It’s like a living thing. You take papers off of your desk, but by morning, there are more. Your computer too. It takes you an hour to locate a file. All this disorganization is costing us time and money.
In an article in the Boston Globe back in 2006, Jane Von Bergen said: “43% of Americans categorize themselves as disorganized, and 21% have missed vital work deadlines. Nearly half say disorganization causes them to work late at least 2 or times each week.”
Imagine how much more work you could get done if you could find a way to stay organized?
1. Get into a Routine
It’s easy to think, “I’ll just clean my desk on Fridays before I leave work,” but I’m guessing that doesn’t happen much. Instead, make it a daily goal to work through your papers by the day’s end.
2. Decide What to Do With It
There are many books, including Getting Things Done by David Allen, that address how to handle what hits your Inbox (physical or email). You can break it down into items:
- That can be tackled in a couple of minutes
- That need more time to work on
- That need to be filed
Separate your papers based on how quickly you can complete them. Organize your email into folders that you give higher priority to and sort emails this way.
3. Invest in Storage
Buy file folders, shelves, book cases…whatever it takes to help you get papers and books off your desk and out of sight. Use pencil holders and file stackers for things you need daily, and keep them within reach. Everything else can be put out of sight.
4. Get into Your Desktop
It’s really easy to save files wherever your computer sets as default, but you waste a lot of time trying to find these. Set up files for each project or client you have, then add more folders as necessary. The structure might look like this:
- Client A
- Project plans
- Completed projects
Make an effort to save into the appropriate folder so you can find things easily.
5. Do A Spring Cleaning…Monthly
You collect pens at conferences, as well as silly desk toys that are gathering dust. Designate one day a month as Desk Cleaning Day and spend an hour getting rid of anything that doesn’t make you more productive. Haven’t used it in a month? Throw it away, give it away or put it into a drawer.
6. Keep Cords Out of Sight
It stresses me out to see cords and wires strewn across my desk. I love my wireless keyboard and mouse! Untangle your cords and make sure they all have a place plugged in to your power strip. If there are any electronics plugged in that you’re not using, unplug and remove.
7. Go Paperless
Paper is the root cause of most clutter, so why not eliminate it? Scan important documents and save them using your new file system. You can shred and toss the documents once they’re scanned. Note: do keep any legal documents that require the original as proof.
8. Ditch the Post-Its
Speaking of going paperless, here’s a tip that was hard for me to embrace for a while. Rather than jotting down indecipherable notes on a notepad, use Evernote or other online note-taking application. The bonus is you can read your typewriting and access your notes anywhere.
9. Plan Your Day
I find that if I know what I’m working on in a given day, I can prepare what I need at the start of the day and not have to dig for files later. You could also do this the night before: look at your calendar and to-do list and get out any paperwork or files you’ll need to complete your tasks.
10. Look at Your Desk With New Eyes
Sometimes we simply can’t see the clutter because we’re too used to it. When you approach your desk, look at it. Really look and see what’s there. What’s contributing to your productivity? What’s taking away from it? It’s important to notice things that are out of place and put them away before the affect your efficiency.