Hypothetical situation: You arrive at Company X to file some really, really important paperwork. There are two lines leading to the office workers who will be responsible for filing your really, really important paperwork. Line 1 leads to a worker who’s desk is immaculate and who’s files are organized and easily accessible. Line 2 leads to a worker who’s desk is stacked with papers, coffee mugs, a gym bag, and tons of miscellaneous office supplies. Which line would you pick? Who would you trust to file your really, really important paperwork?
I worked in an office environment that was just like this. I worked with two gentleman who were highly skilled at the job. One had been there for 10 years and the other 20+ years. You would think the gentleman with the most experience would be the most productive, however his productivity was significantly worse because his office was a disaster zone. He had food, kitchen supplies, gym bags, dirty clothes, tons of coffee mugs, and stacks and stacks of paper on the desk and the floor! He lost paperwork left and right. His time with clients was doubled that of the other gentleman because he wasted time searching for forms and files. Oh, how I would love to go back to his office and get him organized!
First impressions are lasting impressions. A messy, cluttered desk leaves one to assume the person who owns that desk is disorganized…and that may be an accurate assumption (as was the case in the worker I mentioned above). Studies have shown that cluttered desks lead to lost documents, wasted time searching for them and ultimately lost money. Whether you work for yourself or for someone else, you don’t want to cost yourself or the company money. On top of that, messy and cluttered desks harbor lots of bacteria. So, for your health and for the security of your job, let’s talk a little “ODO”…office-desk-organization.
Start by sorting and purging your paperwork. Tackle the top of your desk first then move on to your filing drawers and cabinets. Get rid of outdated documents, needless copies and items that you do not need to file or act on.
Create an action or tickler file to keep track of incoming and important documents. Put it on your desk where you will see it and act on it daily. Click here for more on how to create an action file or tickler file.
Create zones. Define areas on your desk and in your cabinets and drawers. Locate your note taking supplies next to your computer and phone to record messages or ideas. Keep all of your printing supplies next to or near the printer. Dedicate separate drawers or cabinets for mailing supplies, reference materials, files and personal items. Desk drawer organizers and magnetic container boards are excellent for containing the small items. Use a label maker to help define these areas.
Use the “within arm’s-reach” rule. Try to organize your desk so that all of the items you use on a daily basis are within arm’s reach. Things like your computer, action file, telephone, notepad, pens, pencils, paperclips, stapler and printer, scanner, and shredder if possible.
Get rid of excess. You probably don’t need three scissors, two staplers, 20 pens and the last three years worth of magazines. Get rid of the excess to make room for the things you need.
Practice a little cord-management. Use Velcro straps or zip-ties to gather and secure all the extra cord laying on your desk or on the floor. And don’t forget to label each cord near the power source so that you can easily identify them if and when you need to disconnect.
Cut out the personal clutter. It’s okay to personalize, but keep it simple with a small plant, 1-2 family photos and maybe 1-3 professional items on the wall (framed diplomas, certificates or awards).
Keep your personal gear out of sight. Lunch bags, gym bags, briefcases, purses, etc. Place these in a drawer, closet or under the desk out of view.
Maintain a clean space on your desk…enough to layout and review paperwork. And try to work on only one project at a time. This will prevent you from mixing up and losing paperwork in other projects.
Eat lunch away from the desk. Not only will this give you a break, it will keep your desk clean of crumbs and the little critters that love them.
Clean off your desk daily. When the work day is over, you should put all of your office supplies and files away, shut down or put your computer in sleep mode, and wipe down the desk if it’s gotten messy.
Keep a couple of cleaning supplies nearby to do a thorough wipe down once a week. Use wipes to clean off your phone and desk and a duster or soft cloth to wipe down your computer and other delicate items.
That’s it. Try these tips out and see if you notice a difference in your productivity and how your co-workers and boss treat you. I bet they’ll be more confident in your abilities…and perhaps you’ll even inspire them to do a little “ODO” themselves.