For many people, especially those with home offices, the thought of people seeing their workspace is tantamount to a public flogging. After all, who wants their slovenly ways exposed for the entire world to see?
Of course, some people (particularly those who understand the important relationship between an organized workspace and productivity) consider spring cleaning an essential office management skill. No matter where you fall on the spring-cleaning continuum, however, sprucing up your office is a good opportunity to get rid of what you don’t need and actually do a little cleaning with a rag and some disinfectant. Here are some tips to get you started and keep you motivated:
Make a commitment to get organized. Set aside 10 minutes a day and make a decision about the papers that have been sitting for more than a month. Don’t answer the phone, don’t check your e-mail. Just process your paper.
Another strategy used by the experts is one that borrows from the emergency room. Pretend you’re an ER doctor and your papers are a bunch of patients in the waiting room. Like a doctor faced with multiple tasks, people serious about cleaning up their offices must prioritize which papers need to be handled first. Try using three stackable in-boxes labeled “To Be Done,” “To Be Read,” and “To Be Filed.” Every piece of paper should fit into one of these categories. If not, you must toss that paper. This task should occur each day; the goal should be to work through your “To Be Done” box each morning.
Much of what people keep is from another time. A great deal of the paper clutter on desks represents past projects or presentations. Old projects hang around because you’re not sure what do with them. The trick, which costs pennies really, is to gather several inexpensive expandable file folders and quickly sort through the projects you need to keep and discard the rest. Don’t be afraid to toss paper. Keep only what you will need for future reference. Place it in the expandable folder, label it, and file it in the back of a file drawer.
Although cleaning out the clutter is a matter of moving paper from one pile to another, even if it’s to the trash, straightening up your office is a psychic exercise, one that requires thought and honesty. Some people would rather get a root canal than do the tedious work of sifting through paper piece by piece. But short of dumping it all out the window or lighting a match, evaluating what you have, and understanding why you’ve held on to it for so long, is not only necessary but can be liberating as well.
When you force yourself to look closely at your work habits you may discover new and easier ways to manage your office and your time. Try to imagine your workspace as a clear and comfortable place to conduct your job. And when you’re finished, treat yourself to a spring bouquet of daffodils to brighten up your empty desk.