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Organization Tips

Tips for Week 4: Desk Organization

Take ten minutes at the end of each day to keep your desk organized. Place tomorrow's top priority project in the center of your desk.

Organizing Your Desk
Organizing your desk is one of the most important steps in keeping your office organized and maximizing productivity. Keep your desk work surface clear of everything except essentials and your current project. Place a notebook by your phone to write voice mail messages in before deleting them from the system, and keep your planner on your desk to help you keep track of to-dos, follow-ups, and ideas throughout the day.

De-clutter Your Desk
Get rid of useless souvenirs and conference giveaways. Just because it’s free doesn’t mean you need it. Whenever possible, go through conference goody bags at the event and leave any unnecessary or unwanted items right there. Also, get rid of items you dislike and do not need. We often display items because we feel we “should” – if we received them as gifts, for example. If you do not like nor need it, and you own it, you have the right to handle it as you please (even if that means – gasp! – re-gifting).

Tips for Week 3: File Systems

Sort through your desk drawers and keep only files you use weekly or those that are personal or confidential.

Color Coding Your Files
Color coding is a great way to help you remember where your files are. When color coding, be sure to keep it simple. Limit your color selections to about three to five colors that correspond to basic categories, such as Finances or Evaluations. Try labeling files in the same category in the same tab position to keep your files neat.

Remove the Piles in the Office
Each day, choose one pile of paper to work on. Set a timer for 15 minutes. Pick up each sheet, one at a time, and determine what action you should take. You have only four choices: Do it, Delegate it, Delay it (file it), or Dump it. If the timer goes off and you want to keep going, set it for another 15 minutes. Make use of this system for a minimum of 15 minutes per day and your piles of paper will diminish.

Managing Shared Drives
Shared network drives are necessary – but almost always disorganized – staples in many offices. One of the primary sources of confusion is file naming. Never store files by user name or specific job titles, but rather try to name files by project or topic and include a key date in the file name, if applicable. You also can try having a folder for each year with subfolders for each project in a given year, depending on your needs. When making any changes to the organization of a shared network drive, be sure to inform all users of the drive so everyone will be able to locate the documents they need and will know to organize the drive in the same way.

Tips for Week 2: Phone & E-mail

Phone Messages
Keep a spiral notebook by the phone for messages and phone notes. Write your voice mail messages in it and delete them from the system. Jot down reference notes before you make a call to reduce phone time.

E-mail Filters
Take advantage of filters. Some e-mail programs come with an option that allows you to filter your messages. Check with your e-mail provider to determine if you have this option and how to take advantage of it. Two common reasons that you might want to use a filtering option are storing e-mails quickly that you might want to reference later, and getting rid of e-mail you don't want.

Use the Delete Button
Put your DELETE button to work. If you do not recognize the sender, look at the SUBJECT: field. Are there funny characters, alpha-numeric gibberish, or does it just not make sense? Delete! Don’t fall for tricky SUBJECT: fields that say any number of enticing comments that no one you know or do business with would say. These are from spammers – the worst kind too – who underestimate your intelligence by thinking these e-mails will be something you would take seriously. If you don’t know the sender and the SUBJECT: field looks suspicious, send them on their way to the trash.

E-mail Back-Ups
To avoid e-mail back-up, be sure your inbox is cleared each day. Move e-mails to trash, a specific folder, or your “To Do” folder, and then empty the trash. If an e-mail is older than 90 days in your “To Do” folder – send it off to trash, as most likely the information or offer is no longer current. By doing so each day, you keep your inbox clear and your e-mails more organized.

Empty the Trash

Although it’s a good idea to empty your trash daily, be sure to check your folder in case any of your filters inadvertently picked up on some terms that were included in an e-mail that you possibly didn’t want to trash. This happens all the time. A quick once-over before deleting your trash will ensure that legitimate e-mails don’t get lost in the shuffle.

Tips for Week 1: Handling the Paper Stream

Many books about organization will tell you not to pick up a piece of paper more than once to take immediate action on it. Unfortunately, this is not always possible. However, it is important to avoid spending your day shuffling paper – moving a sheet of paper from your In-box, to your desk, to your table, and then back into your In-box. Instead, every time you pick up a sheet of paper, make a small dot in the upper right-hand corner. Once your paper begins to look like it has the measles, immediately take action on that paper so that you can get rid of it, pass it along to someone else, or file it for future reference.

Think before you print
Do you really need to print every single e-mail you get? Many e-mails, once read, can be deleted immediately. If you have to keep an e-mail, store it virtually on your computer. If you must print an e-mail or a Web page, decide if you really need to print everything. If you highlight a portion of an e-mail or a Web site with your mouse, you can click on FILE, PRINT, and then choose PRINT SELECTION. This way, you’ll only print the portion that you truly need.

Eighty percent or more of the paper you get on a daily basis can be discarded immediately. Open your mail over the recycle bin and toss unwanted papers immediately. Go through your In-box each day and toss papers that don’t concern you. Remove yourself from distribution lists you don’t need to be on. Go through your filing cabinet once every few months and discard all outdated papers and unnecessary duplicates.

Scrap those scraps
Avoid writing important notes on scraps of paper. First, scraps are easily lost. Second, they do nothing more than add to your paper clutter. If you have to write something important down, do so in a notebook. Then, transfer these notes to your “To Do” list, your Rolodex, your calendar, or wherever most appropriate.