How much time do you waste every week searching for missing papers or documents? A recent study found that the biggest problem for most office workers are important papers that have disappeared and that the average person wastes 4.3 hours every week looking for them.[i]
We’ve put together some of the best tips for organising your workspace to help you get on top of your office organisation.
Start with a clean sweep! Most professional organisers agree on two things:
- Get all of your paperwork and clutter under control
- Implement new processes for preventing the build-up of clutter going forward
The first step is to get all the paperwork off your desk and out of your drawers. Sort them into three piles: Recycle, Scan and Save. You can save a lot of heartache by scanning any important documents. Make sure you’re subscribed to a good online backup facility so that you can make sure they’re all safely backed up.
The paper is a big part of the job, having done that you can now take a look at your desk. Take everything off and give it a good clean. Look at your computer equipment. Is there an opportunity to simplify? If you have an old box monitor think about a new flat screen, they’ve become relatively inexpensive and save a lot of space. If you have a separate printer, scanner and fax machine, consider investing in an all-in-one to save even more space. See if you can move items like your computer tower off your desk and onto the floor. You might also be able to replace your desk lamp with a floor standing lamp next to your desk.
Then, go through every item that was on your desk. Consider how often you use it. Once a day? Once a week? Once a month? Never? If you don’t use the item at least once a week, put it aside. Once you’ve organized the rest of your office, you can find new homes for all of the supplies and other items you’ve relocated.
Now it’s important to get an organisational system in place. Think about an Inbox where you can put new assignments and briefs relating to current projects and items on your to-do list. Remember this shouldn’t be a storage container, if something’s been there for more than a few days it should either be filed or recycled.
Many people also like to have an Outbox, as a pending area for filing. But make sure you do your filing on a regular basis.
Consider a file rack – possibly as a floating shelf above your desk as a place to hold current projects. It’s ideal to keep this off your desk, but close to hand. Once the project is finished these items can be filed.
The next important element to your new system is a filing cabinet. Many people use lever-arched files on a shelf which is fine too, but a filing cabinet can be easier and quicker to get in place. Use hanging folders for the main categories. Within those folders, subdivide your papers into individual folders. Come up with a system to organize your files. It can be alphabetical, numerical, colour-coded — whatever works for you. Label every file and put it in its proper place in the filing cabinet so you won’t have to go hunting for it when you really need it. There are so many different types of filing systems, but the best ones all have a few things in common: They’re logically organized, easy to access, and spacious enough to store new documents over time.
Now that you’ve got the paperwork under control and a system in place to keep it that way – it’s a matter of looking at the other items you’ve taken off your desk and out of your drawers. The objective is to keep your desk as free of items as possible. So take some time to purge your space of all the items you don’t use. Pens that no longer work, broken or unused office equipment and old magazines are all culprits here. When you have a small pile of items that you really need, look for a home (not on your desk) for each of them. You might like to invest in dividers and drawer organisers that can help ensure each item its own place. If you prefer them on your desktop look for clear plastic containers and desktop organisers that can help keep them in their own place.
Cable clutter can also be an issue. To reduce the number of cables in your way, put away or get rid of any electronic equipment you use infrequently or no longer use at all. Use as many wireless devices as you can — your mouse, keyboard and printer — to reduce cable clutter as well. Bind the remaining cables together with cable ties, clamps, clips or Velcro wraps (available at your local office supply store) so they stay in one place, out of your way. Route the wires through the hole in your desk and make sure they’re all behind your desk, against a wall, and away from open areas of your floor where someone might trip over them.
Once you go through these steps and clear up your workspace, you’ll be amazed at how your outlook changes, and your stress levels reduce. This will encourage you to maintain the discipline to keep it in place, even if from time-to-time you need to do a big refresh of your space.
Happy tidying! And enjoy your new found freedom….