5 tips on how to keep your work area organized

There are usually a few times in the year that most people look to make some changes in their work environment: the beginning of a new fiscal year or when seasonal changes occur (spring cleaning or fall back-to-school). Ask yourself, does filing and paper clutter tends to pile up on top of your office desk, adjoining table or floor? If the answer is yes, here are 5 tips to help you conquer the clutter in your work area:

1. Create a catchall system.

Do you find your computer covered in post-it notes? Have you taped to your cabinet pieces of paper with phone numbers or data you constantly have to refer to but can never seem to memorize? Keep all that information in one place. Get a notebook, add some tabs and create a reference guide. In my ‘little black book’ I keep website usernames & passwords, frequently used phone numbers (in a list at the front), frequent flyer numbers, quick instructions, etc. Anytime I need to ‘get that number’ it is safely store in a book that I can lock up at the end of the day.

2. Prime real estate is just an arm’s length away.

The old adage: location, location, location applies to your work area also. If you are sitting at your office desks, anything that is within arm’s reach is prime real estate. Only essentials items you use on a daily basis should reside in your prime real estate. The essentials are: some supplies, current/active files – that you will work on TODAY, your computer, your phone, an in/outbox. That’s it.

3. A place for everything and everything in its place.

Remember that a filing cabinet is for documents & work related items. It is not the place to store personal items, seasonal decorations or better yet, someone else’s stuff. Make sure your company files have a permanent place to reside. Once you have completed the work on your file, get into the habit of returning those files to their ‘home’ – everything it its place.

4. Dedicate a space.

If you are amongst the 2 million Canadians that work from home, it is important to set up a dedicated work area or office. I have organized workspaces in bedrooms, basements, dining rooms even closets. If possible, create a dedicated home office or working area. Keeping all the work related papers together will help you keep focused and stay organized.

5. Invest in quality furniture.

I realize often people have limited space and funds but it’s very important to have the right type of furniture and equipment. Purchase solid pieces that are ergonomically correct and meet your work objectives. I suggest the following essential pieces: a desk with drawers & a compact filing cabinet (to keep the clutter off your desk), a ergonomically correct chair, a 5 drawer filing cabinet, a storage credenza. Lastly, a siting area & table if you have client meetings. More importantly, assess your needs: if you don’t have reference books but you do have a lot of client files, you may want to get a 5 drawer filing cabinet instead of a bookshelf.

Keeping yourself and your desk organize can be as easy as 1-2-3: (1) Build an inviting, comfortable work area; (2) Create a system that will work for you to keep paper off your desk and in its proper home; and lastly (3) Commit to making changes and creating habits that will keep your desk free of clutter.

Margarita Ibbott of Downshifting – Professional Organizing Solutions and LinkedLearning.ca is a professional organizer, blogger, speaker & social media trainer. You can read her musings on organizing and social media or follow her on Twitter @DownshiftingPOS

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