Did you know that most people are more productive and efficient when their offices are organized? Some folks might believe that a cluttered office is indicative of a busy person, but it really implies to your coworkers—and your boss or spouse—that you don’t have complete control. Even most Wall Street CEOs and managers will consider a person’s organizational skills when it comes time to hand out promotions. Don’t be passed over because you look less organized than you are. And if you maintain a home office, don’t make life more difficult for yourself by keeping a cluttered workspace.
To get organized, first make sure your desk or workspace is oriented to whether you are right or left handed. This is particularly important when you have an L-shaped work surface. Drawers are easier to open with your dominant hand, so make sure the ones you need to open most often are on the appropriate side. Consider getting storage boxes or office organizers for assistance.
Next, keep your work surface clean. No matter how large or small it is, treat your desk top like a surgical table. The only things you want on that table are the patient—or project—and tools needed to treat that particular patient. After all, the medical record for a Mrs. Blue won’t do you any good if you are operating on Mr. Green. In fact, extra items can get in the way and slow down your progress.
For example, if you are an administrative assistant researching airline or train schedules for your boss, you need only your computer, a pen, a notepad and a calendar on your work surface. An ultra-organized admin doesn’t even need most of those things—just the computer will do, as she can use her computer calendar and online memorandum or word processing function to make notes. There is no need to pull out the boss’s expense report folder until it’s time to process it.
An accountant who is tallying receipts for a busy office should keep on his desk only the receipts, his calculator and a pen and paper to tackle the task. Anything else in the immediate area is superfluous and likely to get in the way.
Of course there are other things that you use frequently throughout your work day…even when your work takes place at home. The all-important pen and notepad plus a calendar should remain within easy reach. Your stapler is another item that should be close at hand although things like your tape dispenser can remain inside a nearby drawer.
What else should you keep in that drawer? Consider all those office supplies that you occasionally need. You should be able to turn and open a drawer without reaching—or moving your chair—when it’s time to grab paper clips, the staple puller or sticky pads. Extra cartridges for your printer should be stored near the printer—not on your main work surface. That way they won’t get in your way and they’ll be conveniently placed where they are to be used.
Another way to organize your office or home office is to use color. Colored folders can help you identify the items that you need immediately, allowing you to segregate each child’s school information separately or to differentiate specific projects at work. This is true whether you keep your folders in a drawer or in a stand-up organizer on your desk. A quick glance will allow you to locate the exact folder that you need.
But don’t trust your memory of color alone. Label those folders. Put a neatly penned or typed label on each so that it is clear to everyone what that folder contains. After all, even if you know that Billy’s folder is blue and Sarah’s is red, your husband might not know on those days when you stay sick in bed. And if someone has to cover for you at the office, you want that person to be able to find what he or she needs without disturbing you.
Believe it or not, an old-fashioned bulletin board can be an essential tool in keeping your office organized. You can tack up a list of phone numbers that you frequently call, a calendar, and other items that you can use at a glance. They don’t require you to shift your position beyond a slight turn of your head or lift of your eyes.
When you finish working on a particular project, put it away. Think of the pleas your mother probably made when you were a child. She wanted you to put away your clothes in their appropriate drawers and your toys in the closet or toy chest. That way you and she always knew where things were. The same is true in the office. Put your folders in the appropriate drawers or organizers and keep your office supplies in their own space.
These are just a few tips for organizing your office. Put only a couple of them to work today and you’ll quickly find that you’re more efficient than ever before.