Girl Friday got to meet up with an organizational specialist last month. I had high hopes that I’d transcend my messy state of mind and being and all my clutter would disappear, but it turns out I didn’t meet with a magic genie. Oh, damn.
An Office Organization How-To
Miss Tidy Pants, as I will call her, suggested that things be organized into three categories: Hot, Warm, and Cold.
Hot stuff should be kept handy, sorted, and stored in the file cabinet nearest your work space. Make tabs for general topics, and label file folders with individual projects and assignments.
Designate one place for new assignments–an inbox if you will–but most literal inboxes can become too cluttered so consider what will work best for you. I have a seperate file folder just for incoming projects. I have a few desktop organizers for projects I’m working on throughout the day, but I try not to let the pile grow. Once it becomes unmanagable I’m more likely to drop the ball on a project.
Warm things should be kept in cabinets or drawers, but not in your immediate reach. I utilized a shelf and a lateral file cabinet behind my desk.
Cold stuff should go into storage. Cold items are things you haven’t needed or looked at in a year, but you think at some point might be needed. Remember that many office documents must be retained 5-7 years. Place like items in bankers’ boxes and label the boxs clearly with a description of the the contents, the year in which they were produced, and the year in which they should be destroyed.
Personal items should be stored in an area that is not accessible to others. I used to keep my stuff on the tabletop and then later in a filing cabient. Miss Tidy Pants said it’s a common mistake, but that the closest filing cabinet should be used for Hot stuff, not personal stuff. I emptied out an overhead compartment (too bad I’m not flying anywhere…).
Helpful hints for purging your environment: Remember that you work stuff is not personal. You shouldn’t hold on to things if they aren’t absolutely essential to your everyday job. If you can easily access another copy of something–either a hardcopy or an online version–chuck it. In two hours I got rid of 90% of the paperwork in my workstation. I saved important financial and personnel records, but the useless manuals, forms, and directories went straight into the recycling bin and the other more sensitive things went to the shredder.
Getting organized feels overwhelming, but if Girl Friday can do it, then so can you. Set aside two hours and work to clear your Hot and Warm areas. Move key items into the right places. Make piles for Cold storage, shredding, and recycling. It’s really as simple as that.