by Jimmy Marks, Creative Media Director
It’s time I confessed something to you, dear reader: I’m a clutter-bug.
I’m a scatter-brained, right-handed mess-maker. My desk, where I sit and write these words you’re reading now, is littered with papers and books and coffee cups and knick-knacks. There are pens and markers and paper clips and phone chargers and pictures everywhere. And this is how it looks when it’s in a state I like to call “organized”.
I’m not the only one, though. According to this nice article about messy desk and genius (ahem), Mark Twain, Albert Einstein, Alan Turing, Alexander Fleming, and Steve Jobs all shared my “messy desk syndrome”. And while I like to think I’m as big a genius as the men behind penicillin, the theory of relativity, Tom Sawyer and the iPhone, I could probably benefit from a thorough tidy-up day. So, why not today?
I start by making a few little piles. One is “stuff that needs attention,” one is “stuff I should hold on to, but probably don’t need right now” and one is “garbage.” I take a look at all the paper on my desk, piece by piece, and I figure out where it should all go. When all my piles are stacked up, I take care of each according to their importance.
It’s a nice little exercise and it helps you figure out where your projects are in terms of process. Better yet, it can be repeated in many ways. I did the same thing to all the files on my desktop, then all the files in my documents folder, then all the files in my downloads folder. The old stuff, I set aside. The new stuff, I checked over. If it wasn’t needed, I sent it to recycling. If it was needed but not right away, I saved it to a separate storage drive.
These occasional clean-ups and purges help me and help everyone in my organization. When I can find what I need at a glance or with a simple pull of a file drawer, I save them the time and trouble of waiting around for me. I give them what they want and I know just where to find it.
A few things I’ve learned about dealing with file clutter, both on paper and with electronic files:
- Break down files into folders by type. For those Adobe Creative Suite users out there, make one file for Photoshop files, one for Illustrator files, one for InDesign files, and so on. Save the outputs into files based on the project you’re working on, but keep all the .PSDs in one place and you’ll never have to wonder which project the templates were kept in while you were working on them.
- Don’t be afraid to save the iterations of campaigns and ideas. If your email campaign started as a sketch in your daily work book (…you do keep a daily work book, right?), make a copy of that page and stuff it in a file with the other updates, changes, edits and revisions. It helps you keep track of when changes were made and why and it will show others how your creative process goes from start to finish.
- Staples, tape, paper clips, chewed gum…if you need to stick a couple of files together for posterity sake, do it by any means necessary. (You might want to avoid the gum thing, though…at least at work.)
- Go through your inbox and find all the “rotten tomatoes” – things that seemed ripe and fresh when you got them but are now just making things stinky. These include notes from colleagues about what lunch is that day, coupon offers that have long expired, and any email where the body is the word “Thanks!”. Delete them with vigor.
- Got a lot of stock art options? Organize them by theme. “Families”, “cars/auto loans”, and “vacations” are all stock images we use a lot of here at DigitalMailer. We can get to them all because we’ve got them saved in a central folder that the marketing team can access collaboratively. We only copy files out of that folder and we never, ever modify them in the root folder.