Office organization requires effort and planning, but it isn’t difficult to accomplish.
Use these tips to turn your office into a haven for productivity.
This is what I’m focused on this month with my Multiply Mastermind students and my Scholar students. We’re doing a 30-day decluttering challenge, not only of our office but also of our homes and lives.
Empty, shred, get rid of everything that you don’t need or want. Take everything out and look at it. Then throw away or donate anything you don’t need. Ask yourself the question, is this serving me still? Am I using this? If not, it’s time to go.
Take one area at a time. If it doesn’t work, send it out for repair or toss it. If you haven’t used it in months and can’t think of when you need it, out it goes. Don’t forget about knick-knacks, plants, real or artificial, and decorations. If they’re covered with dust and make your office look shabby, they’re fair game.
2. The Desk Zone.
Desks should only contain the necessities, like your computer, phone, printer, and reference materials. Too many things cause clutter and disorganization.
Ideally, your desk should have drawers for supplies and files used daily. Pens, pencils, tape, paperclips, and staples should all stay in containers or in easy to reach drawers. This is your workspace. This is where you are going to make great things happen. You want to make sure this is clear of clutter, so you can focus and be productive on your business.
3. Clean Off Your Computer Desktop.
Digital messes count as clutter, too. Files sitting on your computer desktop are distracting and will make it difficult to focus. I make this part of my monthly system, where I am cleaning off all the files on my computer desktop.
I’m constantly downloading things, and I take that one day a month to put them in the correct Dropbox or Google Drive folder. I can tell when I look at somebody’s computer screen, and it’s covered with files, that we got some internal stuff going on. Remember, once a month, get that desktop cleaned.
4. The Paperless Office.
One of the best things you can do for your office and the environment is to go paperless. Paper creates clutter. Although a certain amount of paper is necessary, try reading and storing documents online instead. Before you hit the print key, ask yourself, do I need to print this?
5. Go Digital.
Organize all your files in cloud-based software like Google Drive or Dropbox. I use both. I teach my students in my Multiply Mastermind program how to create their business hub in Google Drive.
Then you want to create systems so that your files are easily accessible. If you went inside of my Google Drive or my Dropbox, you would think I have some severe OCD problems, but I can find anything in two seconds flat. That is how organized I have these files in there.
6. Inbox and Outbox.
Having in and out boxes on your desk creates space for those documents that have to be printed, as well as incoming and outgoing mail. This allows you to know exactly where documents are instead of having them in piles all over your desk.
7. Snail Mail.
Sort your mail every single day. Don’t just stick it in a pile to be sorted. Every day, the mail comes in. What’s going in the trash? What’s being shredded? What’s going in your inbox to deal with that week?
If you wait and just let those piles stack up on your kitchen counter or in your office, it’s going to create brain clutter. Remember, we’re trying to clear our outer space to stay focused on the important things that we want to accomplish during the week. Do daily mail sorting. It takes 2 seconds.
8. Filing Cabinets
An organized office needs file cabinets. Color coding makes it easier and faster to find information. If your files become stuffed, clean them out. Put prior years’ files in a labeled storage box to free space. For all of the documents that I need daily, I want them just like an arm’s reach away.
I have a silver cabinet here, things that I don’t need as often. So like worker’s comp stuff, insurance stuff, stuff like that, that goes in there. But quite honestly, again, I have very little paper because I’m trying to keep everything in the cloud.
9. Magazine Boxes.
Store the magazines you want to keep in special magazine boxes on a shelf to declutter your workspace. Better yet, throw them out as soon as you’re done reading them.
My mom loves to order me magazines, even though I constantly ask her not to because they create clutter. My system is when the magazine comes, I read it immediately so I can toss it. It stresses me out. When I see the magazine, I’m like, oh, I have so much to do, I don’t want to read this magazine, but I don’t want it hanging around. So I read them the day they come, and then I toss them.
If that’s not something you want to do, you can get these magazine boxes at, The Container Store, keep them on a shelf, so they’re not creating clutter in your office or life.
10. Paper Shredder.
Shred documents with personal information that you don’t need to keep. This will free up file space and protect your confidentiality as well. You don’t want to be throwing any of your personal papers with your information directly in the trash, so use your shredder for those documents.
11. Filter Your Email.
Create a filtering system for your emails. Examples of mailboxes to create, customer care, sitter correspondence, drafts. You’ll always want to have a drafts folder, so you do not have to re-type every single email that you send to sitters and clients, the applications that come in, etc. and you can have a complete file.
