De-clutter your digital life with Microsoft and organising expert

Michael Gowan
8 July, 2009
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Stacks of bills, reading group schedules, after school events for kids, meetings, football matches. Your life is being ruined by clutter, both physical and mental. Well, that may be overstating things. But we all could use more organisation in our lives. Luckily, your Mac is a great tool in the battle to organise your life.

“People are running into more clutter than ever with schedules, bills and a table full of paperwork. The clutter can take over!” says Peter Walsh, an organisation expert featured on Oprah and TLC’s Clean Sweep, and author of several books on getting clutter under control. Walsh has teamed up with Microsoft to produce a series of videos about how you can use your Mac to create a digital organisation hub. Walsh’s videos on macbu.com focus on three topics: Family, finance, and health. While the focus on using Microsoft Office for Mac products, the tips should be applicable to many office suites.

“It’s all about moving beyond your computer as just a work machine or online surfboard – using it to centralise your organisation system with the tools you already know how to use.”

The great thing is you can get organised by better using tools you already have: your Mac and everyday software. For example, a spreadsheet can be a great budgeting tool. You can track income and expenses and use formulas to keep a running tab of your whether you’re on target. If you use Excel, you can download a template for budgeting.

Spreadsheets can also act as a menu planner—put each day of the week in a separate row, then create columns for each meal. You can get your iPhone in as an organisation ally—export the shopping list for your menu planner and use the iPhone in the grocery store instead of paper.

The most important thing, Walsh says, is just doing it. It’s easy to want to reduce clutter; it takes work to get it done. One way is to tackle tasks as they come up—when you get your child’s soccer schedule, enter it into your calendar right away. Walsh also suggests taking advantage of color coding in a calendar to make it easy to take in activities at-a-glance.

These organisation tips work for business, too. Walsh uses the acronym OHIO—Only Handle It Once. “People too often let things pile up on their desk and shuffle papers back and forth, they need to set up a system where they can handle papers as few times as possible.”

Whatever the clutter situation, the key to success is finding a system and sticking to it. “For me the first step of organisation is to visualise what you want out of your space (office, kitchen, computer desktop, etc.) and then take a good look at that space and ask yourself whether the current state matches what you visualise.”

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