Some people love organization. It comes naturally to them. They wield inboxes, date books and file folders as if they were born with labelers in their hands. If you’re that kind of person, this article isn’t for you–unless you want to slap it up on your cube-mate’s wall. No, this piece is intended for people who haven’t seen the top of their desk since the day after they hired in. Fifteen years ago.
If you’re one of those people, you know how an organized work space could help you. You realize you waste countless hours looking for things that “ought to be here somewhere,” privately fretting that you’ve accidentally thrown them away. You’re aware that an organized office leads to increased productivity, your boss’s confidence–and even promotions. And it’s not like you haven’t tried. It’s just that, no matter which system you implement, or how good your intentions, within a week or two, you’re back to the same old clutter. You may, of course, have a break-through one day. You may become just like all the neat people surrounding you, who effortlessly put things in order and…keep them there. Until then, however, here are some tips to help you maintain some control over your work areas.
1. Be Excited
Imagine how thrilled you would be if you could redecorate your home just the way you want it. Now look at your latest desk organization effort as redecorating, but on a much smaller scale. Obviously, you’re going to do a lot of sorting, some tossing, dusting (air compressors!), and unearthing dubious treasures from the recesses of your desk. This may seem like drudgery. Reward yourself by purchasing office supplies that fit your personal style, and imagine how you’ll feel once the organization project is done.
2. Be Thorough
Before you can decorate, however, you have to clear the space. You’re probably not going to be able to accomplish this during an ordinary work day; arrange a time to come in early, stay late, or even take a weekend to clean up your area. Here’s what you’ll need to do:
- Clear out any trash which has accumulated, including old coffee mugs, condiment packets, coupons, and menus. Designate a small area in your drawers for emergency toiletries, but keep these to a minimum. You really won’t need to treat the entire office. If you’re a packrat, remind yourself that you will always be able to replace an item when it’s gone. Return anything you’ve borrowed, and take most of your personal items back home.
- Sort through your papers. File everything you don’t need for your current projects. Throw away papers you’ll never need again, such as memos from old meetings, outdated contacts lists, old supply catalogs and journals, and anything you thought you might need six months ago, but have yet to look at. If you’re nervous about throwing something out, put it in a file and ask a colleague’s opinion. You can also scan a copy into your computer, put the image in a designated electronic file, and toss the original.
- Is your e-mail inbox a mess? Take advantage of the quiet to finally make those folders your program so helpfully provides. The delete key is your friend; however, if you’re not sure about dispatching a message into eternity, save it in a folder to ask a coworker about later.
- Give your work area a thorough cleaning.
3. Be Simple
One reason why your previous organization efforts failed may be that they were designed for someone else–probably someone who adores order. This time, put some thought into how you work, what you’re comfortable with, where disorder is hurting you, and what level of organization you honestly believe you’ll be able to maintain. This probably means you’ll want to keep things simple. Here are some minimal organization tools to try:
- Wall Calendar. You may forget to check your phone or an agenda-style calendar. A wall calendar is right there in front of you, all the time.
- Inbox. For everything that comes in that day. This keeps it from sticking around in a pile you never get to. You may want to have two boxes: one for items that can wait, and another for work that needs to be completed that week.
- File Folders. At the very minimum, you need folders for your current projects, and some for important correspondence and administrative items, such as expense reports. Label these clearly, and use colored folders for quick-and-easy location.
- Master Contact List. Keep this on your computer. Every time you make a new contact, enter their information, along with a brief identification note. This obviates the need for little post-its and scraps of paper.
Focus, not on making your work area neat, but functional. Large piles of paper and books are not functional, even if you think you know where everything is. By using inboxes and file folders, you are, essentially, giving your piles a name and a place to be. Your desk may still be a little cluttered, but it will be comfortably, not chaotically, so.
4. Be Yourself
Very few people enjoy working in a sterile environment. However, if you’ve filled yours with so many photos, cards, and tchotchkes that it’s hard to work around them, you should take a box or two home. Rotate items in and out for an occasional change instead. When it comes to office supplies and organizational tools, choose some that reflect your interests and personality; this will make your workspace more inviting, and you might be more inspired to use them. Don’t however, buy items you will never actually use. If you find, for example, that you’re not using that desk caddy, give it away. Don’t pressure yourself to keep a work area as spotless as your most orderly co-worker. A little clutter can be comfortable. Just make sure your workspace encourages productivity, rather than panic.
5. Be Realistic
Given the title of this subheading, you may be expecting us to let you off the hook a little, giving you permission to go back to any organizational bad habits. Sorry. Instead, we are going to disabuse you of a common notion: it’s not over.
Many of us harbor the illusion that, once we clean, organize, or otherwise improve something; we will have “arrived,” and will never have to do it again. Unfortunately, the laws of the universe are against us. Now that you’ve organized your space, you will have to do it again, and again, and again. Reserve a few minutes at the end of the day to put everything away in its drawer, box, or file and, come Friday or Monday, take the time to go through those inboxes to plan your work for the week, and clear out anything you no longer need. This may seem like a hassle at first however, hassles can soon become habits, and you’ll enjoy the benefits of a more productive work day.
Organizing your work space doesn’t require complex methods or loads of expensive containers and tools. What is does involve, however, is a realistic assessment of your work habits, the ability to accommodate your organizational style, and the will to make it work. You’ve got everything it takes!
Of course, for some of us its just easier to start over – click here if your looking for offices to rent in the UK.