Eliminate Office Chaos

By Laura Leist

What does office disorganization cost your company? The Wall Street Journal published a study indicating that the average employee wastes nearly six weeks a year looking for information and things in their office. Multiply six weeks by their salary and then the number of employees in the company, and that is a lot of money! 

Can you relate to any of the following organizing misconceptions? If you can, you’re not alone.

If I file it, I’ll never find it again: The key to a great filing system is the ability to “retrieve” the information when you need it. The act of “filing” the paper away is simple - the critical step lies in how you categorize it so that you and others can access it.

If I hire an Office Manager / Office Assistant - they’ll get me organized: Many managers and business owners become frustrated after hiring an office manager or assistant because this individual has done very little to help them get organized. In order for this individual to be successful, there must be systems and processes that they can follow on a daily, weekly, monthly basis. Typically, this person is not the individual that will “create” the systems or processes but rather “maintain” them. In many cases, the individual hired to work in this role may not have the background to develop those processes or systems for you - yet they are excellent at using the systems. It is critical that the Manager or Business Owner play a key role in the development of these systems because most likely they will be the ones using them long after the individual hired to help them has moved on.

Being organized stifles creativity: We’ve all heard of “right brained” vs. “left brained” individuals. Those that are “right brained” tend to be more creative and thus disorganized. The fact of the matter is that those that are “right brained” tend to be more “visual” and therefore they like to see what they are working on - and thus much of what they work on is out in the open. There is no right or wrong way to be organized - it’s really about creating systems and processes that the individual can maintain to be efficient and productive. The work can be out in the open, as long as it is done so in an organized fashion so that when the information is needed - it can be retrieved.

Being neat and tidy is the same as being organized: It’s easy to take a clean sweep off your desk top into a box, bag or desk drawer. This puts a Band-Aid on the problem, but doesn’t find a solution. In most instances, people desire solutions. The clean sweep may be a temporary solution, but at some point you must face the underlying disorganization.

No matter what excuse you use for it, clutter in your office, whether on your work surface or on the floor, can be extremely distracting. If you’re used to working in this kind of environment, you may not even be aware that the clutter is distracting you. It also causes unnecessary stress, because the items lying around often represent unfinished business. Having a system and a place to put things in your office will help minimize the distractions and eliminate extra stress. Here are a few tips to help you declutter your office:

  • Magazine Holders: use them to store directories, software manuals, packages of computer software labels, folders, user guides, packages of computer photo paper. When placing on a shelf, you want to see the back of the holder instead of the contents - it gives a clean look.

  • Computer Software: If you do not have an IT department that stores software and the user manuals for you, you’ll want to set up a system in your office so you can put your hands on when you need it. Empty the contents of the boxes and keep the software and manual. Be sure you also keep the Product Key if not on the CD case or CD itself. User manuals can also be store in a magazine holder, in hanging file in your filing cabinet or even in a decorative box that sits on a shelf. Software can be stored in a binder or a box designed for software.

  • To be Filed: Establish a location in your office for papers that require no additional action but just need to be filed. Don’t allow this location to accumulate items that need action.

  • Receipts: Create a place for receipts you must keep. Make a decision immediately if you need to keep it. Most likely, if it is a business expense, you’ll need to keep it. If you file an expense report - keep an envelope for the period where you can place the receipts until you file the report - so you don’t miss out on being reimbursed for expenses. If you have your own business, be sure to label the type of expense immediately - it will save you hours of time later at tax time!

  • Names, addresses, email addresses and phone numbers: Establish a location in your office where you’ll keep these pieces of information until you have time to record them in your contact management program or address book. Use a folder that you keep close by or a small container into which you toss the information. Better yet, record it immediately and discard that piece of paper.

  • Bookshelves: When placing books on bookshelves, try grouping them by category. Instead of standing them all upright, try laying groups of books flat and stacked on top of each other. Bookshelves don’t need to be full of books from one end to the other. In between the groups, you can display a photo or special treasure to break up the sections a bit.

Not sure where to begin? Just pick one small area to start - and complete that area. You’ll have a wonderful feeling of accomplishment and then you can move on to other areas of your office. It’s never too late to enjoy the numerous benefits of working in an organized office.

Read other articles and learn more about Laura Leist.

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