This Friday afternoon, when you’re winding down but still in the office, there’s one task you can do that won’t be too demanding, but will leave your workspace the way you’d like to find it Monday morning. Cleaning your office.
Look at the piles of paper spread across your desk and the binders dated from years ago on the little shelf above your head. Even if you’re on your computer every working hour, you still have pens and paper, folders… and probably a few snacks. What’s an easy way to get all of that under control? Make a few rules for yourself, then stick to them.
The first rule leads the way for all the other rules: Decide on a day and time to get this job done. Make the effort on a Friday afternoon, when you’ve wrapped up your projects for the week and have a little time left over. Shut the office door or stay focused on your cubicle; you’ll be clean and have everything in the right place before long. It does take effort, especially if you haven’t organized in a long time. But when you’re finished you can not only check an item off your long-term to-do list, something that itself has been building up over years. Remember to put “organizing my desk” back on your to-do list in a few months, so you can stay organized.
Separate your material into piles: To do/Done, Keep/Discard, whatever works for you. If every item on your desk has to go into one of these piles, there’s no opportunity for you to put it aside to decide what to do with it later — the moment you touch it, it either has to stick around or get recycled.
Don’t forget that you can organize documents on your computer just like you can organize what’s in your desk drawers. Move old emails to the trash, especially if you have later, more complete versions from the same email string in your inbox too.
Put things away where you feel they should go. The most important papers should be in the front of a drawer, easy to access. Less important stuff can go in the back — and if years go by before you look at that less important stuff again, well, maybe you don’t need it after all. Later on, if you open a folder for a certain sheet of paper and discover it’s somewhere else, put it back in the folder where you expected to find it; that way, it’s where you’ll look first next time you need it.
Organizing is a major task; some people have made careers out of helping others do it. You don’t have to bring in a professional, though. Sticking with a few simple rules and devoting a little time may be all you need to make your top priority working in your office — not digging through a pile of stuff to get to your seat.
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