In Search of …the Organized Life

A couple of months ago, Jane M. Von Bergen, a longtime reporter for The Philadelphia Inquirer, set out to clean her cubicle and get organized — in print. Her desk at the newspaper was, well, a mess. Stacks galore: newspapers, notes, phone numbers, story ideas, files, everything. Like a lot of journalists, she’s interested in a lot of things, and she sees story ideas at every turn. Another clip, another idea jotted down somewhere, another stack in the making. When she goes to find a name or number buried somewhere in the clutter, she’s like the feds looking for Jimmy Hoffa’s body. I can definitely relate. Maybe you can, too.

According to one estimate, companies lose 15 percent of their paper documents, and employees spend nearly a third of their time looking for them. It takes a personal toll, too. When you’re constantly disorganized, it’s hard to stay productive, which makes you feel lousy and even less motivated to get a handle on the problem. It’s a vicious cycle, one that inevitably results in a late-night screening of “Office Space” for the umpteenth time. Or so I’ve heard.

In her stories and blog, Von Bergen chronicles her efforts. The dump-everything-on-your-desk-into-a-box method. The two-minute rule for what to do with an item. Advice from super-organized colleagues who use Outlook as more than an address book. Ribbing from other colleagues when she brought in a shovel and bucket. But Von Bergen got results: Her inbox, once bloated with more than 4,000 emails, has less than 250.

What’s the best daily or weekly habit you’ve adopted to manage the paper/email/info flood?