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« Personal organisation #101 - the single best idea | Main | In 2011, maintain your passion by feeling good later »

Organise the best day of your life

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What does personal disorganisation feel like?

For me it’s as if I’m lost in a sea of clutter. There’s no clear focus, no sense of priorities and the nagging doubt that I won’t handle everything that’s on my plate. That’s what it feels like. 

What does it look like?

The desk is covered with stacks of stuff, allegedly in order. The in-tray is overflowing. There are piles of unread “must read” material behind me. On the screen there’s a backlog of unanswered emails.

It happens. Often I am on top of things for long periods of time, but business trips, holidays or urgent projects can invite chaos into my office. It’s not just a matter of how bad it feels or looks. My productivity plunges. That’s because I am no longer able to apply four basic management skills.

What are they?

Focus: Managers have a lot on their plate and a limited amount of time. Piles of stuff just distracts them from doing their job.

Delegation: Getting the right people to do the right job is the core of management, otherwise nothing gets done properly. Failure to delegate is a good way to lose your job or your business.

Action: if you don’t have focus and you haven’t delegated effectively, you won’t have time to take action on the things that matter. 

Priorities: Some things are better left til later. They may be important, but they just aren’t right now. You need to get rid of them. 

What do I do?

I clean my desk. It sounds simple, but there are rules. They involve aggressively applying each of those four rules to the process.

Pick up the first piece of paper you see. It doesn’t matter what it is. Just pick it up and don’t put it down until you have done any of the four things that you can do with it.

What are the four things?

  1. Abandon it: Most of the stuff in your office requires no action. It just builds up over time. The same information is probably only a Google away.  It’s just a distraction and right now you need focus. Just bin it.
  2. Manage it: Who is the best person to handle it? Get them to do it. Get it off your desk and onto theirs. 
  3. Execute it: If you have to handle it, take the first step. Just don’t do it all right now. Make the call, set up the meeting, or set time aside in your diary to work on it. End procrastination by taking the first step. Get it moving.
  4. Note it: If it is something that might be important in the future, make a note of it and send it to file. Just get it out of your sight.


There are times when I have seen this take all day, yet it can be the best and most productive day. At the end there is focus. People are doing what they are supposed to be doing, including you. Action has been taken on key management issues and priorities have become clear. Your management skill set is back in working order.

This is a very simple process. Remember the acronym: AMEN.

  • Abandon
  • Manage
  • Execute; and
  • Note.

Hardly rocket science but extremely effective. For a reminder, go to Recharge Workshop and download Set up a clear management platform.

Reader Comments (3)

I see you managed the write the next blog. I tried the same thing. Hey, it works!. Nice idea

January 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRick Macdonal

Yeah. How bout that. Now I've actally got to clean my desk.

January 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAlan

What I need is hints to do this every morning. The process is great for clearing away all the rubbish that builds up over a month or so. What works best for me is to do this evey day and never let it build up in the firs place. Trouble is, I have to remember. I have stuck AMEN on a post-it note on my computer. Let's see how it goes. It tried the "who's the best person to handle this piece of paper" twice today. Worked well on one. But on the second, I couldn't actually think of anyone! Apart from me.

January 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSusan Macleod

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