Organized Office

Is It Time To Declutter Your Desk? (Part 2)

In the last blog (http://www.itstimetogetorganized.com/what-does-not-belong-on-your-desk/) we explored why cluttered desks make it hard to focus on the task at hand and what you can do about it. When you have to push things aside to find a clear spot, you know it is time to tackle the desktop clutter. Statistics show that co-workers admit to being judgmental and assume that the owner of a messy desk is lazy. While we would not necessarily jump to that conclusion, that is the general feeling of the people with whom you work.

When clean space on the top of your desk is hard to come by, it may be time to take a look at the offenders — the items on your desk that are usurping valuable space. Unless they’re paying rent (which of course they are not) they belong somewhere else. It is your desk, isn’t it?

Before jumping into this project and bulldozing everything in sight on your desk, take a step back and decide what to do with these items. The “keep” items need a permanent home. (Your desk is their temporary home.) Moving everything to the right place requires thought ahead of time and a plan of action. You may decide to tackle this project on off-hours — later in the day or on a weekend — to minimize the interruptions that invariably come up. It will require focus.

Now that you have a better understanding of where items might be relocated, it is time to begin. We have already discussed tips in the previous blog on handling: Loose Papers, Post-It Notes, and Reading Materials. Now we will move on to other things you may find on your desk:

Project Files

  • Keep the current project on the desk top — Other on-going projects can be relocated to a nearby desk drawer or placed on the desk in a step (or tiered) organizing unit. As long as they are not in the way and do not throw you off track, both options are fine.

Meeting Notes

  • Decide where they should go. Most people have no idea what to do with them so they end up under piles in various corners of the desk. If they are no longer needed or are now in electronic form the answer is obvious. Consider adding them to the folder belonging to the specific project.
  • Create a folder and label it “meeting notes”. Now you will know where to look when you next need the information.
  • Scan them  to an electronic folder with a descriptive name and throw out the paper notes.

Business Cards

  • Gather them together and decide which ones to keep.
  • Add a few phrases on the back of these cards reminding you where you met, what the other person was wearing, what you discussed, or if there was any follow up. These clues will help you remember the discussion.
  • Place the cards in one location such as a small box. That is a far better solution than leaving them scattered all around your desk and credenza where they can be lost. When we work with clients, we find them on top of the desk and every other flat surface in the office plus thrown in drawers. Many people return from a networking event or meeting and do not know what to do with them.
  • Enter the cards into contacts. Include the notes you made on the back of the card. Microsoft Outlook and other CRMs include note sections where you can provide information about the person and the meeting. Use a scanner when there are a large number of business cards. It is a lot faster.

Mail

  • Confine incoming mail to a box that sits on the corner of your desk. Without a home for mail, it will end up strangling your desk (and maybe you, too).

Items To Take Home

  • Designate a place somewhere else other than the top of your desk for your keys, wallet, smart phone, articles to read, documents, a briefcase and/or a purse. These types of items belong in a desk drawer or in a filing cabinet where they are out-of-sight and safe.

 Personal Items

  • Clients typically want to know what is acceptable. Of course, a photo or two is a nice addition to your desk and helps you remember why you come to work in the morning and why you leave in the evening.  We recommend displaying a few special pictures — that’s all.
  • Take away most, if not all, decorative items that sit on your desk. Donate or take home most knick knacks, especially if they have no meaning and you do not remember where they originally came from.
  • Rotate your personal items regularly to keep your desk looking fresh and interesting.

Cords and Electronic Devices

  • Designate an out-of-the-way spot so they do not need to be continually shifted about while you are working. Also, it will be easier to remember your cell phone or tablet when you leave the office if they are in the same location every time.

Printers and Scanners

  • Find a spot off your desk, if possible, for your scanner and printer. Or, at the very least, relocate them to a corner of your desk. These items are often big and bulky and take up valuable desk space. Just be sure they are handy to reach.

