America has many weird days set aside that someone got formally acknowledged somehow, but one of the most valuable for professionals might be “Get Organized Week” which occurs the first week of October. With that in mind, here are some tips I garnered from organization specialist Debra Klinedinst:
- Create folders for your inbox, with rules to automatically place emails from certain sources in certain folders.
This is a proven timesaver, particularly if you can train yourself to only check email four times a day. If you are waiting for an urgent communication, assign a special color or tone to the source, depending on the platform you’re using, to alert you that it has come – this is much better than checking your inbox repeatedly and getting sidetracked answering non-important messages at random times.
Get rid of anything you haven’t used in the past year and are unlikely to use in the next year. Out it goes. De-cluttering is the first thing any organization specialist will help you do.
- Set up designated work and storage areas.
Create a reference area, active work area, file storage area, etc. Don’t store electronic cords and duplicate supplies in your desk; put them in the storage area and separate them by type or function. Label whenever possible.
- Place materials and supplies you use most closest.
Supplies you seldom need (paper punch, binder clips, mirror, etc.) might go in the bottom desk drawer while scissors, stapler, tape, vendor change, etc. might go in your top drawer.
- Make a “Where Things Are” spreadsheet as you get organized.
Can’t remember where you put your binder from the June conference? Where’s the screwdriver you brought to keep at work? If your storage space is limited and so you must co-mingle materials and supplies, a digital spreadsheet can help you get organized and is immediately available. Print monthly and keep in a small binder for a quick reference guide.
- Create “To Be Filed” and “Waiting on Response” filing folders.
Go through the contents of both at least weekly; file the appropriate papers and check up on the contents of the other file.
- Differentiate between “active” and “archive” files and create an archive log.
Decide what files you really need to keep in a file drawer. Notes from a conference that you likely won’t refer back to, but want to keep, belong in an archive file folder system – a storage box with such files. As you place folders in it, log them in so you can keep a quick reference at your desk.
As you clean the top of your desk to organize it, create a designated inbox, outbox, and reading bin for magazine articles, etc. that you’d like to read. A vertical stackable unit is great for this, clearly labeled. Likewise, put plastic dividers/bins in desk drawers. The more you can separate and label, the easier it will be to maintain order.
- Go with external backup and electronic file storage versus printing.
Must you print documents or can you use flash drives, cloud storage or external drives to backup important documents and images? Debra suggests that if you use flash drives, label a separate flash drive for each “filing cabinet” you need – “sales materials and promos”, “management ideas”, “vendors”, etc.
- Color code critical and often used files.
Even within a single category like “financial files”, some folders are more important than others. Put these files in red folders to make them quick and easy to access when you open the drawer. If you have a file you refer to often, make it yellow.
The biggest detriment to saving time, Debra says, is the mindset that you “don’t have time” to organize,” when, in fact, an hour or two spent setting these systems up can save at least that much time over the course of a typical workweek – and every week thereafter.
Good advice… back in the 1970’s. Most of these tips have been superseded by newer and better best practices. See “Getting Things Done” by David Allen. There is a reason it has sold over 20 million copies.