Saturday, July 25, 2015

Organizing for Success

You’re in the midst of a project and you need some information that you know you have in a file from a previous article. But try as you might, you just can’t put your hands on that file. After an hour or more looking for it, you become frustrated and give up. By now, the motivation you had to continue writing has passed, so you do something else. Annoying as this situation may be, it’s an all-to-common occurrence among writers. If you were better organized, perhaps this wouldn’t happen.

Even in today’s seemingly paperless world, writers usually amass a huge volume of paper files and books. Most like to have information at their fingertips. And while you can easily search for anything on the Internet, there are some offline sources that you’ve gathered that you prefer to use.

So how can you organize your writing office for the most efficiency which will eventually lead to more writing jobs. Having information at hand means that you can complete jobs faster and in the end increase your income.

To get organized, it’s best to start out with a plan. Think like a journalist. The key is the five W’s—who, what , when, where, and why—plus how. Answer these concretely to know what to keep and what to discard.

Naturally, you’ll want to keep a file on each article and story your write and several, if not a whole file box full, for each book. All those files will take up valuable space. If you don’t allow for them in your overall plan for your office, then you will be undermined later on.

Photos of home offices in magazines and on the Internet show perhaps one or two filing cabinets. That’s just unrealistic. While they may contain frequently used files, all the rest of the files must be hidden. In fact, you should consider a second storage area in your home for your archived files. These are all the ones from finished writing projects. While you may be lucky to have a basement, attic, or garage in which to store them, others living in smaller spaces may have to resort to offsite self-storage, which over time can be expensive.
You need to get organized from the start to increase productivity, but it’s never too late to start. Don’t try to do it all at once. Organize one part of your office at a time----books, files, research notes, photos, etc.

Let’s begin with files, both computer and paper. Start by finding the right containers. Filing cabinets work for files used often while cardboard filing boxes, sold at office-supply stores, work well for archived files. In the beginning, you’ll probably combine subjects in one box, but later on, you’ll need to divide boxes up by subject. Keep your system logical to make it easy to find what you want. Alphabetizing always helps.

Do the same with your computer files. Don’t follow Window’s or MAC’s plan and put all your files in one folder. Think of the folders in your computer the same way you think of those in your filing cabinets and boxes. In fact, you may want to create dividers for your paper files that match the names of the folders in your computer that contain related files.

A good way to ensure that you don’t lose any of your work is put install a second hard drive—or  have someone else do it for you. Another alternative is to use an external hard drive that connects to our computer via a USB cable. Either way, your files will be safe if your computer crashes. Unless your second hard drive, dedicated to your data, fails, your files will be safe because when a computer crashes, it’s the main drive that does so.

Next week, we’ll look at continuing the process, but before then, create a plan of organization and make an Organizing To-Do List.

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