Many of us let filing and organizing go during busy times and think we'll deal with everything when we "have time." But beware of the clutter trap; it can truly take on a life of its own. A messy desk and chaotic filing system siphons off your time, energy, focus and productivity. Here are some tips for getting organized and staying that way in your home office.
1. Attack That Pile of "Stuff"
If you're starting out with an intimidating pile of stuff on and around your desk, don't despair. Take a deep breath and devote a small amount of time -- half an hour -- daily to sifting through it. This makes the job more manageable, and if you stick to the discipline of doing a little each day, you WILL reach the end of the stack.
2. Throw Out Those Old Papers
As you go through your stacks of paper, piles of files, mountains of magazines and so forth, ask yourself: Do I need this? Why? What happens to it next? Where will I look for it when I want it? (Not where should I put it). No filing system is good if you can't remember where you put things.
If you tend to save papers because you aren't sure whether or not you'll need them again, create a two-step trash system. I use a large wastebasket to toss anything I think I'm through with but not totally sure about. I keep another, smaller container for papers and other items that I'm sure are "trash." Empty your large basket only every few weeks; that way, you can retrieve anything you decide you shouldn't part with. Don't forget to put banana peels and other pungent disposables into the container that gets emptied frequently.
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3. Keep Often-Used Items at Close Range
Items you use daily belong on your desk. Your computer, pens, calendar, message pad and anything else that's part of your daily routine can stay. Other items such as Scotch tape, stapler, calculator, writing paper and so on should be stored in your desk drawer -- handy to get at, but not in the way when you don't need them.
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4. Don't Store Supplies in Your Desk
Fax and computer paper, extra pens, file folders and the like can be put in a cabinet across the room. I have a shelf over my desk for reference books I reach for frequently. They're always at hand but never in the way.
5. Don't Mix Business and Pleasure
Don't keep household paperwork such as bills, catalogs, vacation brochures and other personal items where they can distract you. Blending business and personal work at your desk is usually distracting rather than efficient.
Once you've worked your way through these tips, you will have a work space that makes you look forward to getting down to business every day. Good luck!
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