- Purge your office – De-clutter, empty, shred, get rid of everything that you don’t need or want. Look around. What haven’t you used in a while? Take one area at a time. If it doesn’t work, send it out for repair or surplus it. If you haven’t used it in months and can’t think of when you’ll actually need it, out it goes. This goes for furniture, equipment, supplies, etc. Don’t forget about knick-knacks, plants (real or artificial), and decorations – if they’re covered with dust and make your office look shabby, they’re fair game.
- Establish work “zones” – Decide what type of activity happens in each area of your office. You’ll probably have a main workspace (most likely your desk,) a reference area (filing cabinet, shelves, binders,) and a supply area (closet, shelves or drawers.) Place the appropriate equipment and supplies in the proper area as much as possible.
- Get a good labeler – Choose a label maker that’s simple to use. Take the time to label shelves, bins, baskets, and drawers. Not only will it remind you where things go, but it will also help others who may have a need to find, use, or put away anything in your workspace.
- Revise your filing system – As we move fully into the digital age, the need to store paper files has decreased. What can you store digitally? Are you duplicating files? You may be able to eliminate some of the files and folders you’ve used in the past. If you’re storing files on your computer, make sure you are doing regular back-ups. Some quick tips for creating a smooth filing system:
- Create a meeting folder – Put all “items to be discussed” in there along with items that need to be handed off, reports that need to be given, etc. It’ll help you be prepared for meetings and save you stress in the event that a meeting is moved up.
- Create a WOR folder – So much of our messy papers are things that are on hold until someone else responds or acts. Corral them in a WOR (Waiting on Response) folder. Check it every few days for outstanding actions you may need to follow-up on.
- Separate inboxes – If you work regularly with other people create a folder, tray, or inbox for each.
- Assign discard dates – You don’t need to keep every piece of paper indefinitely. Mark on files or documents when they can be tossed or shredded. Some legal or financial documents must be kept for a specified length of time. Make sure you know what those requirements are.
- Reading folder – Designate a file for print articles and documents you want to read that aren’t urgent.
- Archive files – When a project is complete, put all of the materials together and file them away. Keep your “working folders” for projects in progress.
- Straighten your desk – At the end of the day do a quick straighten, so you have a clean start the next day.
Use one tip or try them all. The amount of effort you put into creating and maintaining an efficient work area will pay off in a big way. Instead of spending time looking for things and shuffling piles, you’ll be able to spend your time…well…working.