If you added up all the time you spend shuffling through papers on your disorganized desk, you’d be amazed how much time is wasted because of the clutter in your office. Taking a few simple steps to organize your office will lead to clearer thoughts and as a result, higher productivity. Here are 20 tips to help you get started:
- Declutter your entire office. Get rid of anything you haven’t used or touched in a month that isn’t important for record-keeping purposes. This applies to papers, knick-knacks, books, decorations and even furniture. If it’s something of value, donate it or gift it to another coworker.
- Put things in their proper place. Take anything that’s not in its proper place and put it where it belongs.
- Create mini “work areas”. You likely have your main work space, like your desk, and other ancillary areas like a filing cabinet and a place for supplies. As much as possible, keep office materials in their proper work area.
- Label things. Use a label maker or neatly handwritten labels to identify various drawers, shelves, bins, etc. It will help remind you to put things away and help out co-workers who may need to find something in your space.
- Place supplies within reach. The items you use the most should be closest to your desk.
- Store things digitally. It can be hard to let go of your “paper trail”, but the digital age makes it less and less necessary to keep physical files. Store documents and files digitally as much as possible, and back up your system regularly.
- Create a folder for meetings and urgent items. In this folder, place things you need to address in the near future and other tasks that need to be delegated.
- Create a folder for things that are “waiting on a response”. These are things that require someone else to act before you can move forward. Review this folder every few days to see what you can address.
- Clean your entire desk surface of dust and grime, and put back only the items you need to use daily.
- Organize your desk with trays for papers and containers to corral small items and odds & ends.
- Organize drawers. Using your labelling system and drawer organizers if necessary, put away paper clips, staples, pens, sticky notes, etc.
- If it’s conducive to your line of work, create separate folders within your inbox for different clients or colleagues.
- Get rid of piles. They do nothing but create more clutters. Every time a pile starts to accumulate, go through it and file the papers where they belong or toss them.
- Sort mail as soon as it comes in. Too often we let envelopes pile up for a week until the pile is too daunting to handle all at once.
- Mark documents with an ‘expiration date’. Not everything needs to be kept indefinitely. Give yourself a time frame when every document can reasonably be thrown away.
- Archive physical files. For the files that you do need to keep physical copies of, file them neatly away in storage boxes.
- Store magazines—only ones that you really need. Use binders to corral magazines and catalogues you’d like to keep so they don’t take up real estate on your desk. Create a ‘reading folder’ for items you want to read that don’t need your urgent attention.
- Archive completed projects. Move all completed items out of your working folders and into an archive section.
- Straighten up your desk and office at the end of every day, clearing piles and putting away stray supplies.
- Do a weekly sweep to file documents and read anything that’s been awaiting your attention.
You don’t have to do it all at once, but taking small steps to better organize your office will lead to increased productivity and less clutter—both physically and mentally.