Q: I want to improve my on-the-job productivity -- but I think I need to organize my work space. How can I better set up my station to accomplish this? Are there any must-haves (in/out baskets, staplers)? Is there a certain way I need to set up my papers?
A: America's desks tend to look like dump trucks. Truth is, it doesn't really take a MacGyver to put all the pieces together to form a cohesive, productive work space.
If you want to increase your productivity, think of your desk as prime real estate. Clear off your entire desktop and rebuild it with only the most essential, frequently used items. Don't squirrel away unnecessary supplies; store only what you'll need for the next three to four weeks. Try to use a desk has at least one or two drawers, and store items that you use just once a month away from your workspace -- preferably on a shelf. And for items you use even less frequently than that? Store them in a closet, large container, under your bed or in a bookcase.
As for "in" and "out" baskets, they're only part of the solution. Find an incline sorter or small desktop file and fill it with your most important files for every project. Create a file for action items, business cards to enter into your database, bills to pay, receipts to file, project ideas, items to read and so forth. Use specific names for files you will use frequently or consider labeling folders with broad category names. Then motivate yourself to maintain the system at the end of the day or once a week. As your needs change (and they will), be smart, review your supplies once or twice a year and clear out useless or duplicate items.
Finally, remember that getting organized is not a one-stop, get-it-all-done-in-one afternoon kind of event. It's progressive, and you'll need motivation and self-discipline over the long haul to make it happen.
Essential Supplies of the Productive Office:
Paper clips (big and small)
Sticky notes (large and small)
Pens, pencils and a highlighter
Mail supplies (stamps, envelopes, notecards)
Trash can (the largest your space can accommodate)
John Trosko is a Los Angeles-based productivity consultant and owner of the professional organizing firm OrganizingLA. A two-term president of the Los Angeles chapter of the National Association of Professional Organizers, he's also a featured contributor to the book The Experts' Guide to Doing Things Faster.
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