How much time do you spend each day looking for things on your desk or on your computer desktop? Do you ever need to search for phone numbers, email addresses, lists, maps or other work related documents for several minutes?
One Forbes study suggests that a person with a messy desk is judged by colleagues and clients as being disorganised; both in and out of the workplace. In a related Forbes article, one study indicates that workers spend six weeks each year, on average, searching for lost items.
I have had the chance to work with hundreds of executives and small business owners, who choose to use computers to organise their workspace. I can tell you that often their computer desktop is just as messy and disorganised as their physical workspace.
Here are some practical tips to tidy up your workspace, so you can get organised today:
- Save your personal contacts to your smartphone or computer. Buy a storage box and file business cards alphabetically if you prefer them. Contact lists on loose pieces of paper mess up your desk and become disorganised as they grow, so I recommend you avoid using them.
- Keep a daily schedule and a task list. I choose to use my calendar, which is included with my email program. You may choose to use a paper diary instead. Either way; record your meetings, appointments, tasks and reminders there. Take the loose pieces of paper and sticky note reminders on your desk and throw them in the bin.
- Keep a digital copy of your documents. Digital copies are easy to share, copy, file and retrieve. They take up a considerably smaller amount of your workspace than a paper copy. Save these files in a similar manner to how you would organise a filing cabinet. Create a ‘new folder’ on your computer and use the client’s name or the date to name the folder. Using a standard like this will make it easy for you to find what you need to at a later date.
- Start or re-start your filing cabinet. You have probably already heard the term “the paperless office” about today’s offices. If you work in an office you probably already know there is still a need for paper and we are a long way from “paperless”. Keep your important paper documents organised in a filing cabinet. You may prefer to buy an expanding file if you cannot justify a full sized filing cabinet.
- Create a system for dealing with daily tasks. Write down a set of rules for how you will deal with any new tasks that comes your way. Is there a particular type of task that is best to act on immediately? Is there a task that would be better dealt with by blocking out time in your daily calendar to deal with it? HINT: You may not need to deal with all of these routine tasks yourself. For example, you can set rules in most popular email programs to sort, delete or forward emails based on subject field or who it is from.
- Invent the wheel only once. Do you find yourself writing the same email over and over? Or creating a document that has 90% of the same content more than once? You can create templates in most email, word processing and office programs so you simply fill in the blanks. Of course there may be some benefits to hand crafting the perfect email for a particular situation, however, you need to ask yourself if the benefits outweigh the time you spend writing.
Organising your workspace and eliminating clutter is a great feeling but don’t stop there. Make sure you read tip number 5. Create a system, so you will stay organised. Invest some time every day to keep on top of things because it’s easier than starting all over again when things get on top of you.