Monday Mornings with Madison

Embrace Office Organization

Organization and time management are two of the biggest challenges that people face day-to-day.  Busy lives often result in messy lives.  This is true both at home and work.  In fact, lack of time often leads to clutter.  At home, it might be the medicine cabinet that needs tidying.  Or it might be the utensil drawer in the kitchen that needs sorting.  Or it might be financial records that need organizing.  For some, clutter is confined to one area.  For others, mess is found in every drawer and closet… every nook and cranny.  Lack of organization is not just irritating to the eye and stressing to the mind, it can actually cause real problems.  For example, a person can’t take medicine if they can’t find the medicine.  Bills not paid on time can result in a lower credit score or worse.  Cluttered closets can hide resources that result in unnecessary purchases.

At work, lack of organization can also cause problems.  A cluttered or messy desk can waste time as an employee searches for a needed paper or file.  A disorganized supply room can cause staff to order additional supplies needlessly.  Cluttered or misplaced records can even result in lost clients if key work is overlooked or deadlines are missed.  Disorganized accounting records can wreak absolute havoc during an audit or at tax time.  Given that organization is key to efficiency, economy of motion and effectiveness, how does a leader or manager ensure that all staff get and stay organized?  How can a busy employee stay organized despite a heavy workload?

A Place for Everything and Everything in its Place

There are a host of sources that offer tips and advice for staying organized.  Associations such as the National Association of Professional Organizers, publications such as Martha Stewart Living and Real Simple and retailers such as Office Depot, Staples and Avery all offer good advice on how to maintain a clean, clear and clutter-free environment.  Here are 18 of the most recommended tips and best practices for getting and staying organized.

Clear the Desktop

  • Every desk surface should have only the supplies used on a daily basis.  Supplies that are used only occasionally (rulers, staple refills, blank discs, used discs, etc.) should have their own place in a drawer, cubby, organizational cube, or filing cabinet.
  • Every work surface should have a variety of containers to organize small office supplies, paper clips, pens, thumbtacks, post-its and other miscellaneous items.
  • Every desk should have a paper flow system for incoming and outgoing documents including mail, files, work, etc.
  • Every desk should have an inbox.  That inbox should only contain items that haven’t yet been reviewed.  Once reviewed, an item should never be put back in the inbox.
  • Documents that are work-in-progress should be kept in some organizational system or file.  All documents placed there should be added to a work-in-progress list in order to avoid having to touch the document again until it is ready to be handled to completion.
  • Every employee should put everything it its place every day before leaving.  Coming into a clean and organized office helps start the day in a productive manner.

Cut the Clutter

  • Pre-Sort mail in piles of: To-File, To-Read, To-Contact, etc.
  • Create a separate place for personal paperwork, items, etc.
  • Use storage boxes to store dated files.  Storage boxes should be put away in closets or file rooms, not kept under desks or piled up in corners.
  • Purchase Magazine boxes to store booklets, magazines, and catalogs that are needed.
  • When possible, cut out and file magazine articles that have valuable information or scan them into digital files and throw away the magazine.
  • On a regular basis (at least once a quarter), it is important to purge electronic information and paper documents.

File Regularly

  • Every computer should have a filing system for electronic documents that mirrors the one for paper.
  • Maintain a file index of all file names. Check the index before creating a new file to avoid duplicates and to ensure consistency in naming. For example, work files might be labeled by department or type of work, but not both.
  • Document filing should place the most recent papers in the front of the file. Current information should always be on top.
  • Store all paper vertical in a file.  Once paper goes horizontal, it is easily lost in the shuffle.
  • There should be sufficient space to file documents in files without having to strain to put the paper away.
  • Filing should be done at least once a week.  No week should end without all filing being completed.
  • Every company should have a records retention plan to guide how long any department should keep work documents.

Do As I Do

Like most things in life, it is best to lead by example.  A manager’s desk should be neat, tidy and orderly.  Leadership should have offices that reflect a clear, uncluttered mind and an organization that is ship-shape.  Staff should be encouraged to keep things organized and those who do should be recognized and rewarded.

Time to Tidy Up

Last but not least, time should be allocated for employees to be able to clean and organize their work areas.  Proper supplies including garbage bags and trash bins should be readily available and clean-house days should be established for all work areas to be cleaned, including the break-room cabinets and refrigerator, the supply closets and cabinets, and the areas around copiers, printers and equipment.

Companies that follow these best practices are sure to have environments that are organized and staff that are more efficient and effective.  And that should result in greater productivity and fewer mistakes.  As Martha Stewart – the queen bee of organization and a savvy businesswoman — would say, “that’s a good thing.”

Quote of the Week

“In every aspect of life, purity, holiness, cleanliness and orderliness exalt the human condition.” Sir Francis Bacon


© 2013, Written by Keren Peters-Atkinson, CMO, Madison Commercial Real Estate Services. All rights reserved.

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