A while back I read a great article by Mark Shead, a seasoned blogger, about organizing your desk. I’ve picked 3 of his 12 tips that point to critical organizing maxims, truths that transcend the specifics of our desks and speak to wider issues in our offices and homes.
“1. Get rid of pens and pencils you don’t need. I have one type of pen I like to use, but every month or so my pencil holder gets filled up with other random writing instruments. If you aren’t going to use it, don’t feel bad about throwing it out. It is just clutter. The less clutter you have, the closer you are to having an organized desk.”
I once organized an office in the DC area and the man had 87 pens in his desk! Who needs 87 pens? But pens aren’t the only culprit. One man at the USDA had two drawers filled with napkins. One gal at Kodak had 11 glue sticks. A lobbyist in DC had 119 eyeliners in her bedroom dresser. I guess you never know when you may need a good eyeliner! And how about this bedroom closet decluttering surprise: the discovery of 57 lost bras.
Bottom line: Eliminate and consolidate or you will accumulate! We have too much stuff. So much stuff it’s blocking out light and air. And it’s not just the light and air, accumulation of stuff translates higher supply costs – $100 per year per employee. And the cost of those 57 bras — who can guess!
“6. Scanning documents. This is something I’m experimenting with. I have a scanner and I’ll turn important documents into PDFs and keep them on my computer. I use OCR so the documents are searchable. This is wonderful if you travel a lot because it keeps everything right there with you. The problem is trying to figure out what to scan and what can just be filed. If you are good at guessing what you’ll want to have electronically this can work very well. I haven’t figured out how accurate I am just yet. Keeping papers off your desk is an important part of desk organization.”
Sounds good, right? Two things to keep in mind that the scanner companies don’t tell you. First, your scanner can’t tell you which documents to scan. You might be scanning clutter into your computer! Second, your scanner can’t tell you where to store that image. Putting 100 or 1000 images of digital documents into digital folders can create its own nightmare when it comes to finding a specific document.
Bottom line: you need a personalized file-mapping system — an organizational structure for your paper and digital files, plus your emails, that mirrors your work processes. The system I teach is called FileMap® which allows you to find any file is 15 seconds or less!
“12. Organize as you go. As we discussed the Iron Chef Fable, it is more efficient to stay organized as you work instead of trying to do it all at the end. You should be constantly working on keeping your desk neat. If it gets disorganized in the middle of a big project, take small steps. Clear a 1 foot by 1 foot area before you leave for the day. Making a small effort toward organization may not seem like much, but if you do it everyday, it will keep things headed in the right direction for you.”
I call this step maintenance. Here’s a simple rule-of-thumb for maintaining the order in your office. For every hour that you work, spend one minute maintaining or organizing as you go. Then, 4x a year, spend a whole day just going through all the stuff you have accumulated.
Bottom line: It only takes a small amount of consistent effort each day to maintain the organization of a desk, office, kitchen, bedroom closet or garage.