The average executive wastes six weeks per year retrieving misplaced information due to messy desks and files, according to The Wall Street Journal. That’s a loss of $9,221 or, 12.3% of earnings for managers earning $75,000 a year. Professional organizers can help people like you clean up your act – starting with the desktop!
A clean desk is not the sign of someone with nothing to do, nor is a messy desk the mark of a busy manager. Most of us can think and be more productive when sitting at a clean, well-organized desk.
Here’s how to manage your files, organize your desktop and reduce stress so that you can better handle administrative tasks, which will help you become more productive.
1. Define your objective and schedule time. Set a goal you can easily achieve in two hours or less. It’s best to tackle the top of the desk and save the desk drawers and bookcases for later.
2. Start with a clean desk. Remove all the clutter from your desktop. Put everything — work papers, magazines, receipts, piles of loose business cards — in a box. Return coffee mugs to the kitchen. Are you starting to feel good about your progress? Now, you will be motivated to continue.
3. Establish “homes” for items. Create “Action Files”, using bins, hanging folders or stacking trays. First, set up “In” and “Out” baskets. Label files “File”, “Read”, “Pay”, “Do” and “Pending”. Computer users should add “Enter”. If necessary, divide these categories even further. “Read” can be “Read-Urgent” and “Read-Important”. “Pay” can be “Pay-Business” and “Pay-Personal”. Get the round file (wastebasket) ready!!
4. Sort the papers in the box, a small pile at a time, until the box is empty. “Clutter is postponed decisions,” says Barbara Hemphill, author of Taming the Paper Tiger. You can be proactive by deciding what to do with all your “stuff”. How? Just move each item into its new place or “home” based on what the next action is. Use your new Action Files. For example, unpaid bills go in “Pay”. Paid receipts go in “File”. Wait until the folder or stacking tray is full, then do all your filing at once. If no action is required, toss it. If you’re afraid you might throw something away that you’ll need later, save your trash for seven days. If you don’t need anything after one week, throw the bag out. Put desktop tools such as staplers, pencil holders and tape dispensers in your desk drawer. Limit family photos to one or two. Put plants on the floor. Your aim is to reduce visible clutter on your desk. Don’t answer your phone during this project, listen to soft music instead.
5. Reward yourself. Finished? Good job! Instead of a sugary snack break, take a short walk or read a book. You can be proud of your accomplishment.
With the right attitude, getting organized is easy. It means an end to missed deadlines, lost information and loss of control. If you still can’t face cleaning your desk alone, or you want a coach, call or email us today.
Let me know how this works for you!
(This was originally posted in 2002.)