How to Work Smarter
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HOW TO ORGANIZE YOUR WORKSPACE: Five tips for maximizing efficiency and boosting productivity
by MAUREEN GAINER REILLY, a professional organizer and the owner of Gainer Organizing in Chicago
Organizing today is what dieting was in the nineties—it’s the trend that everyone’s obsessed with, probably because it seems as though we only add things to our lives and never take anything away. Follow these steps for decluttering your workspace—and your mind.
1. Think of your desktop real estate as Lake Shore Drive. Too many people undervalue their desktop real estate. The top of your desk and the file drawers next to your chair are Lake Shore Drive; the filing cabinet that you have to walk to is the suburbs. Only when you understand how critical your desk is to your overall productivity can you begin to create a system that will save time in the long run. If you don’t use something at least once a week it does not deserve space in or on your desk.
2. Know thyself. Before you can effectively organize your desk, you must figure out your personal style. For some people out of sight is out of mind—the minute something is filed, it’s forgotten. These people need bulletin boards, desktop files that are easy to see, large bins that are on display—basically, constant visual reminders of what they need to accomplish. Some people need a clean desk surface to think clearly; they should put everything away in cabinets or a credenza. One in box will suffice for clean-desk people, because they will work their way through it.
3. Consolidate and conquer. Consolidate all your to-dos in one place. If you have a lot of projects, get a large bin, something that’s larger than the typical plastic in box tray but smaller than a laundry basket. Spreading out your to-dos across several locations around your desk makes it difficult to get a sense of your entire workload.
4. Procrastinate when it comes to filing. The worst kind of clutter for many is the “to be filed” pile, because it crowds out more pressing matters. Create a separate bin for items to be filed, and let it build until you can carve out a time to deal with it. Let it overflow if need be and keep it out of the way where it can’t distract you.
5. Use e-mail subfolders. Every e-mail you receive should be organized topically in subfolders—reference material, things you will need later, archives—except for e-mails that need your attention immediately. Leave those in your in box, which ideally should function as a catchall to-do list on your computer; think of it as the equivalent to the to-do bin on your desk.
Bonus Tip! Don't check your e-mail until an hour after you've arrived at work. Instead, start on the task at the top of your list.