Getting Organized. A Freelancers’ Life.
This is my first blog post.
There. I did it. I started my blog!
It is funny how you plan things in your head that never go into fruition. The reasons can go from “I don’t have the time”, “The day went by and I never realized” or “I have too many things to do”. Every day, we all have a pre-established routine that we follow. These routines are structured by habits, good of bad, which in turn manage how we get through the day. But, how many of us can really get to the end of the day with the feeling that we completed everything we wanted to do?
I migrated from my native country Venezuela, to Canada many years ago. When I arrived, the apartment I rented was not available yet to move in so I had to stay at my brother’s house. While being there, for the first time in my life I realized what being organized felt like. My sister in law is one of those privileged ones that learned to be organized since a very young age. For whatever reason, I never asked her how it happened. I imagine it had something to do with the way her parents raised her. Somehow, she acquired the right habits in order to create the adequate discipline to maintain an organized life. Some people might not like her ways, but the month that I lived there, I realized how much easier life was when things are organized.
After I moved to my own apartment, I was able to maintain the recently created organizational habits for a while until my life changed again. I got married. Funny enough, my husband says one of the reasons he fell in love with me was the impression he had when he visited my apartment for the first time and saw how organized I was.
So, there I was, in a new house, with an adopted step son, a new husband and a new life. Also, there I was completely out of sorts. Without going into much detail, my organization skills and fragile habits I had just created were not solid enough and got diluted between getting accustomed to a person I barely knew, new routines, different job and a completely different environment from what I was used to. I went back to what I knew; the disorganized biggest master of improvisation.
I come from Venezuela. Venezuela is a country with very strange idiosyncrasies. We are always late, we are eternal procrastinators, we wind things on the fly, we leave temporary things unfinished forever and, among other things, we are disorganized. A friend of mine, Juancé Gomez, wrote a book about it called “The 7 sins of the Venezuelans”. When I started reading it, I felt totally redeemed as I always thought all the craziness in my life was a product of my family and the way I was raised. Suffice to say I was always very much a disorganized person. (I still am but I am working hard at changing it)
After 14 years of marriage, two children, two companies to run and a roller coaster of fun, it is easy to look back and say, I should have done this or that. Everyone does it.
So, having said that, I have been reading. eerrr…Not really reading!. More like listening to audio books. Like I said before, every day I feel like there are not enough hours in the day for me to do everything I need to do. Even if the day had 40 hours, the week had 10 days and the year had 18 months, I would not have enough time for me. So, with all the knowledge from the audio books, and the experience and trial and error, I am still not as organized as my sister in law, but I am happy to say… I’m Getting There!!
It took me 3 years to organize my office. Yes! 3 years. Why? Because organizing is not just to make it look pretty. The hardest thing is to make it functional; with a system that will ease your work and that will help you be more efficient. (You will see that word “efficient” popping up very often in my blog!) The office on the picture IS my office (Actually, it has more papers stacked on the desk!)
I always said to my husband I knew where everything was in my office despite of the mess of paper on top of my desk and the clutter everywhere, I did know! I swear!! The problem was the time that it would take me to remember, and all the digging I needed to do.
My office now is still not ultra pretty but at least you can see the desktop. I can write on it without having to throw everything on the floor to clear the desk. I still have some of the clutter on boxes beside my desk to be sorted out. Two boxes in which I could find receipt, invoices, scripts, “I love you”notes from my little one, unfinished and unsent Christmas cards, thank you notes, a miniature Daffy duck to put on top of my pencils, some coins from the sixties and Velcro wrappers for my computer cables. I was able, though, to organize and create a working flow to be able to administer the two companies I run without getting lost in the paperwork and behind on my deadlines. I have been establishing processes for everything, from the scheduling of the tasks I need to complete, delegation of the ones I could not possibly do and figuring out timelines and completion dates for everything I do. I can say now with a lot of pride that I am efficient, and there is a way to prove it, my to-do lists. I have gone through lists and lists and only let them go when they are all checked and completed. My office is still very cluttered and that is something that I will tackle in the near future. However, that is a topic for a whole complete new blog post.
Let me show you then what I learned from all this process.
My “make-my-office-efficient” to-do list :
- Make a list of the tasks that you are supposed to be able to do.
- o Select the ones you HAVE to do
- Select the ones you LIKE to do
- From the above selection, figure out which are the ones you have enough time to finish and prioritize them. (Sure, you will try going for the ones you LIKE to do, again, prioritize!)
- Figure out a way to DELEGATE the rest of the tasks that don’t fit in the 8 hours of daily work. (I’ll talk about this on another post. It is a long topic)
- Figure out the space in your office and look at how to process your tasks. When you handle a paper, where do you put it initially? How many times do you have to find it before you can process it? The point of this task is to eliminate unnecessary steps that rob your time.
- Create a schedule of tasks. Assign specific days for the tasks that can be repeated. Stick to your schedule.
- De-clutter. (As incredible as it may sound, I haven’t gotten to this one…yet!)
So, there you have it. My first blog post! A bunch of dribbling about me and my struggles. Next time I will go more into detail about each of the steps I took to achieve all my progress. The first one will be how to effectively make your to-do list. See you next time.