We all struggle with keeping a clean office, and especially a clean desk.  It feels like when you finally get it all cleaned off, you always come back to another pile of paperwork.  It is a common issue for all of us, but it doesn’t have to be.  There are lots of ways to stay clean and productive, and I am going to share the ones I have learned with you.

  • The Big Clean – The beginning of the year is the best time to do this.  Get a big trash can, extra bags, a shredder, a large table for sorting, and get to work.  Sort what you have to keep, throw away or shred what you don’t.  This will be one of the hardest parts.  It is easy to say “well I might need this at some point.”  Make key decisions on what subjects you will keep files on, and think about who else might have the same info, so you aren’t storing the same documents twice or three times.
  • Scan, Scan, Scan – If it doesn’t have to be a paper copy, scan it and store it digitally.  Paper files are troublesome and lead to ridiculous amounts of clutter.  Digital storage is always the better option if it is available.
  • Organize your Storage – Your storage methods should be just as organized as the items in it.  This goes for digital as well as paper documents.  You should have folder organization to store your documents whether it is in a physical file cabinet or a network drive.  Having 1000 documents on a flash drive unsorted is wasting your time and everyone else’s.  No one wants to wait 20 minutes for you to find the correct revision of the word file, or was it an excel file?  What did I name it again?  Wait I think it was on my other flash drive…
  • Buy a Labeler – Labelers are fantastic, and good ones aren’t too expensive.  They are certainly worth the reduction in stress.  Label your file cabinets, storage drawers, boxes, and your cat.  It will make it easy to locate anything you need, and will also keep others in your workspace from putting your stuff back in the wrong place.
  • Create a “Waiting on” Folder – Don’t you hate when you have a document that you can’t move forward on because you are waiting on someone else to approve it or give you their portion?  Those documents always end up floating on your desk.  They can’t be tossed, but you don’t want to file them away either.  This is why it is good to create a “Waiting On” folder.  This folder should be set aside from your other files, and should be checked daily to see what you need to follow up on.
  • Keep your Desk Empty – A desk is meant to be empty so you can use it to write on, spread out documents for analysis, and other useful things.  If you have so many printers, staplers, Knickknacks and coffee cups that you can’t use it as such, then you need to reevaluate your desk setup.
  • Keep your Desktop Empty – I am talking about your computer here, but notice the word association here.  It is called a “desk top” because it is supposed to be just like the top of your desk.  It should only include current projects you are actively working on and essential tools.  Other than that it should clear.