Supplies

  • Extra pens, pencils and notepads are annoying if it is necessary to move them from spot to spot every time more desk room is needed. Instead, stash them in a drawer, move them to a supply cabinet or give them away if you are unlikely to use them.Many organizations or schools can always use these types of supplies and are grateful. And, yes, they are a tax deduction.

Cleaning Supplies

  • While essential for keeping a desk clean, storing unattractive bottles and cans on top of your desk is not a pretty sight. Find someplace else.

Binders

  • As much as we find binders very handy, they take up a lot of room on a desk. Move them to a bookcase or arrange them on a shelf above your desk, if you have one.

Bonus Tip: Take a few minutes before you leave at the end of the day to clear off your desk and make it presentable. When you walk into the office the next day, you will be able to find what you need and can get down to work right away. There will be no down time and you will be off to a good start of the day. How nice!

 

 

 

 

 

What Does NOT Belong On Your Desk?

Often items strewn on your desk get in the way, literally and figuratively.  Many items do not belong on your most valuable piece of real estate. You probably have no idea how they got there in the first place. Papers, business cards, file folders, coffee cups and an assortment of pens scattered about can easily distract you from the task at hand. When it is hard to focus, it is hard to achieve your personal best. Clutter and extraneous items take you off course and reduces efficiency.

Another reason to clear the desktop clutter? Research shows that 57% of supervisors, co-workers, and clients pass judgment on how dirty or clean people keep their workspaces. They are often “appalled” by how messy the office is and consider them lazy. As good as your work product is a messy desk leaves a poor impression. (Note: survey by staffing firm Adecco) http://www.forbes.com/sites/jennagoudreau/2012/03/27/the-dangers-of-a-messy-desk/

Below is a step-by-step plan for a functional desktop that will help you stay productive throughout the day.

Prepare for your desk clean-up ahead of time.  

1. Choose a date and enter it into your planner.

2. Decide where items should be relocated. One of the reasons we end up with so much on our desk is that they have no home. A lot of things currently on your desk may end up in the trash so begin thinking about homes for magazines, project folders, meeting notes, business cards, personal items and extra supplies, to name a few.

3. Secure a large trash bag.

Now the day has arrived for you to begin. 

Gather like items together. A quick sort will identify the contents on the top of your desk. It is a lot easier to make decisions once you have divided everything into broad groups. Below are the types of items that you may possibly encounter while de-cluttering this valuable space:

Loose Papers

  • Decide what to toss and what to keep by glancing quickly at each document. If you stop to read each one, it will slow you down and can easily get you off track.
  • Divide the “keep” papers into two piles: active and reference. Place active documents into a file folder with similar items and keep in easy reach either on the desktop in an organizing unit that has “steps or tiers” or a close by desk drawer right next to you. Because you may not go to reference materials as often, they can be kept farther away such as across the room.

Scanning

  • Store documents electronically instead of keeping paper. First, however, devise a plan for the location of electronic files. The last thing you want to happen is to lose an important document because it was misfiled. Also, do not forget to backup.
  • Toss or shred the paper documents once a copy resides on your computer and the original is no longer needed.

Post-It Notes

  • Stash these bits of information into electronic software such as on-line post-it notes, One-Note, EverNote, or even the computer desktop.
  • Or store the information in a binder in an easy-to-reach location.

Reading Materials

  • Relocate them. Magazines and newspapers on top of the desk rob you of valuable real estate. It is unlikely that you are going to read a magazine as soon as it arrives. Look around your office. How about moving them to the credenza or the top of a filing cabinet?
  • Decide how long to keep them. Once six months have passed, recycle them, even if you have not yet read them.
  • Unsubscribe to the magazines that you hardly glance at. Be honest with yourself and let go of unread magazines that take up valuable space.
  • Read a magazine at lunch or while waiting for an appointment. Before leaving on a plane trip, I stuff my briefcase with unread magazines. Out they go as soon as I read them; no magazines make the return trip.
  • Tear Out Articles – The fastest way to go through a magazine is to glance at the table of contents and decide if there are any compelling articles. Rip them out and toss the magazine.
  • Pass them along to doctors’ offices, the Y, hospitals and places where others can enjoy them.
  • Recycle whenever possible.

