Start Fresh: 6 Ways to Get Organized for 2009 / by Chel Wolverton

Ready for the new year in just a few days? I'm still working on it but I thought I'd give you some of my best ideas to help you get things going.  Hopefully it helps you start your new year off right.

Email

Get your folders and labels created in Gmail.  If you don't use Gmail, you can still create folders and rules in your inbox to filter out the stuff that's just noise.  Clay Shirky said it best, It's not information overload, it's filter failure. If you have 1000s of emails in your inbox waiting to be processed this is your first step.

After filtering, unsubscribe to what you don't read.  Most unsubscribe forms take only a minute to get through, some 15 secs.  You'll be amazed on how much it cuts down in your inbox. After this, seriously consider archiving anything beyond the most current 200 emails in your inbox.  Develop quick responses for the ones pending and use the flag/star relentlessly to save stuff and then archive it.

Do not feel guilty if you aren't at inbox zero all the time, but keep the noise level down in your inbox.  I feel good if I can get my inbox down to 11 emails that are pending.

Software updates

So you got a lot of updates to hit in a short time and need to get the computer all spiffy for the new year?  Try using AppFresh for Mac (not sure of the Windows eqiv., know one?).  This little application let's me know which applications are out of date so I can upgrade them quickly without a lot of hassle.

Change your password (Hat tip @cspenn)

No groaning. It should be done more often than once a year, but I bet you're reluctant.  Put two words together, add an easy to type number, change it on all social media sites and by then you'll have it memorized.  (Write it down with nothing else on a small piece of paper for a few days.)

Organize your receipts and business cards

Have too many business cards and receipts but not enough time? Just ship it all to Shoeboxed - receipts, business cards.  It'll help get you organized in time for the new year AND tax season.  Shoeboxed also has exports so you can do whatever you need to with your info after it's scanned. (I recommend importing all of your contacts into Batchbook and organizing contacts using SuperTags). The service uses prepaid shipping to get your paper to them and they scan it and then send it back.  Easy way to deal with any paper mess!

Organize your invoicing and billing

If you're a freelancer like me, you have some way to invoice, bill and track time.  I love Freshbooks (disclosure: affiliate link) and have organized my clients, crossed off invoices that have been paid, deactivated old clients and updated hours and notes for each task.  Make sure all of your billing stuff is updated and invoices are easy to find before tax season.  If you invoice using a word processing program or spreadsheet, make sure those docs are in folders marked for each client and they are all up to date with all invoices for 2008.

Organize your computer

Clean up those files on your desktop, get your business docs in order, and archive your photos to the external hard drive.  That's just to get you started.  Clean up the files and get rid of the downloads you don't need anymore.  It'll help your system search faster.  Any documents you need close by stick in a folder on the Desktop for easy access.

Don't have time?  Throw everything you don't need on the desktop into an archive file and sort it out a little at a time.  Then backup your entire computer to another drive or two and schedule it to do so every couple of days while you're sleeping.

Start the New Year on a Fresh Note

You might think this sounds a bit daunting to do before the first with the million other things that have to get done too given the short week. If you can accomplish this or at least some of them before the new year or on the weekend after you'll be in great shape and feel better about the freshness that awaits.

Find this helpful?  Share it with others!  Have other suggestions on getting organized?  Share them in the comments!