OK, fess up...how's your office looking? Is your in-basket flowing over onto the floor? Is there a stack of file folders sitting on top of the file cabinet that should be inside the cabinet? Well kids, we're half way through 2010 and if you can still see evidence of 2009 hanging around your desk it's time to clean up your act.
Now in a perfect world, we would step into each new year with a clean slate, having kept our daily work neat and organized all along the way, but who has time for that? At the end of each year I'm also faced with the task of boxing up the year's files and putting my office in order to face the new year. But, after over 30 years of office work I have developed some good systems for staying organized so that at the end of the year that task can be done quickly with a minimum of detective work.
Although, each work environment is different there are a few basics that anyone who works in an office can put into practice:
First, create "zones" in your office and on your desk for your daily work flow. Files for active clients/work and information that you need to access on a daily basis should be zoned close to your desk so you can put your hands on them without getting up from your desk or putting down the phone. Keep active files in your desk file drawer or a cabinet near you. I keep a vertical file rack on my desk for those files that need the most immediate attention. Reference information, phone lists, or other general information that I need to refer to often, I slip into clear page protectors and place in a 3-ring binder which I keep on my desk so I can grab it quickly when I need to.
I am not a fan of the "in-basket". I think it's just a license to let things pile up and it's a constant reminder of all the work you haven't done yet. However, I do get a lot of miscellaneous paperwork, mail and fliers placed on my desk each day. That brings me to the next zone. Instead of an in-basket on my desk, I keep a real basket under my desk. No, it's not the waste basket that I'm referring to, although it does reside right next to the waste basket. As is the case with most of you, in addition to memos and mail, I get a lot of fliers, newsletters, professional publications, etc. on my desk each day. Those items I don't need to address immediately, I put into that basket under my desk and at least once a week I pull out the basket, read my newsletters and fliers, file the ones I wish to keep and toss out the ones I don't. The beauty of this basket is that all that paper is off my desk, but close at hand until I can get to it.
The last zone is your storage area. This is the file cabinet or storage box where you put files and paperwork that have been completed or that you need to refer to only occasionally. Now every business's file storage needs are different, but the rule of thumb for this zone is that the organizational method, be it alphabetical or numerical, should make sense so that if you're not there anyone could find what they are looking for.
See, it's really just that simple. Your desk doesn't have to look like a picture in an office furniture catalog, but if your clutter and disorganization are affecting your ability to get things done at work, and be honest, do your best job, then it's time to turn over a new leaf and get it together.