from R&D Innovator Volume 2, Number 12
Simple Steps to Organizing Your Office
Rich is a national speaker, consultant, writer and owner of Get
Organized, Get Rich!, a consulting firm specializing in office
efficiency and strategy, in Playa del Rey, California.
a line of bosses, staff and researchers, each with a sense of
urgency written across his or her face, waiting just outside your
office? Are you ready
to pursue the continued business and new projects they want to
discuss? In more
concrete terms: Do
you have room in your office for the new memos and reports which
will need action?
are your filing cabinets bulging and disorganized, crammed with
everything except the papers you need?
Are reports from last year spilling off your desk?
an office takes three steps:
shedding, shifting, and sorting.
First, get rid of the stuff you don't want or need or that
belongs to someone else. Second,
rearrange the furniture and equipment to suit your particular
needs and purposes. Third, sort the papers you are
working on into a priority system and create a streamlined filing
daunting? It could
be. You'll need a marathon effort to finish this process.
But the effort will show you enough dramatic change that
you will be unshackled and excited about your new possibilities.
It will also spark compliments that will reinforce some of
your new habits.
don't get organized until they're ready and the issue becomes
emotionally charged. Your
motivation may be strong when you start work, but it helps to hold
out a reward--perhaps something you hope to find or achieve, or a
treat you'll give yourself when you finish.
Also, try not to work alone--other people can keep you on
course at a steady pace.
you work, keep in mind the expected benefits—increased
productivity and efficiency--which are excellent motivators.
aside a block of time to reorganize--it took more than a day to
make your problem, and you'll be getting off easy if you can fix
it in just one day. Saturdays
or Sundays may be the best days, as you won't be interrupted.
Or choose the day before a holiday, when activity is
the outcome--know before you start what your issues are and what
you want to achieve. Your
goals for the day might be: tossing
or storing materials you never acted on this year; creating space
in your file cabinets by purging out-dated or useless papers;
reducing the number of hanging files and categories; or
replenishing supplies near your desk.
you're ready to start. I
suggest tackling the oldest or most cluttered corner of the room
first, where you'll find buried files and musty books.
Here, decisions will be easiest, and once you start filling
the recycling and trash bins, you'll gain momentum.
Throughout the day, your decisions will get progressively
more sensitive but not more difficult as you move closer to your
desk; these papers deal with more current issues, but they're not
necessarily more complex or of greater importance.
Use labels to mark the new categories--otherwise, there's
no chance you'll remember which shelf is which.
example, if you want to substitute a high-tech look for
“out-of-date drab” on your desk, and decide to use black,
vertical file dividers instead of gray metal trays, you may need
to put the files in a box until you find precisely the right
next year’s calendar and write down all planned trips,
conferences, regular meetings, and deadlines.
Be sure to make appointments with yourself to re-organize
quarterly or semi-annually.
unfortunately, is not
over when you finish the initial effort.
Zealously adhere to your new methods.
If you're like most people, you'll need about 21 days until
the new methods are automatic and you aren't tempted to backslide.
Table from Nowhere
the case of Martin D., a bright but disorganized researcher at a
California aerospace company.
His desk was messy, and the office had too many visual
distractions for anyone who had to think for a living.
And because he had too much furniture in his office, he was
forced to use the conference room for meetings.
had so many "boobytraps" (computer printouts, project
files, and company memos) in the file drawers that he couldn't
locate important information.
The broken door on his storage cabinet prevented him from
using it; when he opened it, he was surprised to find a hidden
crate of reference books.
began getting organized by removing a metal storage unit and
drafting table, two bookcases, a stool, and three file organizers.
He then asked me where the six-foot table and four chairs
came from, and could hardly believe that they had been there the
whole time (in the corner beneath mounds of papers).
He had stopped seeing them years ago.
removed most of the hanging files because they clogged the deep
drawer of Martin's desk. (If
the predominant color you see inside a file drawer is green, it
means you are storing too much office paraphernalia, and too
little information.) We
used about a dozen new labels to organize all the action items and
reference material into manila files, then placed them in the deep
drawer. We sorted the
project reports and grouped them with labeled binder clips, then
stored them in heavy-duty file pockets.
it was all over, Martin could manage his paper more efficiently,
and he reported a lasting improvement in his work productivity:
"I can find what I need for short-notice meetings--even in
the midst of a phone conversation."
His success was due to two things:
recovering important documents--and creating an efficient