When your phone rings do you start moving the piles of paper around trying to figure out which one the phone is under right now? Are there so many piles of papers and electronic gadgets that you don’t know where to even start in clearing them out? Here are a few suggestions to help you restore your desktop to the sleek modern look you that you delight in.
Assess the amount of filing space you have compared to the amount of unfiled papers you need to store. Filing drawers or totes should be no more than 75 percent full to make their contents easy to access. Need more space? Pull out your infrequently used papers, arrange them in totes or boxes for easy access, and store in your closet or under the bed.
Revisit your filing system. Has it gotten more complicated over the years? David Allen, author of Getting Things Done, recommends a simple design – everything in one set of files, alphabetized A to Z. The one addition I made to David’s system was hanging folders – but if you’re on a budget, you can just stick with manila folders as David recommends.
Invest in a decent label maker from your local office supply store (unless you have really great handwriting!). Develop the habit of starting a new folder for each new project, and create all the labels needed (hanging folder, manila folder, binder, etc.) at one time. It never hurts to print a couple of extras and just drop them into the manila folder for later. The professional touch that printed labels give to your filing system is a great motivator for keeping it in shape.
Limit yourself to only one or two folders at a time on your desk. Too many projects going on for that? A desktop folder organizer that allows you to store them vertically may be the perfect tool for you, and will help you avoid the I know it’s here somewhere… moments. Even if you keep a dozen project folders on your desk, train yourself to file them as soon as you’ve finished the current crisis.
Move your accessories to a drawer. You don’t really use the stapler that often – why give it prime space on your desktop? Look at each item with a critical eye – if it is not something that you use many times each day, then move it out of sight.
Evaluate your work habits and build new habits to improve your organizing skills. Some simple habits to develop while you’re working on your piles:
- Use folded corners to indicate the next action for a papers in process on your desktop. I use a folded right corner to indicate ready to file and folded left corner to indicate review again before filing.
- Spend one day a year clearing out your file system.
- Keep your filing tools close at hand – at the front of one of your file drawers is a perfect place for extra folders, labels, and your label maker.
- Get yourself a kitchen timer and learn to process a pile of papers quickly. Make quick decisions to trash it, file it, or act on it. Create new folders as needed, and put the actions into your calendar or task list. I promise you’ll be surprised at how much paper you can process in 15 minutes, once you actually time yourself.
- Limit yourself to one funky personal item at a time on your desktop. If you have several, consider rotating them each week rather than keeping them all on the desktop at the same time.
Now enjoy your clutter free desk by making a quick run to the kitchen and grabbing your favorite snack – knowing that there’s plenty of space for it!