by Kit Davey
When was the last time you saw the top of your desk? Are you afraid what may be hiding in those piles on your workspace? Whether your work area is your dining-room table or a desk in your den, getting organized has many benefits. If you want to reduce stress, increase your productivity and creativity, save money and have more time for friends and family, clean off your desk!
Begin with a gross sort: Pile up papers in one heap, group office supplies in another area and put decorative items in another.
The top of your desk is your primary work space and should be clear of everything except those items that you use every day. Things used weekly can be moved to a nearby drawer or a shelf within arm's reach. Store items used monthly in a closet or cabinet. Sort through all your office supplies and place them according to their frequency of use. Keep one or two treasures on your desk to feed your soul, but place them out of your immediate work zone.
If you're right-handed, place the phone on the left side of your desk, with one pen stored on the right side of the phone (vice versa for lefties). Keep a phone log, preferably a spiral-bound notebook, under or next to the phone.
Time to sort: If you don't have an alphabetical or topic filing system set up, create one now. Label manila folders or use an accordion folder. Information you do not need to refer to frequently, or which does not require action, should be stored in your filing system -- not on your desk.
Keep only three files (or stacks if you don't like files) on your desk: "To do today," "To do within one month" and "To file." Establish an in-basket for incoming paper.
Now it's time to attack the stack! Pick up that first piece of paper and decide where to put it. Keep going until you're done.
Create new habits: Most paper comes in by mail, so train yourself to stand over the recycling bin or garbage can, and toss junk mail and envelopes before entering your house. Immediately deliver magazines to your reading chair, put bills and correspondence in your in-basket, and put mail for other family members in a slotted rack in your kitchen. Train your family to place any new paper into your in-basket. Go through the stack daily.
If you have multiple calendars, incorporate them into one day-planner on which you record both your business and personal life.
Pay bills on the first and 15th of each month. Take advantage of automatic payment services offered by utility and phone companies so that you don't have to write checks.
If you find yourself misplacing your car keys, glasses or bills, it's probably because you don't have a regular place to house them. Pick one spot for your keys, and train yourself to put them in the same place every day.
Being organized is an ongoing commitment. Pick a block of time, daily or weekly, for maintaining order and put it on your calendar. Then, just do it!