Clear The Decks!


If your work area is piled high at the end of each day, give yourself the “gift of organization.” Spend 15 to 30 minutes clearing desktops, tables and the floor. Quickly, do today’s filing and declutter.

Now … you can begin the next day with order and confidence, knowing beforehand what needs your immediate attention. Preparation for appointments and calls avoids a fiasco and stress.


To reserve periods of time for appointments, errands, projects, family activities, exercise, and quiet time, use a paper or electronic system. Excellent datebooks include DayTimer, DayRunner, and Franklin. I use a Sharp electronic organizer, and couldn’t live without it. You might also look into U.S. Robotics’ Pilot, Apple’s Newton, and Psion. Be sure to do “backups” weekly (of more often) and offer a “Reward on Return” offer on opening screen. Think about it … how much chaos would it cause in your life if you lost your organizer?

Another familiar permanent record of your schedule is a wall or desk-pad size calendar. We strongly recommend this (in addition to the organizer you carry) for viewing the month-at-a-glance. Be sure to do daily updates and match the calendar with your portable organizer. This avoids double-booking!


Schedule phone calls before lunch or near quitting time to shorten lengthy conversations. Small segments of time can be productive — opening the mail, reading an important article, making a phone call, or jotting a quick note. When you’re away from you desk, call your own voicemail or use a small tape recorder for instant reminders instead of writing notes on little pieces of paper.

You don’t have to do everything. Delegate tasks to assistants, family members, and independent contractors whenever possible. Your time should be spent doing what you do best.


Excessive paperwork, possessions and subscriptions can be overwhelming. They consume valuable space and waste time. If these items no longer have a function in your life, you may be ready to “let go” — give away or toss.

Store archival items a distance from your workspace. Inactive records (such a tax records or former client files) will deplete functional drawers, shelves and floor space.

Tear-out clippings and index them in three-ring notebooks. File folders may be best for infrequently accessed records. Store binders with dividers, excellent for regularly used information, on a nearby bookshelf.


A good rule for placement is to keep at arm’s length only records and supplies used daily or weekly. I always refer to this space as “Million-Dollar Real Estate” because it’s so valuable. Store less frequently used items farther away.


For the important “Things To Do,” first examine the task and then ask yourself, “What action must be taken?” Short-term action files stimulate productivity in the management of such priorities as: To Call, To Pay (Bills), etc.. These essential hanging files (or stackables) should be near your favorite work area. Develop a habit of doing these tasks at hand every morning, which eliminates a build-up of paperwork. These are “Hot Action Files” — not desktop storage!!!


Chaos and wasted time are eliminated when “like” data and supplies are grouped together and color- coded. Most importantly, this facilitates the return of items to their designated “home.” For folder labels, start with the basics — red for paid bills, green for income, blue for projects, and yellow for general information.


Emergencies and disasters make us aware that we must prepare! A complete record of vital family and financial information should be compiled and stored in a safe deposit box.

Following a major earthquake near my home in Southern California, I published the user-friendly, fill-in-the-blank Personal Assets Inventory Workbook©. For computer users, AssetCommander software is also available. These products help you make lists and locations of documents and records, household possessions, and key people to contact in an emergency.

For more information on the Personal Assets Inventory Workbook and our Asset Inventory Package — PAI Workbook and AssetCommander.

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Reprinted with permission from Donna D. McMillan
Professional Organizer and Productivity Consultant
McMillan & Company Professional Organizing

Donna D. McMillan
Productivity Consultant
Efficiency Trainer/Coach

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Hawaii location, co-founders Donna D. McMillan and Karen L. Simon