Be on the lookout for the next blog. We will continue the discussion on what does NOT belong on your desk. We will cover:

Project Files … Meeting Notes … Business Cards … Mail … Items To Take Home … Personal Items … Miscellaneous Items … Electronic Devices … Supplies … Cleaning Supplies … Books and Binders.

Isn’t it amazing what your desk can hold?

Computer Screens: The Bigger The Better?

Computer Screen

With less paper in the office, many of us find that we do a lot of reading and work on our computers. Do larger screens or several monitors make it any easier? The consensus seems to be “yes”.  Once you try two monitors, there’s no going back, according to Dave Kinsey, president of Total Networks.  Several studies show that, with two monitors, tasks are completed more quickly with fewer errors compared to using one monitor. How nice to have several screens open at one time without having to switch back and forth!

If two monitors are great, why not five or six? Kinsey cites a paperless law office that does just this. The six monitors are open to calendars, email, the company’s practice management program, documents, a screen for another application and the two end screens in landscape which are perfect for spreadsheets. The monitors cover a lot of screen real estate. When you can read  two documents side by side, the need to print out or keep paper is almost completely eliminated.

While I was mulling over the idea of how many monitors would fit on my desk, I came upon an article posted in The Lawyerist suggesting one BIG screen. Todd Hendrickson posits in his article “In a Paperless Office, A Bigger Monitor is Better” that a jumbo monitor (27” or larger) is better than multi-monitors if you spend most of your time reading and writing. The key advantage? You can see several full-page desktop views with minimal scrolling.  All it takes is a few keyboard shortcuts. In essence, it can do the same thing as multi-monitors and still leave room on your desk. For more details, check out http://lawyerist.com/in-a-paperless-office-a-bigger-monitor-is-better/.

How many monitors do you use?

What’s On The Top Of Your Desk?

images[10]We all know that feeling — the times when nothing can stop you from reaching your maximum efficiency. Ideas come to you quickly and projects get done. By organizing your desk, you will know where everything is. It will save you time and energy. In the March 27, 2012 article from Forbes Magazine, author Jenna Goudreau talks about “The Dangers Of A Messy Desk.”

Keep only the essentials on the top of your desk within arm’s reach to help you stay organized and efficiently manage your work day. Other items scattered on your work space can get in the way, literally and figuratively. Papers, business cards, coffee cups and dozens of pens scattered about can easily distract you from the task at hand. And when it is hard to focus, it’s much more difficult to achieve your personal best.

In any discussion of desk surfaces, clients typically inquire about their personal items such as framed photos and other decorative objects. Our recommendation: limit personal items to two or three things that remind you why you come to work in the morning and why you leave in the evening. Rotate these items regularly to keep things fresh and interesting.

Schedule time in your planner to organize your desk. You’ll be glad that you did.

 

5 Ways To Use A Planner Effectively

Here are 5 ways to use your planner to help you become more efficient and effective. By following these suggestions, you will get more done and become closer to your goals.

1)  Use your planner every day and check it often. Leave it on your desk in front of you. Some of our clients use paper planners and often apologize that they are not “tech saavy”. We assure them that it does not matter whether it is paper or an electronic, as long as you use it. (Tip: if you use an electronic version, you may want to print out the planner daily.)

2)      Capture all projects and tasks. Write everything down on paper or electronically. It takes a lot of mental energy to juggle projects, tasks, and upcoming activities in your brain. You will be able to concentrate on upcoming projects without this extra mental weight. At some point, your memory will fail.

3)      Review your week ahead of time – decide what is important based on your goals. Enter the tasks that must be done to support them. (Tip: make it visually easy to identify the most important tasks on your to-do list by highlighting them.)

