I wish I were one of those freelancers with a perfectly organized office. I long for a clear desk and floor space that doesn’t require fancy footwork to get around. I spend hours looking at organized offices on flickr — and dreaming.
Recently I noticed how much the clutter was getting to me. I have plenty of file drawers, and it cracked me up to discover that well over half of them are empty, while every horizontal surface is covered with papers and books. I first went through all my books and sold a bunch of them on amazon.com. I ended up selling enough to cover the cost of a Nikon D40 digital SLR for an upcoming trip! What I couldn’t sell, I gave away to my public library for their annual book sale. Then every day, I picked a square foot of horizontal surface and got rid of everything on it. If it was something I wanted to keep, it went into a file folder. Some stuff I gave away on freecycle or Craigslist. Seventy-five percent of the stuff was paper, though, and it ended up in recycling. I had a dozen or so cables, adapters, and chargers sitting around, so I figured out what they belonged to, then labeled them with my trusty Brother P-touch labeler and put them in a (labeled) drawer. Then I attacked my e-mail and set up folders and filters to help me process communications efficiently.
My office still needs quite a bit of work, but here’s something amazing: yet again, whenever I go on a major clutter purge, I end up getting a ton of assignments. I’ve gotten $5K in work over the last week alone! (That’s NOT a normal week for me, let me assure you.) It’s almost as if you’ve got to make room for the work you want on your desk. I don’t think there’s anything magical or woo-woo going on here — what happened in my case is that I was able to jump on a few opportunities faster because I could actually SEE them. When I bought the camera, I was able to tell one editor I could include high-res photos with a story, which made it an easier sell.
So if things are a little slow and your office is kind of messy or your systems are falling apart, do a little purging and streamlining. Clean off your desk, make room on your hard-drive, get rid of books or equipment you don’t use that much and see if the work starts to flow in. I’m not nearly done with my office, so I’m eager to see if I can get a couple more $5K (or $10K) weeks before I’m done. [db]