Life rushes towards us at neck-breaking speeds, rarely slowing long enough for us to catch our breath. It makes keeping track of our professional and personal lives difficult at best, impossible at worst. It is even harder when you’re disorganized. But don’t worry, help is on the way.
Are you tired of spending hours a day searching for one piece of paper; the one an important phone number or address on it? Do you wish you knew what was on your desk, or in your files? Would you like room on your desk to actually work?
Organizing your desk can be done, but it takes determination. You have to want to take back control over your workspace. It’s not going to be easy. But in three steps, you can be closer to a more organized life. A word of warning: be sure to read this entire article before you begin cleaning your desk.
To get your workspace back in shape, you’ll need the following items:
– 2 regular trashcans
– A cardboard box
– A lined notepad
– A tape dispenser with tape
– Pen or pencil
Step one: Clearing your desk of paper.
This may sound like a daunting task, but it’s not as difficult as it sounds. You will need a merciless attitude when it comes to the clutter on, in and around your desk.
Bring the trashcans and cardboard box into your office. Place them within easy reach of your chair. The cardboard box is for your keeper papers, one trashcan is for recyclable papers, and the other trashcan is for, well, trash. Keep the pad of lined paper, pen and tape handy for step two.
Starting at one end of your desktop, look at each paper on it. Do you need to keep this paper? This is where your merciless attitude comes in; if you haven’t used this paper in over a month throw it in the proper receptacle.
Now, I’m not suggesting you toss things out willy-nilly. Papers you find that you think you need should be placed in the cardboard box. Don’t worry; you’ll go through that box later to see if you really need those papers.
Once you’ve finished with the top of your desk, open the drawers one at a time and repeat the process. Then move onto the floor, continuing until you’ve finished with your desk and the papers surrounding it. Be sure to empty the trash cans regularly, so you don’t have a huge mess to clean up after all that work.
A special note for all the sticky notes you are going to find. Place all of them in the keeper box, regardless of what they say. This is to make sure you don’t accidentally throw away something you really needed, but didn’t recognize as such while in your “clear out my office” mode.
When you’ve finished with that part, it’s time to move onto the next step.
Step two: Deciding what to do with all those papers.
Now that you’ve finished going through the papers and you have a clean desktop to work with, it’s time to go through that keeper box.
Remember that pad of lined paper. Well now is the time to use it. On the top of the first sheet, write Addresses, Phone Numbers, Etc. On the next sheet write Calendar Additions and on the third one write, Miscellaneous Information. As you go through your box, you will find slips of paper with information you need to keep.
Starting with the first piece of paper, read it and see if it falls into one of three categories:
– Still needs to be handled
– Is finished and can be filed
– Really isn’t needed (trash)
Since your desk is clean, make two piles on it; one for the needs to be done and one for the can be filed. The papers that aren’t important will be thrown away.
Now, remember those little sticky notes you found. In most cases you will find they have phone numbers, addresses and calendar appointments you need to keep. That’s where the note pad comes in. When you come across one of those notes with an important tidbit, take a piece of tape and attach it to the correct sheet of paper. Those little sticky notes lose their ability to stick after time. You really don’t want to waste the time copying the information from the note to your notepad to the place it needs to be.
Once you’ve gone through the box, found the things that still be to be worked on, the ones that have to be filed and the little sticky notes, it’s time to go on to the final step.
Step Three: Wrapping it up.
First thing you need to do is file everything that should be filed. While you do this, keep the page with the miscellaneous information handy. If you find any notes regarding the item you are filing, you can stick it to the original paperwork.
Now the only things that should be on your desk are the most crucial, need to handle items and your notepad. Now your time and mind are free to handle them.
Next, update your address book and calendar from the sticky notes on the first two lists. Leave the last list for when you are working with the active paperwork.
This last step is the hardest because you will have to make some tough decisions. These are decisions only you can make, but to help make them you can ask yourself some questions to decide which of the ‘still needs to do” should be worked on first. You will need to decide if they should be done based on age of the item or by which is the most urgent career-wise?
While you are going through your last stack be sure to have the Miscellaneous Information page with the sticky notes on it in front of you. Is there anything on those notes that pertains to the item you are looking at right now? If so, take it off the Miscellaneous Information page and stick it to the original paperwork. Once you’ve gone through all of the projects, see if you have any sticky notes left. Mostly likely there won’t be any of importance left, but if there is you need figure out where they belong, even if they belong in the trash. Then you’ll need to decide how to organize your list of projects. This is something that you will need to do; I can’t help with the priority of each item.
When you have your needs to finish pile in order, then write the projects in order on a blank sheet of paper. Put an estimated time to complete and follow through.
If you really don’t want to deal with these papers more than once, you can do each step when you pick up the paper: assess the need, discard or file, then schedule the necessary action. But if you’re like me, you’d rather get one task done before moving on to the next, even if it means handling the papers more than once.