I’ve heard it all – “I know exactly where it is!” or “I’m a creative type, mess is part of the process.”
I’m not suggesting that a little disorder once in a while is out of the question, but if your desk is in a constant state of chaos it is costing you time – your most valuable asset – and it likely is weighing on you emotionally (I know I repeat this often, but the emotional cost of disorganization is a proven fact!)
You’ve finally committed to getting your desk organized and making a better effort at keeping it organized – so what tips and tricks can help? What are quick and easy fixes that will yield noticeable results? Here are a few of my favorites:
1.) Purge the paper!
The first thing I do with any client is have them purge the excess paper. Grab one of those out of control piles and go through it. Discard junk mail. Open all bills and letters. DISCARD envelopes and extraneous pieces of paper that are in the envelope. The bill or letter goes into a file to be dealt with after the sorting and purging are completed. Chances are you will eliminate at least 1/3 to half of the paper that was in the pile and you haven’t taken any action.
2.) Keep a notebook.
Have you ever seen the computer monitor on someone’s desk framed in sticky notes? Not only is this messy it’s inefficient. What do you do when you run out of space for new notes? Sticky notes don’t stay sticky forever – have you ever lost one and panicked? A similar occurrence is the stack of little pieces of paper piled up – tell me how you really enjoy going through those when you are in a hurry looking for a specific piece of information.
The solution is a spiral bound notebook – take this to meetings, have it handy for taking notes while on the phone. If you are a list person create your daily “To Do” list in this notebook. I typically put the date at the top and what the notes are from or regarding. As you complete things on your list you can cross them out or check them off. Because they are in your notebook you can refer back to them as you create new lists. If you are like me at the end of the week I often review lists, compile new ones and discard the old ones – the whole concept here is that all of those things you were righting on sticky notes and pieces of scratch paper are now contained in one neat little notebook! Of course the challenge now is to get in the habit of using the notebook and not losing it. You may find as you get used to using a notebook that you may graduate to a spiral bound notebook with subject dividers so you can categorize notes – making it even easier to find things. One recommendation is that before you start a new notebook – look at what needs to be transferred to it so that you can discard the used notebook. After all, you don’t want years worth of them piling up somewhere!
3.) File things regularly.
I have a tray on my desk that things I’m done with, but need to keep are placed. Usually once a week (every other week if I get crazy busy.) I file the items in that tray. Depending on your volume of paper, you may have to adjust your filing intervals – but the trick is collect it all neatly in one place and deal with it – if your inbox is overflowing you aren’t paying enough attention to the task.
4.) Purge your files annually.
This one goes hand-in-hand with the recommendation to “file things regularly.” Every January I open up my file drawer in my home office desk and go through each file. Most things like credit cards, utilities, etc. send you monthly statements (unless you’ve gone paperless.) There is no reason to keep years worth of these types of statements. I go through the file and keep the most current year of statements and discard everything else. This is how I keep my files organized and contained in one file drawer of my desk. If you have concerns how long to keep certain types of documents there are lots of resources online. If you purge your files annually they won’t grow into an overwhelming wave of paper that paralyzes you!
5.) Have a drawer that is simply for pens, paper clips, and all those miscellaneous office items.
I have a mug on my desk with my favorite pens, a letter opener, a highlighter and a pair of scissors. Everything else is in the top drawer neatly organized. I have a separate drawer that I keep notepads, envelopes and similar items. I also have a drawer with paper for the printer, ink cartridges, etc. I’m not saying these drawers need to be pristine, but know what is in them and put like items together. You’ll get in the habit of always keeping certain things in certain places so you will always know where to find.
6.) A shredder or a shred box is a must!
Either have a secure box for collecting documents to be shredded or have a small shredder in your office – in today’s crazy mixed up world you can never be too cautious!
Hopefully this short list of the basics will help you keep some organization and stem the tide of chaos in your world!