What does your office space, particularly your desk, look like? Are there piles of paperwork and mail stacked haphazardly around that overflow onto the floor and sometimes the client chair? Are there dozens of Post-it® notes stuck in random areas? Maybe there are a few books you are currently using for research.
When a client walks into your office, do you have to “clear a spot” for him or her to sit down? Could your client tell if your desk is metal or wood? When it is time for lunch, do you slide paperwork out of the way or do you just plop your plate down on one of the piles. While it is unrealistic that your desk only contain a computer, a pen, and a telephone, the cluttered mess you are currently battling against every day may be costing your company precious time and money.
Most employees are juggling multiple tasks, cases, and clients every day. In order to effectively handle all of the responsibilities, you must have an organization system that works well specifically for you. This doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t have piles of paperwork. It just means that you must have a pattern or system that allows you to quickly access a particular piece of paper without having to search through 8 different piles.
Your desk doesn’t have to be clutter free or even paper free. It just has to make sense. Therefore, each employee should create an organization system that works to their advantage. One employee may benefit from a filing cabinet, while another may benefit from using filing crates or boxes.
If it is time to organize your desk, start off by sorting through the paperwork. Chances are you have paperwork from several weeks ago that is no longer needed. Either file it away for future reference or toss it if unneeded. Perhaps create three separate piles: one for tossing, one for current use, and one for filing. After you have worked through the mountains of paperwork, actually toss out the unneeded. Take the time to file the papers you’ll need at a later date. Now that your desk is basically free of paperwork except for the files you are currently using, you will know exactly where a particular report or file is. When paperwork comes your way, immediately make the decision to toss, save, or file. This will eliminate much of the paper clutter.
Next, go through the mail. If you tend to let mail pile up for a few days, you are probably costing your company money and maybe even clients or customers. Make a schedule to spend time sorting through the mail every day. Immediately toss junk mail. If there is mail that needs to be handed over to another employee, do so immediately. If there is mail that has subject matters that are expected to be handled in a timely manner, ensure this happens. If customers are depending on a fast response, and their letter has been sitting on your desk for two weeks, chances are you will lose their business. Although it is easy to overlook, don’t let the mail pile up. Make it a point to sort it every day.
Now, on to those Post-it notes. How many are simple event and appointment reminders? Rather than wasting 20 Post-it notes and desk space, get yourself a desk or wall calendar. You can immediately write the event or appointment on the calendar and eliminate the Post-it reminders. If you prefer to work electronically, create a digital calendar that will offer email reminders. While there are often times throughout the day during which you just need to jot down a quick note, be sure to throw away the Post-it note once you have achieved the task. Don’t leave outdated Post-it notes lying around.
It is not realistic to require that your desk is free of all paperwork, mail, and Post-it notes. However, it is important to have a system that is time effective. Don’t let things pile up to the point where you can’t bear the thought of searching for a document. Worse yet, what happens when your boss lays a memo down and it mysteriously gets lost in the chaos? Take the time to organize a desk that has a clear sense of organization. When someone asks for a paper, know exactly what pile it is in. Don’t scare off clients with your obvious clutter. Remember that each person works differently and must create an organization system that will allow them to complete their tasks in the most effective manner.