Does this sound like you? You never have enough time. You can't find anything. You're surrounded by random piles of paper -- unanswered letters, overdue bills, a ransom note dated last August (so that's what happened to little Jason!). If that describes your life, you need to make a New Year's Resolution to get organized.
Which brings us to rule No. 1 for getting organized:
1. Eliminate excess paperwork.
What do we mean by "excess paperwork?" We mean "paperwork." Take my word for it: Top executives never let paperwork sit around. They take action. For example, when a Microsoft employee places a document on the desk of Bill Gates, Bill immediately blasts it with a flamethrower. Granted, this increases Microsoft's costs for desk replacement, not to mention (if the employee is a slow runner) medical care. But it saves Bill tons of time. He, like all successful executives, has learned that paperwork often contains words, which are huge time-wasters. For example, so far you've read 245 words of this article, and what have you learned? Nothing!
That's why busy corporate honchos prefer to look at "executive summaries," which contain few, if any, words. The largest business merger in history -- the $160 billion acquisition of Time Warner by America Online -- was approved by both boards of directors based solely on a crayon drawing of a duck eating a frog.
So if you want to be as efficient as the "big boys," make a habit of discarding, unread, any letter or document that starts with a red-flag "time-waster" word or phrase, such as "Dear," or "The," or "Search Warrant."
But what about documents that you think you might need later? How do you keep them organized? I've devised an efficient system for such documents: I give them to my Research Department, Judi Smith, with a little yellow sticky note that says "JUDI -- PLEASE MAKE FILE." Judi puts the document into a folder, labels the folder, and puts it into a file drawer. Then -- and this is the heart of my system -- nobody ever looks at it again.
Here are a few of the actual files we've created via this system over the past 20 years: "Barbie"; "Belgian Museum of Pants"; "Bingo"; "Debutantes, Combusting"; "Guam"; "Hurling Machines"; "Pending '96-'97"; "Toad Usefulness"; "Tomato" and "Whale, Exploding." Sometimes I'm tempted to look inside one of these files -- to find out, for example, what I have pending for '96-'97, or whether the "Tomato" file contains an actual tomato. But I don't want to run the risk of encountering words.
Which brings us to our second rule for getting organized:
2. Delete all e-mail before reading it.
The typical Internet user receives an average of 17,000 e-mail messages per year. Of this total, an average of one message actually contains useful information (it says: "Disregard previous e-mail"). The rest are porno ads, investment opportunities for morons and jokes that were originally set in movable type by Johann Gutenberg.
This is not to say that technology can't help you get organized. In fact, my next recommendation is:
3. Get a "palm" type personal organizing device.
These things are great! I have one, into which I entered the phone numbers of everybody I know. This took a year, during which all the phone numbers became inaccurate, thanks to the efforts of the telephone industry's Committee to Assign Everybody A New Mutant Area Code Every Six Months. But I still use my "Palm" device for scheduling. Say I need to call an important business associate at 10:45 a.m. I simply carry my Palm Pilot with me and at exactly 10:45, nothing happens, because I threw away the paperwork that explains how to set the alarm. This saves me valuable time, because in fact I have no important business associates.
My final, and most important, organizational rule is:
4. Delegate responsibility.
What do I mean by this? I mean, JUDI -- PLEASE FINISH COLUMN.