype, and other critical programs.
  • Discovered the Sticky Notes utility program, which will nicely replace some of the physical post-it notes for to-do items. (It helps that I have a big, wide-screen monitor now, so that a sticky note can sit at the edge of my desktop without taking up valuable real estate)
  • Closed my 2009 books, meaning every invoice, expense, and receipt has now been accounted for and all I have to do is print out the ledgers come tax time.
  • Implemented Operation Inbox Zero. Well, technically Inbox 7, but they’re all items that will be acted on today–and then they’re toast.
  • Sorted through e-mail folders, which involved skimming through old client files and deleting over 1,300 e-mails dealing with past projects, tasks, and the like.
  • Implemented Operation Clean Office. This involved ruthlessly tossing all the books, papers, computer disks, and backup tapes from years past that had at one time fallen into that pesky “keep for now” status. A 4x4x2.5 pile of items into the dumpster later, I have shelf space, filing space, and a clutter-free desk.

I enter the new year with three takeaways:

1. Each of these tasks takes only 2-3 hours (except for the computer set-up, which ended up being more of an all-day affair. But that’s largely because I took advantage of the ritual to organize files, delete obsolete stuff, and so forth.)

2. Don’t think you can do everything at one. I tackled these tasks one-at-a-time over the two-week period, and then spent the rest of my day doing fun stuff. That made each task less daunting, and every day I made progress.

3. You have to schedule this stuff. A lot of the back-end administrative stuff gets out of hand when I’m busy with client work and/or business development. I was reminded (again) that I need to schedule time to handle these tasks on a weekly basis, much as I schedule everything else in my business. That way I’m hoping they take only 30 minutes a week and I keep my office under control.

So that’s where I find myself this first work day of 2010. What about you?

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