declutter office

How to Make the Most of Holiday Time

The next six weeks will be filled with parties, concerts and events. Some of them are obligatory — you may not want to attend your office party but must show up with a smile on your face. But you may be looking forward to your child’s concert at school and annual soirees with friends. Many people consider this period of time at work to be unproductive. Between late-night parties, holiday lunches and gift-swapping in the office, most are not focusing as intently on the business. In fact, many business people consider this period of time to be pretty unproductive.

Unless you do not plan on showing up between Thanksgiving and New Years, there is still work that needs attending to although, admittedly, your work load may be lighter. Your firm’s 2015 business plans have been completed and are ready for action starting in January. With fewer of your colleagues in the office, there are fewer meetings, fewer reports due and fewer tasks that require your immediate attention. Clients may be on vacation or spending less time in the office so they may be less demanding.

You have a choice. You can “float” through this period and pay minimal attention to work or decide that you’ll use this down time productively. There are a host of opportunities available. It is just a matter of deciding if you want to take this course of action. Why not? Think of the projects that you have put off because you have not had the time. This is your chance to get to them. Some of these projects can help you reach your goals. By starting them now, you will likely have fewer interruptions and a greater chance to complete them than during the year when more urgent tasks and to-dos come up and derail you.

What are examples of projects that you may want to tackle now? How about researching an area that may prove profitable for your company? How about exploring new ideas? You have a list but you never have time to explore them. Or perhaps you want to learn a skill that will improve your performance at work such as the task feature in Microsoft Outlook or how to use Evernote. It is frustrating not to know these features but, without the time to explore the tasks function or how to navigate Evernote, you have had to make do. Here is the opportunity you have been waiting for all year. Taking a class at a school or an on-line video tutorial from a company such as Lynda.com requires time, energy and focus … and now you have it!

I would be remiss if I did not mention that this is a perfect time to get organized. If your office is piled high with paper, why not go through the stacks and decide if you can live without some of them. Most likely the answer is a resounding ‘yes’! Our clients often print out duplicates of documents because they can not find it on their desk (even though they know it’s there somewhere). Their first response is to reprint it. Ask yourself if you need it or would be able to get it again. Probably not although there are still a few documents that we need to hold onto. Often there are legal papers such as contracts. If another person in the company issued the document, then it’s likely that person will have the original copy. If you need to keep a document, decide where its home should be — on your desk (if you are actively working on it), in a filing cabinet, on your computer as an electronic file?

Once the paper clutter is reined in, it’s time to focus on the electronic clutter which may be more serious than the paper clutter. If files are scattered about without any rhyme or reason, take time now to figure out where each document belongs. Once the new year begins, this project will unlikely take precedence over urgent ones.

While you are organizing your office, there may be other things that you can do to improve its functionality. What tools might make it easier to stay organized — a whiteboard for mapping, wall files that can keep your folders handy, a second monitor? You might take a look around the office for ideas or browse the The Container Store or an office supply store. You could even ask your colleagues what organizing tools they like the best.

Have I convinced you yet to take advantage of this holiday time to do something different and still stay productive? Without having to spend all of your time on urgent, important projects, you can focus on other areas in your work and professional life that are also meaningful.

 

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?

Improve Time-Wasting Habits Now

To DO

How do you spend your time? We all have the same number of hours in the day and yet some of us achieve quite a lot while others less so. Author Harvey Mackay suggests that improving our time-wasting habits is the answer. As productivity specialists, we agree with the article he wrote in the Atlanta Business Chronicle August 30-September 5, 2013. It contained seven smart suggestions:

1) Begin With A Plan Every Day so that you can focus on the right tasks; otherwise you will lose sight of what is important. Remember to make a to-do list for the following day so you can be productive as soon as you enter your work space.

2) Prioritize based on what is most important. Complete important items first.

3) Be Realistic and don’t take on too much at one time. There are times when saying no is necessary so you can complete your work on time. Otherwise, you’ll be adding stress when it can be avoided.

4) Keep Your Workspace Neat. Spend 5-10 minutes daily to put away files and get rid of the clutter. It will make a big difference and will prevent you from searching through documents to find the one you need. Statistics show that workers spend 50 minutes a day searching for documents they know they own.

5) Focus. Interruptions and distractions pull you away from what is important. While 20% of the interruptions are good, try and avoid others such as answering the phone and checking email often.

