Ed. note: It seems at times that people assume if their life is chaotic and stressed that it shows they are doing something important. Reality is far from that—it usually means the person who is chaotic and stressed is simply undisciplined and disorganized. When I am honest with myself I know that is often my situation. Or maybe they haven't had anyone to teach them a better way. As always, Gayle's wise advice provides some wise steps to a more organized office and life—read and relax.
Through the years office professionals have shared multitudes of handy ideas. Often a tip is prefaced with, “I wish someone had told me a long time ago that ...” Here are a few concepts other office pros say work for them. Some, maybe all, will work for you too.
• Keep your desktop tidy.
“I used to keep so much stuff on my desk. Then I tried uncluttering and discovered a neat workspace actually helps me work in an organized way. Today, take everything off your desk. Put back only what you use every day. Stash everything else where it will be handy when needed: in drawers, file cabinets, closets. Organizing my desk made a big difference for me.”
• Take one day at a time.
“There is always so much to do in the office. You will never be able to say, ‘All done. There is nothing else to do.’ An assistant I admired advised me never to let myself feel overwhelmed. I took her advice. I do the best I can each day and don’t get hung up or discouraged by thinking about what lies ahead.”
• Have a life beyond the office.
“I work in a church office. At one time virtually everything I did was with church people. Then a guest speaker pointed out that we can’t spread the gospel unless we get out among those not connected to the church. And that we are more interesting, better informed people when we interact with others. I have found that to be quite true.”
• Establish a food-free office.
“Our office had become a smorgasbord. Steady streams of baked goods tempted and distracted the staff while groups of ‘visitors’ congregated and interrupted work in progress. Beyond the waste of time, our waists were taking a hit too. No wonder we felt sluggish and lazy! The suggestion to become a food-free office was not popular, but after only a short time we knew this was a great decision.”
• Neaten files as you use them.
“Every time I use a file folder, I quickly scan the papers inside to see how many I can get rid of now. I do the same thing with computer files by dumping files into a Trash In 30 Days folder. It is amazing how this simple practice keeps our files slim and orderly.”
• Be ready for sales calls.
“Though I always knew better, I still found myself spending too much time with phone sales people. Now I have a typed card with a quick and standard response. I use a pleasant but professional voice, close with asking our number be removed from their list, and wish them a good day. I’ve also learned to trash random emails and stick to our approved suppliers. ”
• Set up a reminder file.
“I had heard about tickler files half a dozen times before I finally set one up. Now I wonder how I ever got along without it. My work is more organized, it’s easier to handle, and I never miss target dates.”
• Weed out your closet.
“I used to look at my crammed closet and still feel I had ‘nothing to wear.’ I decided to get ruthless; my goal was to have my closet only half full. I was selective about what I kept; the rest went to a thrift shop. I love being able to find things easily; it seems to get my day off to a good start. I feel good about turning things loose and sharing them with others.”
• Hang your catalogs.
“I found an easy way to keep often-used catalogs and small directories handy. Open the bound material to the center and hang it over the edge of a hanging file folder. My supervisor likes his magazines ‘filed’ this way too. You can think of many applications. Handy!”
• Be willing to try something new.
“Your job can still feel new after 17 years. Mine does. I explore, experiment, and never allow myself or my work to get in a rut.”