The not Sexy (but Savvy) secret to productivity

Q: When an organizer procrastinates, what will she be doing?

A: Organizing her desk or her closet.

We are one month into the new year. You are still feeling the energy to make changes in your office, but maybe not quite sure how to start. I am here to help!

The Urge to Purge

A project I love to do at the beginning of the year: cleaning out my office files to start fresh for the new year. My friend Susan McKenzie, who is a feng-shui designer, tells me when you make room for new clients they will come. You have to allow some space in your life for new opportunities.

I know it’s not sexy, but we all need to do it: the file purge. I have been feeling the urge to purge these last few weeks. It’s true that when files move freely in the drawer, it is much more likely that I will file my own paper. I know it works with clients too; they always want to use their new and improved file system after we have set it up. It gives me great satisfaction to know I’ve helped yet another person to be organized and find what they need quickly.

Sit back and envision a filing system where your files move freely and easily, you can see each file tab with the topic or category, and easily slide papers into their proper place? Even better, when you need information FAST about that client you spoke with last week, instead of frantically searching through the papers or notebooks or Post-its cluttering your desk, you will know exactly where it is and be able to quickly review the conversation. Talk about reducing stress!

How to get from where you are today to that level of organization, though? There’s no secret formula. And I don’t have a magic wand to whisk away the clutter. Just elbow grease!

Like I said, not sexy, but purging does wonders for any surface, any drawer, any home or office.

From Piles to Files

cluttered work desk

A client’s cluttered desk

Now, when I work with a client I think of myself as a clutter counselor. I am coaching each person to decide what to do with their clutter. Training him/her on what to do with each piece of paper. Sometimes it is slow going at first, but after a little bit they get to the point when they see, say, an insurance document similar to one we’ve come across before, they know if they should trash it or file it. Of course if there is any doubt, I am there to guide them. Along the way, we are constantly setting up new files.

A recent client Southern Oregon needed some help with her home office. Her life was so busy, she did not have the time to set up systems for the different businesses she and her husband own.  She did have some great files set up, but an unskilled assistant filed things in weird places. So ‘Abby’ could not find them. Once we set up systems to keep her desk free of clutter, and went through her files, she breathed a sigh of relief. Now she knows that everything is within reach, and that she will find what she needs quickly and easily.

So as a clutter counselor, here is some free advice: a large percentage of papers you file never get referenced again. Think hard about whether you will ever look at that information again.

Purging

Ask yourself these questions:

Organized office with standing files

Same client’s desk!

  1. Do I use this?
  2. Will I ever need this information again?
  3. If so, is there somewhere else I can get it?
  4. Will I remember where it is; does it fit in the category it is filed under?

This brings me to what I call file laziness. Instead of creating a new file for a new kind of information, you talk yourself into believing you will remember you filed your Notes on a new client inside the receipts file. You may think ‘I’ll just put it here for now; it’s only a couple pieces of paper. It’s not worth creating a new file. I’ll remember I put it here!’ If any rationalization is going on inside your head as you file it, stop right away, pull out a new hanging file, label it.

To prevent file laziness, I keep a hanging file in the very front of my most-used drawer, with plastic tabs and white file labels inside. New hanging files sit just behind it. This makes it easy. Then I am bound to use these when I need a new category or add a new client. You see, since I made it super easy for myself, I will create that new file when I need it instead of misfiling something or combining it with info it has no business being combined with.

So start the year off right with purging your files! You can pace yourself and just take 4 files a day or even 1 a day to go through. It will be worth it! You’ll be able to see labels clearly, file and retrieve your documents easily! Opening your file drawer will give you satisfaction instead of dread.

And if you need help, just call on me!

Please let me know if this post helped you! Click on this link to my FB page: http://www.facebook.com/OrganizingAttics2Basements/?pnref=lhc

Link to designer Susan McKenzie’s website: http://suemac2.houzz.com/