Tame the Chaos: Boost Your Productivity by Getting Organized
by Cheryl Marks Young
“I work best in organized chaos.” “It may not look like it, but I do have a system.”“I don’t have time to tidy up my desk. This is working. I promise.”“I tried to keep a calendar, but it became more work than it was worth to keep it up to date.”
Look familiar? As convincing as we make those phrases sound, the truth is a lack of organization impacts our productivity. In fact, research shows that the average professional can dedicate up to six hours a week to finding things and information. Just imagine what you could accomplish if you claimed some of that time back for more productive pursuits!
How you get more organized, however, is not necessarily as easy as following a check list of apps and storage accessories. The best method to getting your ducks in a row is the one that meshes with your work style. Even the highest rated filing system is going to fall short if it’s not intuitive for you. That said, there are general must-haves that can take your office environment from chaos to constructive work space.
You’re sitting at lunch with a client and want to schedule a follow-up appointment. You think two weeks from today at 10 am sounds great. That is, until you get back to the office and realize you already volunteered to accompany your daughter’s 3rd grade class to the planetarium that same day. The school trip was listed on your calendar in the office but never got transcribed to the calendar on your phone. Now what? Well, the first thing you’re going to do is download a cloud-based calendar that gives you access across multiple devices. From Google Calendar to Apple Calendar to a slew of apps in between, find the one that works best for you, and then use it.
Notebook and pen
Inspiration hits while you’re sitting stuck in traffic or at the drive through at the bank. You have a follow-up item to remember from this morning’s meeting. And of course, there are the notes you want to jot down as you read this article. Having a collection of loose papers, Post-it notes, and eNotes can make it more difficult to find the info you’ve scribbled down later. Keeping a pad of paper or notebook that easily tucks into your bag or that can be toted around with you, allows easy access to those bits of wisdom when you need them. So does a digital app on your phone or tablet – bonus points if you use a cloud-based note taker that you can retrieve notes from regardless of what device you’re on.
Filing and storage
It doesn’t really matter whether you prefer to work with tangible paper or you’re a bigger fan of keeping it all digital. Either way, you need a method to keep it all in useful order. Identify the file folder stands, the file cabinet, the drawer organizers and the apps that best mesh with your style. Just remember, they work best when you use them.
Keep it within reach and focused on “U”
If you really want to take your organization-amped productivity up another notch, then remember that where you place the various filing, storage, and note taking tools is important too. Knowing where things are stored is one thing. Being able to readily access those things is another. A file folder stand kept on the desk is the ideal home for documents you touch on a regular basis. Folders holding ‘active’ documents could be filed in a drawer or cabinet kept within a chair swivel and arms’ reach. In other words, important documents you need ready access to shouldn’t require more than a turn or skootch of your chair to be within easy reach. When you’re organizing, think of your desk as home base. Everything else should be placed no more than an arm-and-half length “U” shape from that point.