Organization for the Disorganized

I consider myself a fairly disorganized person. I often bring up this topic when interviewing people for hiring at my company, to ensure I have the right levels of organization around me, to make up for my bad habits.

Yet awareness has recently dawned on me that perhaps I’m not as bad off as I used to think.

I consider naturally organized people (usually engineer types) to be wired in a way fundamentally different that type A sales types. Most would consider me more in that latter camp.

Yet this self-awareness has led to a lifetime of tips and tricks I have developed that I think many people could benefit from. In fact many of these techniques I now mandate in my workplace.


Paper is the bane of an organized persons existence in 2016. It gets lost, misplaced, misfiled, and generally is a lousy medium to store information on in modern times. The only thing worse is post it notes. Show me someone who relies on post it notes, and I’ll show you a train wreck about to happen.

Funny side story…

I was recently called on by a salesperson from our office supplier. She was reaching out to ask how they could earn our paper business. I checked with my admin team, and as suspected, they already had said business. She was simply shocked at the amount of paper we do not use, and assumed we ordered it elsewhere. Our number one purchased item from them? Coffee!


We use a journaling application I won’t ‘plug’ here to avoid any preference wars. It syncs up between our various devices, includes geo location tagging, and is infinitely searchable. When I’m on a call, I’m taking electronic notes, and never lose them. Screening a candidate, or talking to a customer? I’m typing away. There are plenty of great ones, most free or low cost. Get one.


Who remembers what life was like before email? I do, and most of my generation does, though it’s hard to remember what work felt like. On average, I receive north of 200 emails a day, and that’s after my spam filter cleans out the junk…I go OUT of my way to avoid getting stuck on threads where I am cc’d (my office and co workers know of the flood I receive, and are great at keeping notes to me relevant, to the point, and rare!).

I also have multiple rules setup in my email to auto file certain types of correspondence so it’s only briefly in my inbox. Similarly, I have a system for what files and email folders I keep local on my laptop (my regular computing device, I don’t have a desktop), and what folders I have Imap enabled to synch up with our server. I do this because I’m often not online (maybe on a plane with no Wi-Fi, or otherwise at a customer site with no guest Wi-Fi available), and need to be able to quickly access and search my email.

I also make it a habit to go through my inbox daily, and absolutely do my best to empty it completely. In truth, I rarely get below 30, but considering the daily inflow, I call that a win.

I also rarely delete emails, instead filing them in a series of folders and sub folders. If you are a prospect, there’s a folder for that. A customer? You have a named folder. RFP responses? Folder for that as well. Easy to file, easy to find. Never lost.

My desktop

I similarly make it a habit to keep VERY few documents on my laptops desktop. As with my email, there are folders and sub folders. We are a Mac shop, and Apple’s spotlight and search features are powerful, but I’m usually quicker, and know exactly where needed documents, spreadsheets and presentations are located.

Paper files?

What are they? I have none. Zero. Even if we receive a resume in the mail (or even more obscurely, by fax), they go right in the shredder, unread. It’s 2016, come on now. We do get the occasional piece of paper mail that requires attention, but it’s dealt with, and scanned for storage. Oddly, my nice, wooden office desk has three drawers on the left, and three on the right, and 4 of those have nothing in them. One, in fact, just has snacks!

Yes, the office has paper files…tax documents and the like, but invoicing, and customer records and contracts are all digital. We rarely even have to send out a paper check, and encourage customers to similarly pay us electronically. We don’t even print out customer proposals any more, except for rare occasions.


Of course all this technology requires a robust backup and storage solution. We use a number of tools to do this, including storing some contracts and documents with our CRM provider, Salesforce. All of our laptops and desktops are backed up real time, while we work, to minimize data loss risks. And most of our portable systems like phones and laptops are hardware encrypted for remote wiping if they are ever stolen, or misplaced.

Think any of this is overkill? Do you have any of your own tips to share? Let me know in your comments below!

Chuck Fried is the President and CEO of TxMQ, a technology solutions provider and business consulting firm focusing on large mid market and enterprise customers in the United States and Canada. Chuck can be reached at: @chuckfried, and on linked in.