One of the oldest organizing adages is often attributed to Ben Franklin, “A place for everything and everything in its place.” Whether Ben was the first to say it is debatable, the truth of the saying is not. The single-most important step you can take when organizing is ensuring you have a place to put everything.
Containers organize things by type: pens and pencils, cosmetics, groceries, tools, etc. They keep food fresh. They are effective for document storage and retrieval. They make clean-up easier. From the office to the home, from the boardroom to the bathroom, containers make organizing easy.
Before you run out and stock up on containers, you need a plan. You need to know the types of things you’re going to store, along with size and shape. You can then determine the type of storage option to use:
- Drawers and dividers
- Magazine racks
- File cabinets or drawers
It’s also helpful to consider the material the container(s) is made of in relation to its use. Wooden file boxes might be impractical for lifting in and out of archive space, while cardboard file boxes might not be sturdy enough for daily use.
Start with a plan
Analysis how you spend your time in the office. List of the tasks you perform there and the functional zones in your office. For example: paperwork, computer work, telephone use and reading. Ideally, these zones should not overlap.
Determine the equipment and material you need for each zone. For example computer work requires a computer and monitor; perhaps a printer or scanner. For paperwork, you will need pen, notebook, etc.
Now, work out how best to assign your office layout to each of the zones. The computer work and paper work could quite easily be side by side or even overlap. Figure out the best arrangement of your office to suit your needs.
You can start organizing your office by keeping the essential items on your desk: your computer, scanner, telephone and in box. First, you need to clean the desk. Clean out each drawer of your desk to increase space for other office supplies. Organize supplies like pens and paper clips in different containers to make them accessible for you whenever you need them.Use trays for organizing papers and storage boxes for your dated files. You may also use a separate drawer for your personal items. For the magazines and catalogs, keep them in magazine boxes.
Sort the Clutter
Go through all the material in your office; or at least, sort through the piles of unorganized material. Ideally, you go through everything. Practically, you may need to get organized in stages. Place boxes on the floor and start sticking items into the boxes. Sort items in a way that makes sense. For example, put filing together, shredding in another box and so on.
Get rid of the old items you no longer need or use: old bills, receipts or other paperwork, outdated software manuals, equipment you’re no longer using or books that you will never read. Recycle those items that can and dispose of those you can’t recycle. Shred confidential papers that don’t need archiving.
Give Every Object a Home
Set up appropriate containers for items. Look at the list above, determine what you need and go to your local office-supply store to stock up.If your space is limited, look up. Many storage options can be mounted on walls or stacked vertically. Also look at space below. Containers can be put available space under furniture or equipment.
Put It Away
Once you’ve gone through you clutter and sorted things into the right containers, assign convenient locations for everything and put everything away. This should be easy if you’ve made the right decisions in advance. Don’t cut corners, you’ll pay a price for that later.
Disorganized people make life difficult by having to always make a decision on where each item should go. Organized people have systems so the correct place for each item is obvious, requiring little thought in processing.
Firefighters talk about “containing” a fire. In the same way, containers can help you control your organization fires.
There was a time when I would say yes to everything. Not because I thought I had the ability to do it all, but because I felt I looked lazy if I wasn’t doing something all the time. I had to learn to say no.
There was also an issue of how to handle things I didn’t want to do; a sense of obligation to every social invitation or event taking place. Perhaps it was a sense of wanting to please people. I didn’t have a “reason” for not wanting to go, so felt obligated. I had to learn to say no.
I’d be lying if I said I never struggle with it today. However, I’ve learned how important it is to preserve time, my most valuable resource. I had to learn to say no.
Top tips for saying “no”
Keep it simple: don’t try and complicate things. Don’t concocted elaborate reasons or excuses. A simple, “thanks for asking, but I’m not able to…” is enough. You don’t need the asker’s permission to say no.
Focus on your goals and priorities: If you have a plan for managing your work and time, it is easier to say no to new activities that don’t fit into your agenda. There’s a saying that goes, “A person who does not have goals is used by someone who does.”
Be assertive and courteous: Try saying something like, “I’m sorry I’m not able to right now, but will let you know when and if I can.” This approach is polite, and puts you in a position of power by taking charge of the exchange, telling people you’ll let them know.
Look for compromises: Perhaps you feel the request is good, but you can’t meet the requirement right now. Look for ways to move the request forward that works for both parties. Be careful that compromising is not just another way to avoid saying “no”.
Leave it open-ended: Sometimes you’re in a position where you can’t say no for sure. A year ago, I was asked to consider becoming president of our Rotary Club for this year. At the time I was asked, I couldn’t say yes due to some unknowns coming in the new year. I said “no” at that moment but told them to ask again early in year. They came back in February and I was able to say yes, as the unknowns had been defined.
IT’S NOT ABOUT SAYING “NO” TO EVERYTHING
Sometimes you need to say “yes” to further your personal goals and priorities. Perhaps you have a goal of becoming a subject-matter expert in a particular topic or area. Getting your name out there might involve extra speaking engagements, or some side-hustle work beyond your regular responsibilities. Then, as you become more aware of what is and isn’t right for you, you can say “no” to those invitations that don’t move your goals forward.
The hidden lesson to all this? As you effectively learn to say “no”, your “yes” becomes far more powerful.
