Does your office cubicle or desk look like it has been through some kind of natural disaster? If it takes more time to find files than it does to actually finish a project, you are like many professionals who are in serious need of a workspace makeover.
An organized workspace isn’t just for neat freaks. In fact, an organized desk, office or cubicle can say a lot about your professionalism and do a lot for your career. Being organized gives others around you, including your boss, the impression that you are professional and on top of things.
According to Nicole Bickett, founder of Organize to Optimize, “When you walk into an office that is clean, you are much more able to be productive”. Bickett also says that a tidy workspace makes you feel like working and makes you feel in control, rather than being overwhelmed by the piles of papers cluttering your desk. Bickett suggests some simple methods that anyone can use to make improvements to their workspace.
- 1. Six is the magic number. Bickett says that there are six key things that every organized workspace should have: “In,” “Out,” and “File” boxes; a wastebasket; a calendar and time planner; a contact management program, such as a Palm® device or Rolodex®; action files that contain items that need your attention; and reference files that you can go to when you need information. If your desk currently consists of stacks of paper that you occasionally shuffle around, purchasing these six items can be a good start to making organizational improvements.
- 2. Become a slave to the system. Bickett says that she, like many people, used to spend time getting organized, but her hard work would not last for long. That’s because she did not have any systems in place. Creating an organizational system means implementing tools and processes that you can use and follow to maintain your organization. This might be a series of file folders that you arrange on your desktop, or utilizing computer programs to keep you on track. These can be organized chronologically or alphabetically, by client name or topic/issue.
“Find what works for you and what you’ll continue to do,” she says. Without any solid systems, you will be back to your old ways in no time.
- 3. Take a meeting. According to Bickett, you must set aside time on your schedule for cleaning. Even if it is just 30 minutes every week, set a time and stick to it. You’ll need more time at the beginning if you don’t have any organizational systems in place. Once established, make sure you allot time each week to maintain them. It does take time, but being organized in the office will make you more productive in the long run.
- 4. Trash it. Do you have a fear of throwing things away? Bickett notes that for about half of her clients, keeping too much is their major organizational challenge. Obviously it’s not always easy to get rid of files and purge documents. Here’s five questions Bickett asks that can help in this situation:
Does this require action?
Can I identify a specific use for this?
Is it difficult to obtain this document again?
Is it recent enough to be useful?
Are there tax and legal implications if you throw it away?
If the answer to these questions in “no,” then ask yourself what is the worst possible thing that will happen if you toss it? If you can live with your answer, throw it out or recycle it.