Do you run late for meetings, misplace keys, files, important documents, or other items, run afoul of deadlines, or forget appointments? If so, you’re not alone. Americans lose/waste nine (9) million hours per day looking for misplaced items, according to the American Demographics Society. If this is an area of challenge for you, follow the 10 simple steps below and get your work environment organized once and for all!
1. Think at a helicopter level and identify the major categories of items to be kept in your office/workspace. Limit the number of categories to a maximum of 7 or 8. For example: 1) operational items – phone numbers, expense reports, instructions and procedures, 2) customer files, 3) product samples, 4) tax and legal – contracts and receipts, 5) reading, 6) tools – assessments and articles, and 7) future projects.
2. Sort every item, every piece of paper, every file in your office/workspace into the piles that represent the major categories identified in step #1. Start with all visible items, then move to the items stored in drawers, file cabinets and overhead bins. If you have an extraordinary amount of material to categorize, you might want to get a large box for each category so your piles don’t get mixed up.
3. Cull each category. Be determined to eliminate everything but the absolute necessities. Dispose of old and unwanted items by pitching them, giving them to someone else, selling or donating them, or sending them to storage.
4. Organize the balance of items in each category. Put items in date order, alphabetical order, number order, or subject matter order. If organizing by subject matter, consider putting each subject into a separate file folder.
5. Make a little cheat sheet or outline of the major categories you’re using and the types of materials and subcategories contained in each. This will serve as a future reference as to where you have stored items.
6. Appoint a place to store each category. Consider the size of each category, how frequently you will be accessing each category, and where in your workspace you will be using each category.
7. Sketch your office/workspace and mark where you intend to place each category of item. Is there convenient and sufficient storage space available for each category?
8. Purchase containers, shelving, etc. for which you don’t currently have storage space. Again, consider the size of the container needed based on your available space and the volume of the materials to be stored in it.
9. Reposition or put each category of item into its new space or container.
10. Spend 10 minutes at the end of each day putting everything away. This way you will walk into an organized and inviting office/workspace each morning. Reevaluate your arrangement at least bi-annually or as new assignments are acquired.