I was planning to write this post last week, but I put it off.
Okay, now that the obligatory bad joke is out of the way, we can look at another internal time waster, procrastination.
We all put things off. We hope to avoid tasks that are boring, difficult, unpleasant, etc. When faced with something we don’t want to do, we can find a dozen tasks of no consequence to fill our time.
We secretly hope that, by procrastinating, the unpleasant task will shrink and go away. Unfortunately, the reverse is often true; the deferred job just gets bigger and more difficult.
Overcoming procrastination requires strategy. The next time you’re tempted to put off something you don’t want to do, try some of these tips:
- Set a deadline – a task without a deadline can be put off indefinitely. Set a date and stick to it.
- Set up a reward system – make it commensurate with the task. An afternoon cleaning out the garage is worth dinner out, while a 14 month software roll-out might warrant a tropical vacation.
- Arrange for a follow-up – assign someone to be a “nag-buddy”. Give them permission to check in periodically to make sure you’re staying on track.
- Do it first – tackle difficult jobs early in the day, when you have the most energy.
- Break the task into small pieces – if the whole seems too big to tackle, break it into manageable sub-tasks.
- Avoid over-thinking – Doubts will arise for even the most confident of people and doubt can lead to procrastination. Try doubting your doubts.
- Do it now – don’t put if off any longer. Sometimes you just have to jump in and get it done.
- Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task. ~William James
- Procrastination is the art of keeping up with yesterday. ~Don Marquis
- There are a million ways to lose a work day, but not even a single way to get one back. ~Tom DeMarco and Timothy Lister
- You may delay, but time will not. ~Benjamin Franklin
- Someday is not a day of the week. ~Author Unknown
- Don’t fool yourself that important things can be put off till tomorrow; they can be put off forever, or not at all. ~Mignon McLaughlin, The Neurotic’s Notebook, 1960
- Procrastination is opportunity’s assassin. ~Victor Kiam
- The best way to get something done is to begin. ~Author Unknown
- Tomorrow is often the busiest day of the week. ~Spanish Proverb
- Putting off an easy thing makes it hard. Putting off a hard thing makes it impossible. ~George Claude Lorimer
- Tomorrow is the only day in the year that appeals to a lazy man. ~Jimmy Lyons
- A year from now you may wish you had started today. ~Karen Lamb
- Procrastination is the thief of time. ~Edward Young
Over the years, I’ve posted some thoughts on behaviours and practices that can get in the way of our productivity. To help bring some of these forwarded, this post will link to past articles, as well as adding some new material on common time-wasters.
I’ve broken these time-wasters into two groups. Internal are those things which we generate. External are those things that come at us from outside sources: both types can be controlled.
- Inability to say no
- Uninvited visitors
- Incoming communication
- Unproductive meetings
A while ago, I got a new desk for my office. I figured that making room for new furniture was a good opportunity, to not only clean out my desk, but to go through everything in my office.
It seems I am more of a pack rat than I realized. I found documents going back 8+ years. The office was passed overdue for a cleaning.
Are you a pack rat; either at work or at home? Here’s some tips to help break the hoarding habit.
1) Take Inventory
Take a tour of the space you are organizing and take inventory all of your stuff. Look in cabinets, closets, bookshelves, storage containers, the garage, etc. Do you have things you haven’t used in a year or more? Ask yourself, will I use that item again? If the answer is maybe, get rid of it. Call The Salvation Army, recycle it or pass it on to someone who can use it.
2) Share your information
I save books and magazines long after I’ve read them. I find one article I’d like to reference in the future and I hang onto the whole magazine.
If you’re like that, tear out the article, recipe, instructions, etc. and file it in an organized system. I’m going one step further by scanning any such material and storing it electronically, which eliminates the paper altogether.
Recycle those that you don’t plan on reading or using again. Donate them to a local charity, a school, hospital or retirement home, where others can enjoy and learn from your books.
3) Don’t become the Pickle-Jar Guy
Do you know someone who has a garage filled with empty jars because they are going to use them someday? Empty containers make great storage, but how many do you need? If you have more than five or six empty containers stuck in a cabinet or closet collecting dust, add it to the recycling.
4) Ask the key question
‘Is my life going to change if I get rid of this thing?’ Almost always, the answer is, ‘No’. Marie Kondo has created this idea, if an object no longer “sparks joy” for us, it should be discarded. While I have a problem with the idea that our possessions should spark joy, the basic principle is a good one. Why do we hang on to things? Is it nostalgia, fear of offending family or friends, or some other reason. If you’re not using it, and it’s taking up space, get rid of it.
5) Look for the best was to rearrange the space
After all your clutter and junk is out the door and you have a better idea of what will be left in your space, look around and rethink your layout. Maybe there’s a better way to configure the room, especially if you make good use of wall space. One good rule of thumb is, the more you use something, the closer it should be to you. Lastly, consider how you want to come off to others in the room. For example, a more open layout can give the impression of having earned more space and, therefore, power; or positioning a desk so it’s not between you and clients can seem more inviting.
6) Review weekly
You’ve got your space cleared and reorganized, it needs to be maintained. When you declutter every week, you ensure your space does not fall back to its previous state. Not only is this good for the space but it is great for your mind as well. Having a weekly declutter process will develop a sense of achievement as you maintain a clean and efficient workspace.