Too many of us working folks end up with lost phone numbers, forgotten files, or a desk so messy that you can’t even see the desk itself. Organizing an office or making any sense of the mess at work can seem like a tumultuous task, so here are a few things that I use to help me stay organized:

1. The Touch Rule

A golden rule for staying organized, and up to date on all your work duties, is to do something with every piece of paper you touch. That doesn’t mean simply throwing it aside, but dealing with it in some way. Maybe the paper can be filed, signed, read, or simply dealt with by a phone call. If there is not time to deal with the piece of paper with a phone call or filing at that moment, put it in one of the several bins you are going to set up to help organize your office. The touch rule also applies to e-mails. Either respond to them immediately or file them in the computer folders you have set up on your e-mail system to be dealt with when you have the time.

2. Bins/Trays

Bins or trays will save you time and keep your office organized. Every piece of paper, file, and sticky note can find a home, at least for the moment, in one of the bins until you move the paper into its permanent “home.” Sorting your papers into bins will also keep your desk free of the uncontrollable pile(s). Some helpful bins might include: to be filed (although I prefer to file right at that moment); phone calls to make; contacts; to be reviewed/signed; urgent for today; urgent for this week; future. Be creative by picking bins that best suit your individual needs. Make sure one bin includes the garbage can for things that need no further attention.

3. Maintenance

Becoming and staying organized at work should be a daily task. Set some time aside each day to remain organized. If you keep up with the bins, filing, and other small things on a daily basis, none of the piles or duties will get out of control. Some people like to spend the last half hour before leaving to complete the organization, ensuring the office is ready for action the next morning when they arrive. Others like to tend to their organizational duties during down time throughout the day, such as while on the phone when they’re place on hold, waiting for computer files to upload or download, or during a period when there is not enough time to start a bigger project. 10 to 30 minutes each day should do it. I like to leave my desk ready for anyone to be able to work at it in a way that would make sense, and therefore be easy for them.

Erin Gilligan, Staffing Associate, Renoir Staffing, LLC.

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