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desk and organizer

Organize These Two Things Now to Have a More Productive, Happier Year

January 14, 2019

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You can minimize workplace drama -- and stress – in 2019 by taking a running leap at a more productive and happier year. How? The sweet spot is the intersection of space and time; start there. Studies show that many of us lose an hour a day to disorganization. Focusing on where you work (space) and when you work (time) will reap a substantial payoff in productivity gains! Act now to give work habits in these two areas a tune up for the year ahead.

1. Clearing the desks by organizing your space

The best cooks start with a clean and orderly kitchen, and so should you. While you may tell yourself that your cluttered workspace IS organized, the odds are that you’re being subconsciously distracted as you try to go about your day efficiently. 

  • The key is to start with a purge. Approach the purge calmly and block out the time you need to do it systematically. Clear your clutter by putting everything on the floor or even in boxes. Subtract first. Then add things back into the mix as you go.

  • Put frequently-used items, like the phone or things you use several times a day, on your dominant side to avoid having to reach across.

  • Supplies and equipment that you use every day can go on the desk top. In today's digital world, you probably don't need to keep an overflowing cup of pens and pencils along with paper clips and rubber bands on your desktop. Do you?

  • Things used weekly will go in a drawer. Group similar things together—you don’t need an emery board, chopsticks, ketchup packets, spare change and spare pens rolling around together.

  • Yes, it is good to have personal photos or mementos, even some inspirational quotes around for motivation, but don't go overboard. Too many and those items move from being meaningful to becoming litter.

  • Only keep relevant and active projects and documents on your desk. Vertical file holders are typically more efficient than stacking trays.

  • A two-tray system is the simplest and most effective for handling incoming paper. All new, unread, or unopened documents go in the “new” tray. When people wander into your office and try to hand you incoming paper, point to the tray. The new tray is for things that you still have to deal with. The “old” tray is for things that you've reviewed but still need to deal with--scan, file, forward, etc. It's like a to-do pile. Clear that tray out no less than three times a week.

  • Create two work zones One is for computer work; this is probably your primary desk top. The second area is cleared for signing papers, writing, going through mail or documents—work that does not require a computer.

  • Have a filing system that matches the way you work and can be easily maintained. You can file alphabetically, by project, by client, or some other method that works for you. Keep a master list (index) of file names to avoid creating duplicates, to help maintain organization for new files, clients, and projects and for others to use in your absence.

  • Keep the most recent documents at the front of the file so you can find them quickly. Archive older records or use a scanner to store documents electronically.

  • Resist the urge to paper your monitor or your desk with sticky notes—use them only as short-term reminders.

  • For ergonomics, consider a green plant to help filter and freshen the air but, know your limits—if you won’t water and care for the plant, perhaps a small air filter is more your speed.

  • Don’t overlook purging and organizing your digital desktop and inbox. Allocate a separate day for that. Delete items on your desktop that you don’t use; delete downloaded files you do not need or that you have duplicates of. Delete old mail; delete bookmarks you don’t use. E-mail is a convenient way to communicate, but it can also be a major distraction. Designate certain time periods throughout the day to check and respond to email. Check your email twice a day, and get off Facebook and other social media channels. Turn off email notifications: the sounds, the icons in the notification area, the mouse cursor change, and Desktop Alert that fades in and out.

Once your once your physical and electronic space has been purged and organized, your productivity will come more easily than you imagined. You will be able to maintain your energy and concentration more easily as well!

2. Getting things done by controlling your time.

Time is your most valuable resource, and time management is the foundation of high performance. Author Kevin Kruse’s research found that the high-performers he interviewed never talked about their “to-do lists,” but instead talked about their calendars and how they were organized.

  • Some experts say that the most neglected tool in time management is the calendar. The majority of people who do plan their days, plan only for meetings and appointments. They do not schedule time for the work to be done in between. Practice time blocking for both you and your manager. Organize your day by time slots as opposed to working to a list of tasks that take as long as they take. Schedule work for the time period that makes the most sense – think about how your energy and the work flow.

  • Because we chronically underestimate how long things will take, revise your time blocks throughout the day as circumstances change.

  • Build your day around your toughest tasks. Block an hour each work day to focus on projects and action items; allow a third more time for each task as you think it will take. Break up large projects into smaller steps and schedule time in the day to work through each.

  • Make sure that smart phones and digital assistants sync to your computer calendar…or all is lost!

  • Follow the five-minute rule: if something will take five minutes or less, do it now. One of the most effective times to batch short tasks is the 15 minutes before an appointment or meeting. Several 15 minute “sprints” during the day can yield great results.

  • Make sure that what is important, what you care about and those things you need to prioritize are also what you are making the most easy and accessible for yourself to accomplish. Look at how you can streamline tasks and processes. See whether you can eliminate or “delegate” those things that are unimportant.

  • Learn to recognize when you need a break, don’t fight it.  Take one. When your body or mind telling you it’s overwhelmed, take the break you need to rebound and to get perspective.

  • And, by the way, be sure to schedule tasks and projects that you enjoy, that allow you to be creative and that you like to do. It can make you more productive in the long run.

These tips and techniques are proven ways to make the most of your time at work. By being more deliberate in your time use, you will also conserve and use your energy more effectively. An added benefit is that you should be able to use and enjoy your personal time better as well!

American Society of Administrative Professionals

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