You may think that you don’t have time to organize your office, but if you really knew how much time that disorganization cost you, you’d reconsider. Rearranging and moving piles occasionally doesn’t count. Neither does clearing off your desk, if you swipe the mess into a bin, or a desk drawer. A relatively neat and orderly office space clears the way for higher productivity and less wasted time.
Organizing your office doesn’t have to take days, it can be done a little at a time. In fact maintaining an organized office is much more effective if you treat it like an ongoing project, instead of a massive assault. So, if you’re ready to get started, the following tips will help you transform your office into an efficient workspace.
Great Tips to Organize Your Office Space
- 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 toss 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.
- Gather and redistribute – Gather up every item that isn’t where it belongs and put it where it does.
- 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 are located in the proper area as much as possible.
- Close proximity – Position the equipment and supplies that you use most within reach. Things that you rarely use can be stored or put away.
- Get a good labeler – Choose a label maker that’s simple to use. Take the time to label shelves, bins, baskets 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 your 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 even 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.
- Clear off your desk – Remove everything, clean it thoroughly and put back only those items that are essential for daily use.
- Organize your desktop – Now that you’ve streamlined you desktop, it’s a good idea to organize it. Use desktop organizers or containers to organize the items on your desk. Use trays for papers, containers for smaller items.
- Organize your drawers – Put items used together in the same drawer space, stamps with envelopes, sticky pads with notepads, etc. Use drawer organizers for little items – paper clips, tacks, etc. Use a separate drawer for personal items.
- Separate inboxes – If you work regularly with other people create a folder, tray, or inbox for each.
- Clear your piles – Hopefully with your new organized office, you won’t create piles of paper anymore, but you still have to sort through the old ones. Go through the pile (a little at a time if necessary) and put it in the appropriate place or dump it.
- Sort mail – Don’t just stick mail in a pile to be sorted or rifle through and take out the pieces you need right now. Sort it as soon as you get it – To act, To read, To file, To delegate or hand off. .
- 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 specified length of time. Make sure you know what those requirements are.
- Storage boxes – Use inexpensive storage boxes to keep archived files and get them out of your current file space.
- Magazine boxes – Use magazine boxes or binders to store magazines and catalogs you really want to store. Please make sure you really need them for reference or research, otherwise recycle them, or give away.
- 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.
- File weekly – Don’t let your filing pile up. Put your papers in a “To File” folder and file everything once a week.
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.
(Photo credit: Modern Desk with Computer via Shutterstock)