Last week, you cleared out your bathroom and brought a sense of calm back to the space. This week, it's time to do the same with your office. Whether you work from home or off-site, and whether you have a cavernous space or a simple nook, these tips can help you decrease clutter and increase order.
- Weed your office supply stash. Office supplies sometimes seem to breed when we're not looking: where did those dozens of pens come from, anyway? Now's a great time to go through the stuff taking up space in your drawers and on your desktop and get rid of what you don't need or use on a regular basis. If you're unwilling to toss or give away supplies, move the excess items to an out-of-the-way storage spot like a closet or a distant drawer until you need them.
- Toss unread articles, magazines, and reports. Much of the paper that becomes clutter in offices is reading material. Unless your job requires you to read large amounts of paper-based info on a regular basis, you can safely recycle anything you haven't read or referred back to within a few months. If you do have a reading-heavy job, try scanning the information you need and getting rid of the originals, finding copies of the info online, or tearing out only the specific articles you need and tossing the rest.
- Slim down your e-mail and paper Inboxes. Ah, the Inbox, where things so often go to languish. (Yes, even my Inboxes have papers and e-mails I haven't looked at in many moons.) Give both your paper and e-mail Inboxes an intensive spring cleaning: toss anything that's no longer relevant or important, file the stuff you actually need to keep, and act on the things that truly require your attention. While you're at it, you might want to schedule a regular time each month to clear out your Inboxes and keep the backlog at bay.
- Reconsider your filing system. You probably have some sort of filing system set up in your office, but it may not necessarily work. Perhaps the categories are out-of-date, incomplete, or illogical. Maybe someone else set up the system for you without your input. The system might be so overwhelmingly full that it's hard to get anything out of it or put anything new in. Take some time this week to list your filing system frustrations, then to plan ways of dealing with them. Do you need to weed old files? Redo your categories? Buy new filing supplies to replace old, decrepit ones?
- Set up a To Do/In Process area. One of the main reasons papers and other items wind up on flat surfaces (like a desktop) is because of the fear that if something is stored out of sight, we'll forget that we need to deal with it. Of course, the downside of this is that things piles on a surface quickly become clutter, and it's all too easy to lose things when they're at the bottom of a pile. To conquer the "out of sight, out of mind" problem, set up a To Do/In Process area. This is a spot where things you're currently working on, or will need to deal with in the coming days, can live until you need them. This area might be a step file on your desk (which holds a series of file folders upright, rather than horizontally) with folders in different categories (To Call, To Read, Waiting On, etc.); it might be a bulletin board or other wall-mounted display; it might be a binder with section tabs for different categories. Whatever type of system you choose, it's important that you get into the habit of using it regularly. When you write a task on your To Do list, make a note that the things you need for that task (contact information, a report, a price quote, etc.) are in your To Do area. When you're ready to tackle the task, you'll know where to find the supporting material.
Spend a few hours getting rid of the old and revamping existing systems in your office. Whether you're in the business of running a family, running a company, or something in between, an organized and de-cluttered office will set you up for efficiency and success.