4)      Use one planner for both personal and work. (Tip: color code the activities. It’s easy on a paper planner. On an electronic calendar categorize the activities, making personal appointments one color and business appointments a different color. My business appointments are in red.)

5)      Make your action steps concrete. Include appointments and commitments to others. Start with a verb. For example, call Fred re: Short client agreement. Don’t you agree that this  works far better than putting Fred on the planner?

What are you going to do with your planner to help you become more efficient?

 

 

 

 

 

Clean Up Your Workspace in 2013!

Did you know that January 9 is Clean Up Your WorkSpace Day? It’s that important and crucial for your success that a special day has been designated. And it is at the beginning of the new year. As productivity specialists, we highly endorse sprucing up your workspace. It will help you be more organized and efficient in 2013.

Try this tip: Limit the items on the top of your desk to phone, computer, current projects, office supplies and planner.

These items are all essential organizing tools that sit on the top of your desk within arm’s reach and help you stay organized and efficiently manage your work day.

These five work tools will help you concentrate on the task at hand and help improve your productivity.

Your Planner: This is your #1 work tool. If you don’t do anything else, update and check your planner at least once or twice a day, if not more. It doesn’t matter if it is paper or electronic. What does count is a dependable system that keeps all meetings, contacts and tasks in one place and handy.

Your Computer: Are you able to find the electronic document you need immediately? From personal experience, we can vouch that a task takes a lot longer when you spend the first half hour (or hour) searching for a file folder.

Organizing your computer file folders now — in the beginning of 2013 — is well worth it.

Your Active Projects: What are you working on today? Reserve your desk surface for projects and tasks that represent today’s priority items. Projects and tasks that will be priorities at a later date can be kept in your working files drawer or a step-up file folder.

Your Phone: Keep a phone log or spiral notebook beside your phone to use as a record of voice mail messages. Or, record the information into a to-do list on your computer that synchs with your cell phone for easy callbacks.

If the caller is someone whom you will need to call again, record their information in your contact list. So long back-of-envelope!

Supplies: If you have to shove aside stationery, envelopes and boxes of business cards to reclaim your work surface, it may be time to rethink what you need at hand. Keep a few items and move the rest to the supply closet.

Take a look at your own desktop tools. Are they going to help you stay the course?

By following these tips, 2013 will be off to a great start!

 

Close Out The Year: Try This Checklist

  • Start gathering your papers and electronic files needed for taxes. Yes, now. Credit card and bank statements, receipts, anything you will need to take to your accountant. And, speaking of your accountant …
  • Meet with your accountant to review your situation and determine what, if any, actions to take before the official close of the year.
  • Pay outstanding invoices and avoid back dating checks in January.
  • Decide if money owed you now should be paid this year or in January. There may be advantages to moving the revenue into the following year.
  • Archive 2012 email. If your inbox is filled to the brim, here’s your opportunity to reduce your email volume. And compressed email takes up less space. It’s a win-win.

Personal Productivity: Working From Home

Business people working from home offices used to be the exception. No more. Now they are part of the mainstream and no one looks surprised when they hear that a colleague works from home.

It is just as important — maybe more — for someone conducting business at home to be organized and productive as it is if you are in an office setting. We all know the pluses and minuses for working at home so we are going to focus on how to be more productive when you have a home office. You can be just as organized and use all of the techniques that your colleagues in the office are using to get their work done and move their projects ahead.

Here are some tips to being more organized and efficient when you work at home:

1) Establish regimens and stick to them. Some examples:

  • Arrive at your desk at a specific time every day.
  • Check email several times of the day — perhaps an hour in the morning and an hour in the afternoon.
  • Return phone calls at a specific time such as just before lunch and in the late afternoon.

2) Write a daily to-do list and keep it in front of you at all times. Star 3-4 priorities and decide when you are going to do them. At the end of the day, it will feel good to leave your office and have accomplished what you set out to do. (Note: The to-do list can be on paper or electronic. It doesn’t matter as long as you check it often.)

