Many of us (employers included) believe that a cluttered desk is a sign of a hard-working employee. If you classify rifling through papers looking for lost documents (statements, reports, documents, mail, bills, etc.) then you’re right – that is hard work, but not very useful. If you’re constantly reading/answering emails (business or personal) then you really are not maximizing your time to its fullest efficiency. Don’t work Hard, work Smart. Here are my 8 tips:
1. Use clearly marked folders to get organized. Have a folder as an “Inbox.” Encourage those around you (employers, co-workers, staff, etc.) to use your Inbox Folder and to NOT leave things on your desk. Also ask that NOTHING be left on your chair. Some people believe that if they leave something on your chair, you will “see it” and thus you will “take care of it” expeditiously – wrong! Imagine coming back from lunch or the rest-room only to find documents on your chair? This just causes stress and annoyance. Do not let them do it!
Use another clearly marked folder for projects you are working on (your Inbox Folder will eventually have documents moved to this folder.) Create another folder for Accounts Payables and go through this folder (checking due dates) a day or two before signing checks, then create a separate folder for marked “Bills to be Paid.”
You must have a folder for filing, maybe a separate folder for each “type” of things you have to file (your file-clerk will love you.) For instance, have a File Folder for Statements, another File Folder (from A to Z) for Customer Copies, and so on and so forth.
Keep your folder system, along with “blank” folders for new needs, in a neat folder rack at your desk. They should always be at the ready and checked at least twice daily. Folders are great organizing tools.
2. You must have a clutter-free work space on your desk directly in front of you. You need this valuable piece of real estate so that you can place whatever you’re working on in front – and NOT atop of something else (that’s how deadlines get missed and/or things get lost.) Keep a small notebook nearby to jot down ideas, “to-do” lists, and the like.
3. Your telephone should be located near the opposite hand with which you write so that you may speak and write comfortably (important data, messages, etc.) while on the phone. This takes a little getting used to for we are inclined to reach for a telephone or dial a telephone number with our “writing” hands. However, you don’t know how many times I’ve seen people “clothes’ line” their beverages (usually hot coffee onto their desks) with their telephone cords or their arms because they are switching the phone from one hand to the other to write something down. Make the switch! Also, keep phone logs near the writing hand, not the phone hand.
4. Do not keep more than one beverage on your desk. Most documents are ruined by spillage. Keep coffee/tea, water, or juice in the same location (a platform coaster is great for this) way in front of you on your desk to avoid accidents.
5. Keep personal artifacts to a minimum. Sure you love your family, but too many family photos create noise (distractions) for our busy work lives. I suggest keeping the photos elsewhere, like in an area behind you. Also, avoid keeping freebies (advertising pens, advertising mugs, key chains, paper weights, magazines, vacation mementos, etc.) at your desk – it just clutters space.
6. Office Materials, such as pens, sticky notes, paperclips, etc., should be kept in a desk drawer fitted with a desk tray. Take them out as you need them. This gives your desk a cleaner, more organized appearance and also stops thieves from swiping your materials when you’re out to lunch.
7. Take your lunch “time” and leave your work area (preferably leave the office) every day. We all have our busy days, but you do need to step-back, eat, rejuvenate, and then get back to the task(s) of the day. Once you start cheating yourself from lunch time, then so will your co-workers and employers. Make a rule to NOT speak of office-related discussions in the break/lunch room…if you don’t, someone WILL say, “Hey, about that Anderson Account…”
8. Electronic mail and messaging is here to stay and is very efficient in today’s market. The inefficiencies begin when we do not schedule our reading/response time.
Read/answer emails three times a day: a half hour after your scheduled arrival time, a half hour before lunch, and then again an hour before you leave for the day. If a response is needed, quickly give one in your allotted time frame, even if it’s to say you need more time for whatever is asked of you. Do not check personal emails during work hours – it is a huge distractor.
Inter-office instant messaging can be a nightmare, especially if someone expects you to drop what you’re doing to answer him or her each and every time. It can be very stressful when someone keeps typing while you’re trying to “respond” to the first 10 questions/issues that they have asked you about– wasting more time and energy. Then you have to pick up from where you left off – a project, a conversation, a breakthrough, etc. Respond when you can (you may be on the phone, speaking with someone in person, reviewing a document, etc.,) let them tire themselves out then answer what you could when you could…they should get the message that your time is not to be monopolized.
Hope these 8 Tips help you get ORGANIZED!