Desk Clean-up: procrastination or organization?

I have a form of procrastination that’s proven useful for many years: desk cleaning and organizing. I have cleaned my desk off, cleaned co-workers’ desks off and restocked countless refrigerators that were not really low on drinks.

Squirreling away papers, filing old news clips and articles I couldn’t bear to toss or adding an extra six-pack of Coke because I wanted to be sure there were cold ones for later in the day. Selfishly, I have always viewed these tasks as means to get a day going that might be stuck in neutral. A quick, low hanging accomplishment I could check off my to-do list.

Now that my desk is my office, I view things differently. It’s no longer a luxury. I have to keep my projects straight and organized. I can’t spend time looking for things on my work desk or my computer desktop. Even worse, I can’t afford to lose anything.

In dissecting an early spring issue of Oprah magazine, I came across an article that suggested these tips for getting organized.

  • Your desk should be like a driver’s seat. Have the important things within an arm’s reach. (Mr. Organizational Guru would no doubt tsk tsk my Tick action figures.)
  • Think about your desk in terms of tasks. What do you actually do at your desk? (I keep all of my projects moving so that means the paper-doll Mini Cooper stays.)
  • Don’t use enclosure as a crutch. Hidden or closed storage encourages disorganization. (Now that my desk is no longer a Tick-protected hub of justice, I am going to need help. Ahhh, there’s that Wookie Pez dispenser.)

Oprah’s organizational guru says to set aside ten minutes at the end of the day to clean your desk and get ready for tomorrow. He says to think of it like exercise. It might hurt a little at first but it’ll pay off. And after a few weeks, it’ll be a good habit.

So, how will I apply this to my workday?

Rather than cleaning and filing during the day, I should use that time to blog. I think that’s a good place to start. And maybe I’ll finally ditch the Rolodex, too.

What are your organizational secrets?

Do you love freelance billing?

I’ve already blogged my love for Freshbooks once this year and here I go again. But this relationship is going far deeper than my initial rushing crush.

First, for those of you not in the know, Freshbooks is online invoicing, time tracking and billing software favored by creative types and future Internet moguls. Not something you would ordinarily find yourself getting excited about. Not in a million years. Until you start freelancing for a living without a lick of business sense and have a painful late-90’s method of managing invoices. Then you get interested, quickly.

Painless billing is what Freshbooks aims to offer and boy do they. They deliver economic salvation in an easy-to-use manner that’s not so simple you feel like a moron. Plus, they deliver it with a refreshing wit and clarity that I admire. So if invoicing and financials are painful for you as a freelancer, check them out. I am grateful for Freshbooks every day. Especially billing days.

So what else sets them apart? They like their customers and they know what they do. They like to help their customers do more of what they do. Freshbookers can enjoy informal gatherings where they can get to know the company folks and get to know others like themselves in the community. I had breakfast this weekend with a crew of Freshbookers organized by John Coates and made some valuable connections and met some truly interesting folks. Bloggers. Web developers. Designers. Web designers. Company owners. A great mix. The conversations were invigorating, insightful and inspiring both creatively and personally. All that thanks to my invoicing software.

I would never have expected so much from them, but I guess I should have known. Freshbooks the software absolutely rocks. Freshbooks the company is equally spot-on.

Today’s Desk

I am sitting in our trusted tire place, working. Which is fantastic because I have a lot of work to do today.

It’s pretty amazing to think about everything we can do thanks to technology. Even as I sit in front of a TV as old as me, I am zipping through my to-do list: blogging, editing, writing as well as I would at my “real” work desk. I am wirelessly making my day happen, squeezing every moment of productivity out of my wait.

Makes me think today’s desk is more mindset than a cherry perch. You can do things when you need to, where you need to.

Which is great for a freelance writer like me.

Camp love.

I am a South Carolina girl. I was born in Ohio, but most of the big stuff happened SOTMDL. The vacations I remember were beach trips, day trips to Lake Murray or road trips to Florida. There were First Weeks spent in Myrtle Beach and school leadership retreats in North Myrtle or Pawleys Island. A few family vacations to the barely-populated, chain-free hamlets of coastal North Carolina.

But there is one vacation experience I have come to know and love with a passion no hotel can muster: camp.