3) Stay focused. If you decide that you need to work for several hours on a particular project, schedule a block of time and resolve not to become waylaid by something else. Avoid interruptions from the phone, email and the next door neighbor knocking at your door. Stick to the project at hand.

4) Bunch tasks together. You are more efficient when you answer email or make phone calls all at the same time.

5) Prepare for the next day ahead of time. Look over your calendar to see what appointmen                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      ts you have and get your to-do list ready for tomorrow.

6) Use a timer. It is one of the best tools available to keep you on track and organized.

7) Take short breaks. Get up and move the way you would in an office. Get a drink of water. Walk around outside at lunch time or exercise during lunch.

8) Find an accountability partner so you will do what you said you would.

9) Make sure your office is set up for you to work efficiently: the right tools: computer, printer, scanner, smart phone, software, speaker phone, filing cabinets, clock, a comfortable chair and the right lighting.

The result? You will feel in control of your work day.

Still having a difficult time maintaining your productivity? We can customize systems that will increase your efficiency and effectiveness in your home office. Call us — Leslie or Barbara — at 404-303-8431 or email Info@ItsTimeToGetOrganized.com.

 

 

Do You Unsubscribe?

We all have too much email. It feels endless. But there is an easy way to reduce email volume: Unsubscribe. As email efficiency experts, we highly recommend unsubscribing to as many emails as possible as long as it is a legitimate site. You can always sign up again at a later date.

Then why don’t we make the extra effort and unsubscribe? Why do we leave the emails in our inbox? They waste energy and time because we need to flip through them to get to the email we really want and need.

Some of the reasons we hear for not unsubscribing:

1) I don’t have enough time to scroll to the bottom of the email and click the unsubcribe link.

2) I don’t feel like it.

3) It’s not worth bothering.

4) It’s too complicated. I am redirected to the website where I have to hunt for the unsubscribe page and often can’t find it. (That happens to us and it’s frustrating!)

The next time you receive an email you do not need, take the 1-2 minutes to unsubscribe. Do it immediately. Think of it as eliminating not just that current email but future unwanted emails that will automatically show up in your inbox every day or week or month.

If you feel overwhelmed by the huge number of emails in your inbox, try one of these tips:

1) Create a folder called “Unsubscribe” and drag the emails from which you need to unsubscribe to that folder; Set up a 1/2 hour every week to unsubscribe. What a great feeling to reduce the email in your inbox!

2) Unsubscribe to one email each day.

3) Make it a game. Set aside 10 minutes daily and challenge yourself to see how many emails you can eliminate by unsubscribing. A timer is an excellent tool for this activity.

Are you inundated with email? Call Leslie or Barbara at 404.303.8431 or email: Info@ItsTimeToGetOrganized.com. We can help reduce your email volume and your stress.

 

 

 

 

Zero Emails In Your Inbox. Is It Possible?

Have you ever considered what it would be like to have zero emails in your inbox? Most of us have a comfort level and stick with that number. For some it may be 20 while others are happy if they can keep the number to 60. Then there are those who aspire to less than 500. Each one of us has a number. What’s yours?

David Allen from Getting Things Done suggests that the number should be zero. While Allen blogs that zero emails in your inbox will require a definite change in thinking, he thinks it is worth the effort. It is possible to make this change only when you decide that the number you are currently comfortable with is no longer acceptable.

If you are wondering why Allen suggests that we take our inbox from our comfort number to zero, he gives several good reasons. Even though you may flag them and know what emails are already in your inbox, Allen points out that:

1) it takes time — and energy — to go through them every time. This is valuable energy that takes us away from important tasks.

2) the email is still there because you haven’t taken the time to decide how to handle it.

If  you are stressed out by the the number of emails in your inbox, we can teach you the techniques to make decisions on how to handle each email, how to sort quickly and where to put the ones needing further action. Call us at 404-303-8431 or email info@ItsTimeToGetOrganized.com for a free consultation.