Do you ever have to sort through piles of papers or folders to find the one you need? Do you have to ask a coworker for a vendor’s phone number or business card again? You know you have it somewhere…
I once inherited a workspace with a new job title. That meant I also inherited the previous owner’s multiple stacks of… um, geesh, old receipts, expired insurance quotes, unfinished work and projects, spreadsheets, food wrappers, loose change, and I kid you not, hair accessories and nail polish.
I found uncompleted forms past their expiration dates, but I couldn’t find the current report my boss wanted! It’s not possible to be your most productive if you’re working in an unorganized fortress made from sky-high stacks of paperwork.
The most organized and efficient person I knew always worked with her desk completely clear of everything except only what she was working on at that moment. Her office was so calm, serene and comfortable.
My new office was a hellhole of stress and inefficiency. So I took some deep breaths and went to work filing and organizing to make my space workable and efficient. Chaos produces stress, and order relieves it.
A clear and uncluttered workspace can make you more productive. Work will feel less overwhelming if you keep your space as uncluttered and organized as possible. It will give you a mental lift when everything is clean and clear, and you will be less likely to lose or forget anything important from getting buried!
Three Rules to a More Productive Workspace
1. Improving Your Mindset
It is widely documented that taking periodic breaks from your work will recharge and reenergize you. It will actually help you to focus better and think more clearly, making you more productive.
It is important to take short breaks throughout the day to let your thoughts reorganize and declutter. Just as your mind needs rest to be more productive, your eyes also need rest away from your computer screen, and your behind needs to get out of your chair!
Every day, try to take a short break in the morning and another in the afternoon just to walk around. If the weather is good, try to do it outside. There may be days that are just too busy when you can’t actually get away longer than to use the restroom, but there should be other days when you can do this.
Good physical health contributes to a sharp, organized and productive mind. Look for opportunities to move around more and stay in your chair less.
Using the restroom is a great opportunity for walking around. Is there a longer roundabout route you could take there? Can you take stairs to use the restroom on a different floor? Taking the stairwell instead of the elevator is a great way to get in a bit of exercise. Try taking an extra set or two of stairs if possible.
An easy way to clear your head and to keep from getting stiff shoulders is to take big, deep breaths from time to time and also get up and stretch (when no one is looking!) The little oxygen kick from deep breathing is great for energizing your mind, and the stretching is great for your circulation. You’ll immediately feel better each time. Remind yourself throughout the day to sit up straight and not slouch, too.
Try to eat outside on your lunch break whenever possible. If you can’t get outside, you could take your lunch to your company’s break room if they have one and socialize. Physically getting away is best. But if that is not an option, perhaps you can close your office door. This is a rest break as much as a lunch break. If you don’t have an office, you can still swivel away from your desk and “escape” into a book. The point is to get away from your work for a mentally healthy reprieve.
Developing a mindset that allows you to stay fresh means taking breaks and moving your body. Find excuses as much as you can to take regular breaks to help you process all the information that you deal with every day.
2. Organize Your Desk
Do you ever search for an item or note on your desk, shuffling through piles of papers looking for it? You know it’s there, but where? It’s frustrating, and it makes you seem less efficient.
To keep your desk space as clear as possible, try keeping office supplies in drawers or shelves. Dishes of paper clips and tape dispensers take up valuable real estate on your desk and make it appear more cluttered. Return any items you use back to their “home” in their designated drawer, shelf or cabinet when you don’t need them. If your desk does not have drawers, you could get a small wheeled cart with drawers or shelves that you can push underneath your desk.
Keep an efficient filing system. (Remember the stacks of miscellaneous mess I inherited? It took several days to completely overhaul the filing system.) The best way to start if you have a bad situation is a complete filing “makeover.” Begin by boxing up everything more than a year old and sending the boxes to a storage room. Then clearly label every folder and file them in drawers where every label is visible, neat and orderly. Remember: Chaos produces stress, and order relieves it.
At the end of the day, if there is any work you’ve completed that you have not already filed away, do it now. Then organize all the projects you’re still working on for the next morning by urgency or importance. Anything that still needs work, but you know you will not be doing it the next day, can go into a special file drawer. It will be handy when you need it, but not in your way or in danger of getting “lost” on your desk.
This system of clearing your desk each evening will keep you on top of everything, no matter that more work keeps accumulating during each new day. Each morning when you come into work, your projects for the day will be already laid out and ready.
Nothing will fall through the cracks with deadlines or being forgotten since you physically see what needs to be done every evening and every morning in a clear and organized way. You can always lay your hands quickly on any work without fumbling around through piles and stacks of folders.
Clear your desk at the end of each day, so you start fresh every morning.
3. Organize Your Email
I also recommend keeping your email inbox as empty as possible. Without a system for clearing your inbox, you live in danger of forgetting to take care of something important and having it get lost in that sea of emails.
As soon as you can in the morning, begin clearing out email. Once you reply or complete each email or the task involved with it, immediately delete it if you can.
For email tasks that should not be deleted, create folders for completed correspondence by category. If you are not confident to delete, you can move it into one of those folders. But get it out of your inbox when you’ve completed the reply or task. Then you’ll never have to worry you may forget to follow up on an email. If it is in your inbox, it needs your attention. Simple. If you need to retrieve an old email, you can use the search feature to easily find it without having it sit in your inbox, clogging it up.
Put “to do” items from your email onto your task list, so you can clear out your email without having to look at emails multiple times.
What works for you? What are your favorite tips for organization and productivity?
* Contributed by Deborah Shelby who writes inspiration for a happier and better life at Prayerful Mom.