Real Life Organizing

If you could see my desk you would be mortified. I have magazines, empty Diet Coke cans, and photos scattered everywhere. My computer screen is framed in sticky notes. I have a screwdriver and a couple of chapsticks around here somewhere…

Andy Rooney himself said that the messier the desk, the more productive the person. And I agree. I am very messy. And productive.

No one taught me how to organize. I do what is best for me—and it works. I can’t tell you how to best organize your workspace, but I can offer you some suggestions that have helped me be able to manage my workflow, which includes editing two monthly magazines, a yearly wedding magazine, social media outlets for all three, and whatever else gets thrown in my direction—including an intern or two.


The very first thing I do when I get into the office in the morning is update our Facebook pages and Twitter accounts. If I get busy during the day and can’t get around to checking them, at least I did it once in the morning.

The next thing I do is check my email. I try to clear out my inbox before I leave at night so that I’m not inundated in the morning. This may be harder (or impossible) for some of you, but try. I have my spam alert set on high and it does a relatively good job about screening my emails for trash.

Make a Calendar

I use a Mac at work, which comes with the iCal feature. If your computer doesn’t have a calendar feature you like, I would suggest creating one using Google. Since I work on multiple projects simultaneously I give each a color and manage my to do list, interviews, meetings, and events on my calendar. If you don’t have a smart phone that can synch with your calendar, a Google calendar can be checked and edited anywhere where there is Internet access.


Much like email, I make a point to check my voicemail a couple of times a day. This way it doesn’t become a dreaded chore and take up too much time. I work in a small office and I regularly get messages from people that should have been forwarded to someone else. By checking voicemail regularly I am sure not to drop the proverbial ball for one of my coworkers.

Weekly Meetings

If you’re like me you work in a team environment. We schedule a standing meeting every two weeks where we all get together and address big picture issues for one hour, max. By limiting the meeting time it helps us all stay on track and keeps us from getting bored. Having someone write up an agenda for the meeting beforehand is key.

Peak Time

Everyone has a certain time during the day when they are most productive. Do you find that it takes you a while to warm up in the morning or that by 3 pm you’re brain hurts? I hear ya! My peak time is anywhere from 10 am to 2 pm (between breakfast and lunch). I schedule my most important duties for the day during this time and relegate my ancillary duties such as checking the mail, my voicemail, and scanning my RSS feeds around it.


Don’t. It only hurts you in the long run. I’m pretty sure you don’t want to be spending your Sunday afternoon, when it’s 75 degrees out and sunny, working on that proposal or spreadsheet you were supposed to get done on Friday. Make goals for yourself and stick to them.


However you file your personal stuff is up to you. But if you work in an office where multiple people need to find the same information, come up with an approach that works for everyone—it’ll save you time helping others look around for the June Profit & Loss statement if you all know where it is.

Keep a Notebook

How many times have you jotted some important tidbit of information down on a piece of scrap paper and lost it? Yeah, me too. I have resorted to keeping a legal pad on hand for those tidbits of info. The pages can easily be flipped over and when I know I wrote it down SOMEWHERE all I have to do is flip back a few pages in my pad and there it is. No more useless scraps of paper to clutter up my already cluttered desk.

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Melanie Brooks has written for newspapers, magazines, blogs, and websites from Maine to New Jersey. She currently works as an editor for Bangor Metro and Maine Ahead magazines.


  1. Hi,

    Great tips. I know I can relate to this post. So thanks for sharing. Organising can be a hard thing to do, but if you take the first step and start doing it, it can work wonders.


  2. kevin couture on the 5th August

    Organization is synonymous with being successful ! At any level on any job. I’m notorious for making lists each day of things I MUST do and complete. If I have one item that roles over to next day I freak out 🙁
    Great stuff above Melanie !

  3. Bret Juliano on the 5th August

    Those are some great tips for organizing, much appreciated.

  4. Ella Torme on the 5th August

    I especially like the last idea about having one legal pad instead of gazillions of pieces of paper (like I do.) Duh!

  5. kirstin odonovan on the 18th June

    Really awesome tips! Thanks for sharing – great article

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