Have you seen a chef performing on a cookery show? Why do you think they perform so well? The reason is that they could fetch all that they needed in a moment. Their kitchen is perfectly organized – at least when they are on the show! Similarly, being organized with your work and work material is the key to sustained and stress-free personal productivity.

There is a popular belief that people are born either organized or unorganized, which is not true. If you too feel so, ask yourself this – When you plan to go out, do you get your car key easily. Yes, right? Why is it so? Because you keep the key at a certain place when you come back from a drive. That’s enough to prove that you are organized. It’s not about genetic makeup but it is about a deliberate decision of being organized about something. It’s prudent to be organized with the things that matter to you.

So how do you get the capability to fetch whatever you need for your work in a moment? As we saw that it is possible only when you plan places for all your work material. You need a singular, known place that is easy to access for every kind of thing that you deal with. In absence of this, you lose precious time in searching for what you want, or even worse, work couldn’t be done on time because you could not locate the required material.

As we deal mostly with digital artifacts, the central element of your organization of work material is a well-planned hierarchical file folder structure on your computer or cloud. You will have folders to store specific kinds of material, say, project proposals, design documents, invoices, notes, presentations, and so on. Keep the retrieval in mind when you create such a structure or name the folders. Keep experimenting with it till you settle on the best arrangement.

The next thing you need to know is the DRIFT principle – Do it RIght the First Time.

When you are at work as the work material comes to you through all kinds of communication, you will organize each piece of it in the right place as and when you receive it. Once you know that you will need something in the future, you need to ask yourself where would you look for it, and that’s the place where you should put it. This is what I am calling the DRIFT principle.

In addition to the file folder structure on your computer, there are other artifacts that you may want to build with the DRIFT mindset, such as –

  • A to-do list for work to organize your tasks in it
  • Checklists to organize steps to do or verify certain things
  • Running lists to organize things dynamically
  • Browser bookmarks to organize the web resources
  • App shortcuts for most frequently used Apps
  • A Read later App for online reading material
  • “Watch Later”  lists on YouTube for video recommendations that keep coming all the time
  • Wish list of books that you might want to read

Armed with such a simple but powerful DRIFT mindset, you will be able to beat the stress and be highly productive.

(Originally published in Times of India on August 28, 2022)

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