Do you have days you dread going into your office because your desk is a mess? How about your email inbox – does it overwhelm you? Do you ever wish you could just snap your fingers and that overwhelming, messy, space would be instantly clean, organized and clutter free?
Well, I don’t yet know how to snap my fingers and make it clean, but I DO have a fantastic system you can follow to clean up and organize ANY space and I swear it works like a charm. The reality is that you can’t afford NOT to clean it up. An organized space makes you feel better, happier, you are more productive and has the added benefit that you enjoy sitting down at your desk in the morning.
So here it goes. It’s called the “FAST” system. You can apply it to any space – both physical and electronic (like your inbox). If it’s a bigger space, like an entire office, begin by breaking it down into smaller sections. For example, begin with your desktop, then move on to the file cabinets, etc. If you are organizing your kitchen, begin with the drawers you use most often, then move on.
Once you have decided upon the specific space you are going to organize, just follow this 4-step system. Here’s how it works. Go through each and every item in the space you want to organize and decide which of the following 4 actions you will take on that item:
F – File
A – Take action
S – Schedule
T – Toss
If the item falls in the “F” category, don’t worry about filing it immediately. Just put in a general “to file” pile. This can be papers to file. But it can also be items, books and keepsakes, that will get placed in cabinets or drawers or boxes. Over time, you will see categories arising for your “to file” items. That’s when it’s time to create separate categories which will create your organizing system. The key here is to allow the categories to unfold, rather than you creating categories and then forcing items into categories that may not necessarily work.
If the item falls in the “A” category, don’t worry about taking action immediately. Just like the “to file” items, place them in a pile. When you are finished going through all your items, sift through the “take action” pile and see if there are any common themes. For example, if you have kids, you might find you have action taking items for each child. This is when it would make sense to create “action taking” folders for each child. Once again, allow the organization system to unfold into what makes the most sense for you. If it’s bills to pay, you can have 1 big “to pay” folder, or you could have action taking folders labeled by the day of the week. Place your “take action” item in the folder for the day it’s due.
If the item falls in the “S” category, just put it on your calendar. Some people find physical calendars work best, but I really like Google Calendar. It synchs with my Outlook calendar and I can share it with other people. In addition, I purchased a Google Calendar app for my phone so it automatically appears on my phone too. Then, if I am at the dentist office scheduling my next appointment, I just take out my phone, open my Google Calendar app, and create the appointment in there while seeing my entire schedule.
Last but not least, if the item falls in the “T” category, get rid of it. Many people have trouble with this one. For me, I love shedding the old and I am very good at throwing things away. I always have 2 “T” piles – one for giving away and one for throwing away. This allows you to throw away a lot of stuff without feeling guilty or finding yourself trying to reason, “but it’s a perfectly good, never worn, zebra skin leotard.”
I believe that if there is a mess on the outside, there is an equivalent mess on the inside. In other words, if you have a cluttered space, it negatively affects you much more than you know. Cleaning the clutter can be a great way to get past stuck points in your life.
Identify 1 space in your house, office, car or computer that needs organizing. Dedicate a specific time to cleaning and organizing it. Then apply the system. It’s really simple, but works fantastic. Once you do, you will feel so much more energy and sense of clarity.