My husband’s family has deep vacation roots in Upstate New York. Generations have relaxed and unwound on the shores of Sandy Pond, just off Lake Ontario. Just outside of Syracuse near the Hughes epicenter of Central Square, the family camps are ancient by today’s standards and a little shabby with a minimum of chic. And that’s just the way they should be. No granite, no leather furniture and no air conditioning.

At camp, life doesn’t completely stop. There’s always something to do. Think about what’s for lunch. Read a book. Take the boat across the pond to swim in the lake. Go fishing. Eat a Byrne Dairy ice cream sandwich. Play golf. Maybe take the kids to the Oswego County Fair if you’re there around the Fourth of July. Lure your spouse out for a date night to the Wayside bar (down the road) or the Dinosaur (down the highway).

It’s a charming, out of the way place where generations have played, married and retired. Change is usually incremental and that’s part of what you love. The houses are much the same as they were fifty years ago.

For the first few years I went, showers were tagged on to swimming. Going water skiing? Bring the shampoo and wash your hair, too. Chances are, it’s been a few days since you washed it.

You just can’t wash off the camp feeling though. You’re born with it. Or in my case, you marry in to it. My mother-in-law has an uncanny knack for knowing the year in which each of her children and grandchildren first dipped his or her toe in Sandy Pond. Since you can’t stay away, it’s usually sometime after their baptism but before their first birthday.

There’s really not much at camp. The barest minimum of furniture, dishes, food and everyday luxuries that we can’t seem to live without at home. Yet, camp has much that’s out of reach at home. The most important thing being all of us, together.

For a short time, the Turners are not scattered all over the east coast. We are all together in the one place where people with the last names of Hughes, Turner, Fitzpatrick, Johnson and Ashcroft have gathered for years. Siblings, grandparents, spouses, cousins and a whole schmere of grandchildren. My husband and his siblings sit on the same couches and chairs their grandparents sat on years ago, they read the same dusty books their parents read, their children ride the bikes they themselves rode years ago.

At camp you’re surrounded by reminders of people loved and lost. Grainy photos, favorite chairs and coffee cups, and stories that time cannot seem to fade. They’re all there with you … sitting by the fire, skimming across the lake, cooking hot dogs on the grill, helping you round up a fourth for a late afternoon round at The Elms golf course.

It’s better than a simple vacation because it’s steeped for so many years. It’s reached a level no amount of luxury can usurp. It’s a family tradition. One we hope our boys are lucky enough to share with their children, too.

Sitting on green grass eating Byrne Dairy ice cream sandwiches while surrounded by years and years of love. That’s camp, in a nutshell.

Here’s something you can do today.

I planned a post today about logos. I am sure it was just fine, but this post from my hero caught my eye. Since she’s been kind enough to share a lesson I taught her, I’ll take this opportunity to share one that she taught me.

Most people wouldn’t give a fast-talking, nervous high school kid a meeting. Or for that matter, a job. So since that day, I have always made sure to take time to talk to people about what I do, what I like about it and the many challenges of this career. Some people may never go on and choose this as a career, but there are always those who might. There may be one person out there who needs a little encouragement and direction in a field where they are both often in short supply.

Every time I meet with a college student who thinks they may want to work in advertising or someone who is trying to decide whether to choose between creative or account management, I am reminded of one meeting that changed my life forever. One of those meetings gave me a lifetime mentor and cherished friend. There’s always time for that.

The next time you get a call like that, carve thirty minutes out of your schedule. It could be a worthy long term investment.

Billing 2.0

One of the items on my wordsmith to-do list last week was to look at FreshBooks. I’d seen the time tracking and invoicing program on a few other freelancer blogs so I made a note to check it out. Then I promptly threw myself into writing my first few projects and kept bumping my investigation down the list. Finally, I checked it out today and I am in love!

FreshBooks is built on offering painless billing and it’s free for up to three clients! Within a matter of a few hours, I filled in my client profiles, added all of wordsmith’s current projects and the accrued time to date for each. Then, I e-mailed my first invoice. No swearing. No complaining. No three-step process using three different programs.

FreshBooks makes billing and financials enjoyable even for a math-phobic person like me! John, who has a vested interest in wordsmith’s successful financial management, took a good-natured look at every “Ooo! Look at this!” and “Hey, check this out!” I’ve had in the account set up phase this afternoon.

Even if you’re not in the market for invoicing and time management software, take a look at the FreshBooks website and blog. It’s fun, fresh and injects some well-placed laughs into the blah-blahs of getting paid for what you do!