Is your home office space affecting your productivity? Do you hunt for pens and pencils continuously? Is your document search an exercise in frustration? Are your papers a chronological stack of filing that is impossible to successfully navigate? Do you have an irrational fear of a paper flood catastrophe if you look for something at the bottom of the pile?
First, take heart. Every office – home or otherwise – has to figure out how to deal with paper, pens, and clutter. Creating and maintaining an organized space is just part of the job.
So, how do you clear the clutter and gain control?
Space to Organize Is Essential
One of the largest challenges of staying organized is the ability to set up a system where you have room to grow. Space is essential.
If you have spent the better part of a day cleaning out a drawer and replacing the items in organized, labeled files, but you cannot squeeze a single extra sheet, of paper, you have wasted your time and the un-filed papers will grow again.
Try to clean out and throw out enough to have a quarter or a third more empty space so that when you implement your new system, there will be space to expand. You may need to tweak your system, and having the extra space will encourage you to continue to organize.
This system includes everything from architectural drawings to products and documents you accumulate in the course of doing business.
Purge unnecessary papers. It will allow for more space, and help you avoid scrambling through miscellaneous paperwork looking for important documents.
Keep It Simple
Do not make your system too complicated or it will be hard to follow through. Color-coding can be the easiest if you do not have too many categories. This is effective for systems, which only require ‘Income’, ‘Expense’, ‘Projects’, ‘Correspondence’, or something similar.
For filing of large groups of clients, projects or invoices, use a single drawer for each group of related files. A tall filing cabinet can even be divided into alphabetical or chronological systems.
Another class of things you will need to make room for are the things that you refer to daily or even hourly. A posting board or corkboard near your desk would be in order. You can hang things like phone lists, ‘To-Do” lists and appointment calendars in one central location for easy reference.
A good filing system will only work if you work at it. While you may find a smaller system easier to handle, it does not matter the size if you do not work with every day. Keep important, ever-changing items near you, then when they are no longer critical, transfer them to a permanent home in your filing cabinet.
This also works for items that you need nearby such as current project information or price lists etc.
Take a realistic look at how you file and consider the filing system. It might work better if you use labeled boxes or storage boxes if you tend to pile papers. This might be in addition or replace the standard filing cabinet. You need to find something that makes you feel comfortable, something you want to work with so that you continue to maintain it.
Everything in Its Place
It is an old saying, but all too true. Everything must have someplace to go back to. Avoid loose pens, pencils, papers cell phones, glasses and so on. Find a place to put them when you are finished with them, then put them back when you are done. Do not forget to reward yourself for a job well done, and keep your system going!