One strategy for staying organized involves taking your starting point as seriously as umpires take cleaning home plate. I call this organizing your way home.
In baseball, umpires don’t allow the next batter up until they sweep the dirt from home plate. Until home plate is clarified, the action can’t start. The white house shape of home plate represents the beginning and (hopefully) the end of the runner’s journey. The clean edges of the plate tell a story for the umpire. How can he know if a pitch catches the outside corner of the plate if it’s covered in dirt? A clear plate clarifies the game for everyone.
Is your work surface as clear as home plate? For years I have maintained that a clear work surface is your number one organizing tool. Accordingly, I have also asserted that clearing your work surface is your number one daily organizing habit. That’s easier to do when you are clear on what “clear” is. Is your definition of “clear” as clear as the five cornered shape of home plate? If your definition of clear changes every day, it will take you longer to get there. The longer something takes, the more inclined you are to skip it.
The umpire knows he is done defining home plate when he sees five corners and five sides. I recommend aiming for something just as easy and clear. Here are three things to consider when establishing your definition of “clear.”
1. processing, not storage
The purpose of a work surface should be processing. Take this seriously. Your work surface should never be squandered on storage. For every single item that lives on the edge of the desk, ask if you absolutely need it handy. The fewer items you leave, the easier it will be to remember what makes the cut.
2. de-prioritize to prioritize
Any office tool you are not using on a daily basis should live off the main surface. Just keep one small container with one blue pen, one black pen, one highlighter etc. Keep this container and daily tools in the same location every day. The more you say “no” to excess items, the more you say “yes” to precious space. Set limits and set a location and stick to it.
3. action, not display
You may find yourself wanting to make an exception for framed photos and other decorations. Don’t get me wrong. I like photos and decorations. I have no issue with them. No issue that is, unless they are eating up precious work surface. I understand the need to personalize your work space, but not where the actual papers shuffle. Decorations are better on your wall, shelf, or even a side table. This is about using a space with a purpose. Theses other spaces are great for display, but your work surface is great for action. Use accordingly and you will make your number one daily organizing habit so much easier.
Organizing your way home is about give yourself a clear end in sight. Every non-desk time should have a reliable home off the desk surface. Every work day should end by returning these items to their reliable homes. Your end goal should be a familiar sight that is as clear as home plate. That way you can start your next game day with no delay. Batter up!