Five Tips to Get Organized at Work
No one wants to be considered the office airhead. But losing just one important phone number (“I can’t believe I spilled coffee on that sticky note!”) or forgetting one vital meeting (“Where is my darn calendar, anyway?”) because you’re disorganized may make you look like one. These five organizing tips can help you become known for your brilliant ideas rather than your scattered brain.
1. Chuck Your Junk
Just like when you declutter at home, think about whether you’ve needed something within the last year. Make a “toss” pile, a “store” pile and a currently active “to-do” pile. That take-out menu from the bankrupt sandwich shop down the street? Toss it. The budget report from 2009? Store it, but only one copy. A printout of the presentation you’re giving on Friday? Keep it on hand.
2. Store, Store and Store Some More
Resist the urge to be a perfectionist in dealing with the old paperwork in your “store” pile, or you’ll be lost amid stacks of miscellany for days. Just create a way to organize your materials in a way that makes sense to you. Everything related to the annual meeting could go in one labeled plastic bin or box, for example. Then work with your boss to find a place outside your office or cubicle to store this stuff.
3. Tackle Your To-Do Pile
This is where you should invest your efforts for the biggest payoff in long-term, sustainable organization. Create file folders for each project you are currently working on (or a different folder for each client or for each upcoming due date — whatever makes sense for you). When you complete a project, go through the file and discard the unimportant documents within. Then store the folder — which has been winnowed down to include only the project essentials — into an appropriate bin.
4. Keep Your Desk Clear
The surface of your desk should now be visible. Hooray! Keep it that way. One surefire way to prevent clutter from accumulating on your desk is to adopt the one-touch rule. Deal with every piece of paper that crosses your desk immediately. Trash it, act on it, file it or — if you really must — place it in your inbox until you have time to deal with it. (The one-touch rule is also applicable to email. Either respond right away, or direct your incoming messages to appropriate email folders.)
5. Use Technology Wisely
Strive to keep phone numbers and other often-used data on your computer and/or mobile phone. Online organizers — which you can access via your computer or your phone — can combine your calendar, address book, to-do lists and more. They can also send you pop-up reminders about meetings and deadlines. It may take a little time to master using these tools, but they’ll save you time (and lots of sticky notes) in the long run.