I now have the privilege of working from home. In the past, I’ve worked in some very fast paced, hectic office environments. Applying practical decluttering to my work, helped me to organize myself and the work flow. It helped me to minimize chaos (so prevalent at many jobs), and inadvertently benefited my co-workers as well. So, let’s determine how to declutter your office, or your home office.
Most offices will have some elements in common. These are the inflow and outflow of information, lots of filing, and time management requirements. Decluttering the office, addresses all of these elements. The beauty of decluttering is that the same principals apply to all aspect of your life. Whether you are at home, at work, or in between.
This way, you are already familiar with the system. You don’t have to learn a new strategy, and if necessary, can easily adapt to new situations. Ideally, I recommend having a single, central location for all of your incoming information, and one filing system for both, your work and home.
If that isn’t possible, you can duplicate your system wherever you are. In the office, begin with regular methodical decluttering sessions, by placing everything into three distinct categories: They are, items that you keep, give away, or discard. Once your office has been properly decluttered, you are ready to move to the following phases.
The office is a hub of communication. I’ve had a displeasure of working in environments where information came at me from two land lines, a cellphone, several email accounts, and a fax! The best solution would be to consolidate all of these different sources into one. Have all of the calls forwarded to a single line. The same goes for all of the email accounts.
If your office isn’t “green” yet, create a single inbox for all of the incoming paperwork. Receipts, notes, emails, contracts. Everything goes into the inbox. At regular intervals (dictated by your schedule and work flow), go through your inbox until empty. Separate the items that you need to act on, file away or shred.
2. Filing System
Create a filing system that is intuitive, simple and well organized. I find that a simple alphanumerical filing system works best. Get a big box of filing folders. Logically label them as you sort through the files, and file the folders in the alphanumerical order. Set aside time to go through your existing files to sort them out and re-file them into your new system. Again, get rid of any redundant and outdated items.
Have one folder labeled “Action” and, one labeled “Pending”. The Action folder is for items that require some sort of action in the future. Once the action has been completed, you need to refile them in the appropriate folders. The Pending file is for paperwork that requires additional information, before it can be completed. Once you receive this information, the paperwork gets refiled into the Action file, or into it’s own folder in the filing system. Make sure to check these two folders often to make any necessary updates.
3. Time Management
One of the most important time management techniques is prioritization. This single technique, will save you much time and stress. Prioritization means, selecting and executing the most important tasks first. Every day, you deal with countless activities. Determine in advance the most important action for that day. If you accomplish just one particular thing today, what should it be? Execute that action as early in the day as possible.
Don’t get caught in putting off this one thing until later in the day. Subconsciously you will have it occupying your mind and irritating you. Once the most essential task has been accomplished, the rest is a bonus. You will get the satisfaction of accomplishment and from knowing that your day was not waisted on trivial tasks. Your productivity will increase, while your stress level declines.
An office is an ever changing, dynamic environment. Being prepared to handle these changes, and adapting to them is essential. Having a well organized, decluttered workplace will put you in control. Rather than reacting to the new assignments and tasks, you will be able to seamlessly work them into your schedule, and have control over them from start to completion.
Live well. Vlad