6) Get Enough Sleep. Everyone functions better when they feel rested. It puts you in control, reduces your stress level and helps you tackle problems better. According to the experts, most people need between 7 and 8 hours.

7) Take A Break. While it is tempting to continue persevering on a project until it is done, short diversions are recommended. Stopping and doing something else for a short time will take your mind off of it. When you return to the project, you will feel renewed. That is why activities such as exercise and taking time to eat lunch are a good idea and help refresh you.

Many of us are aware of these steps but putting them in practice is not always easy. Choose one of them that you currently do not do and give it a try for a week or two. Our guess is that you will like the results.

 

 

 

 

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.

 

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!

 

Maintain Your Organizing

If you have recently organized your office, you know the type of work it takes to accomplish this feat. Are congratulations in order? Most definitely yes! And what a wonderful feeling! At long last you can put your hands on a document quickly without wasting time searching. The clutter is gone, old files have gone to storage, current files are in a nearby drawer, binders on the credenza are labeled and the sole project on your desk is the one you are working on currently.

And here’s another plus: You can invite clients and co-workers without feeling embarrassed by the appearance of your space. The message is loud and clear that your office is totally functional and you are in control.

Now can you cross that project off of your list? Well, yes, but not the part about maintaining the organization. Just because your office is in ship shade at the moment and you are able to be highly efficient, does not mean that the organization will stay that way on its own. Some people forget about the effort needed to keep your space clear. If you let it go, your office will be back to square one in no time at all. It will be messy and cluttered and will require all of your energy to navigate — energy you would prefer to put toward your job.

What can you do to ensure that your office stays tidy and neat? Try these tips:

  1. Designate a time — daily or weekly — to put everything back in its place. You may need to spend 15 minutes at the end of the day or an hour every Friday afternoon. Then add it to your calendar and be sure and do it.
  2. Decide your tolerance level, that is, at what point do you stop to sort, file and make decisions on papers that have no home. Maybe it is when the inbox is full.
  3. Ask a co-worker to “shadow” you while you get your office back to its organized state. His/her presence in the room is sufficient reason for you to stay motivated until your work space in back in working order.
  4. Change organizational systems that are not working instead of struggling with them. Sometimes a system needs revamping even though you were sure it would work when you set it up. A perfect example is a tickler system. Your colleague raved about how well it works but not for you. You are clearly disappointed in the way it performs. Instead of giving up and leaving the papers scattered about, try a different filing system. Keep trying different until you get to one you like and know you will use.

These tips will go a long way toward maintaining your hard-earned organization. True, they will require effort but the benefits in productivity are well worth it. You’ll feel less stress because you are free to focus on your tasks.

There is good news, however: It’s a lot easier to maintain systems and processes once they are established. It will take a lot less time to keep on top of papers, files and anything else that lands on your desk from here on in.

 

 

 

Spring: The Ideal Time To Attack Office Clutter

Most of us think of springtime as the perfect time to get rid of clutter in our homes. We envision coats bulging from the closet and drawers filled with things you don’t need any longer. But the same problem exists in many offices and home  offices; piles of paper, files strewn about and random items taking over good real estate on the desk or credenza. If this describes your work area, here are a few ways to clear your space (and your head).

Ask yourself:

1) Are you honestly going to read those papers and magazines? If the answer is no, then give yourself permission to toss them out without feeling guilty.

2) If I change my mind after I’ve thrown out a paper, then what? In many companies the person who sent the document originally keeps a copy. Or, the information may be easy to pull up on the web. Then again it might be available through a professional group such as the local bar association.

Clutter may not just be physical. It comes in other forms as well. How many times has a thought popped into your head and then disappears? No matter how often you push it aside, it keeps returning. Write it down. Often, you need to act on it. Once you add it to your to-do list or assign it to your calendar, then you no longer have to keep remembering it. The best part: your head is now clear to focus on important things.

Clutter can also be technological. Your computer, smart phone, iPad or Kindle can be loaded down with documents and apps that you do not use. They’re in the way when you are searching, making it difficult to find what you are looking for. It prevents you from being creative and saps your energy and focus.

Make the clutter disappear. It sounds easy enough but, unfortunately, will not happen without you taking action. Set aside time to deal with it, even though you prefer to be working on something else. It could easily take a few hours which you may want to do all at once or in small increments. As long as the time is blocked out on the calendar, you can feel confident that the job will get done. Before you know it you’ll be back in control of your desk and technology tools.