5 Spring Cleaning Tips for Journalists

Get Organized Photo for SPJ Gen J by Jennifer Nicole SullivanEven though it’s a crisp 34 degrees right now in New York City, I’ve caught the spring cleaning bug. While March came in like a lamb (in NYC, at least), my desk looked like a lion came out and destroyed it. I’m a freelance writer, so my home “office” in my studio apartment had become a repository for library books, chip crumbs and New York Fashion Week freebies (like issues of WWD and a Desigual laptop case). So I tapped into my Real Simple magazine roots and cleaned, filed and purged.

Every journalist could benefit from a desk cleaning every now and then to find things faster, like notes or a source’s business card, and to keep up with their busy schedules. Here are five things I did last week to streamline my desk (and productivity!) that you can try, too.

1. Hang a dry-erase board: I popped a small one on my filing cabinet next to my desk and wrote out all of my assignments and deadlines so that it’s easy to see at a glance. Plus, I can erase the stuff I’ve finished, and that always feels good! It’s truly improved my workflow.

2. Organize magazines and newspapers: I’m still a paper fiend so I like to hang on to an array of magazines and newspapers for future reference. I tossed several mags from 2012 to free up some space. Then I pulled out some dusty magazine holders, filled them with recent issues of Allure and SPJ’s Qull magazine and lined them neatly in my windowsill (precious space I haven’t used until now).

3. Designate a “story idea” notebook: I always have story ideas, but they get lost in my head or on crumpled napkins. Now that I have one notebook dedicated to story ideas and pitches, I think I’ll be able to pitch ideas more frequently.

4. Think vertical: I was super annoyed by the stuff surrounding my desk chair. So I stored some of it on top of my bookshelf, like a shoebox full of ticket stubs and receipts from last year’s European vacation and a vintage Schiaparelli hatbox. Using vertical storage space can help keep your desk, and floor, junk free.

5. Create an inbox: Press releases, notes and pamphlets can pile up fast. Designate an inbox on your desk for papers or business cards that you need to reference soon. When you’re finished with items, be sure to file them away so that your inbox doesn’t become a catchall.

My organized desk feels so good. At the end of each day, I make sure to straighten it so it’s clean for the next day. Now I hope it stays that way!

Do you have a great organization system that helps you be a better journalist? If so, let us know!

Jennifer Nicole Sullivan is the vintage fashion writer/editor at About.com and a contributing writer at Newport Mercury. Previously, she was a copywriter at Real Simple magazine and a features reporter at Corpus Christi Caller-Times. Jennifer is based in NYC, but she’s still a Dallas girl! Connect with her on Twitter @trendyjenny or learn more at jennifernicolesullivan.com.

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