So what I do in my Mac mail program is I flag. I move all the things I need to do that need my attention that I have not yet completed. I flag them, and they’re in that folder. And then I go in and complete them. When I’m done, remove the flag and then delete the email.
You can also create rules inside your email client, where certain emails automatically get sent to these folders, and you don’t have to do it manually. But the goal is inbox zero. You don’t want your Inbox completely cluttered with emails. If you’re not reading them, delete them. Get rid of them or filter them.
12. Do not disturb.
Reclaim your time by hanging a sign on the door or a dry erase board to let others know you’re unavailable. Dedicated work time helps maintain an organized mind, as well as an organized office.
I don’t know what I would do without my do not disturb sign. When my three little children come home from school, they would barrel through the door if I didn’t have that sign on there. I know many of you have issues with boundaries with siblings, not siblings, spouses, or parents living with them, or children living with them. This is how you create that boundary – putting that do not disturb sign up on your office door.
13. Personal Items.
Personal items can crowd your workspace, and that’s okay, but don’t let them overrun you. Designate a specific area for personal items, and this will keep your desk organized and free from distraction.
So my children love to make me projects at school, and they want me to hang them all over my office. And I do too, but I don’t keep them too long. This is the only one I have right now. It says Happy Mother’s Day. And this is a pen in a cute little pot, but I keep this on my desk, but this will go away soon, just because I don’t like clutter.
14. Plan It.
A personal planner or desk calendar will help you keep track of your schedule and deadlines. Write everything down, including birthdays, appointments, client meetings, deadlines, and other helpful notes.
If you are a pen and paper girl, you can get calendars on Amazon that you can keep on your desk. I personally love Google Calendar, and I have a calendar for just my personal appointments. I have a calendar for my kids. I have a calendar for my marketing. I have a calendar for my programs, so on and so forth. I can share them with my students in certain programs or share them with my husband or share them with my team. They all sync from every device, and it truly is a lifesaver. So I personally love Google Calendar but use what you like.
15. Once a Month, Do a Clean Sweep.
Spend one day a month doing a total clean sweep in your office. Put files and supplies back where they belong, clean out desk drawers and file cabinets, shred papers that you don’t need if they contain personal information. Schedule a day to do this.
Every first Monday of the month, I have a business organization day where I do all of this. You know, my desktop, the computer desktop, my office, papers, throwing things away from the filing cabinet, going into my QuickBooks online, looking at the revenue and expenses from the month before, so on and so forth. It is a scheduled day on my calendar where I am doing a clean sweep.
16. Tip-Top Computers.
Computers are the lifeline of an office. Dust it weekly to keep it in tip-top shape, install and use antivirus software and system utilities to keep your computer running well. Also, you’ll want to back up and empty the trash regularly. This was big for me.
I do videos all the time, and I had so many videos sitting in my trash can. It was slowing down my computer so badly, and I didn’t even realize it. Now every week the computer gets dusted and the trash gets emptied.
17. What To Do.
Maintaining a to-do list will help you stay organized. Make it a habit to write down important tasks and cross them off as they’re completed.
Something I teach my students in my programs is called the See It Through Strategy. And a big part of this is taking weekly, either on a Sunday or Monday, you’re getting everything out of your brain, and you’re putting it on your to-do list, and then you’re scheduling it on your calendar.
I love to keep all of my notes on an app called Notability on my iPad, so everything is all in one place. You can use a notebook, you can use a Google Doc, but the point is that you are getting it out of your brain and putting it down on paper to use that brain space for business generating, money-making activities.
If we have everything in our minds, things don’t get done. It causes confusion. We want clarity, and doing this thought download at the beginning of the week of all of our to-dos and then organizing them on our calendar is so important. Again, I use Notability, which I love.
No one likes them, but we all need them. Incorporate your deadlines into your master to-do list and keep that handy in your planner. Sticking to a deadline schedule will force you to stay on track. Parkinson’s Law states that something will take for as long as you give it.
So if you say you want to get a website designed and you don’t give yourself a deadline, it could take you six months. But if you say, I’m going to give myself one month to get this done, that is how you increase your productivity. You have to provide yourself with deadlines, or otherwise, it’s just going to eat up all your time and take forever.
19. Ugly Cords.
Tidy up those messy cords with twist ties or rubber bands. I ordered a whole bunch of different colored ones on Amazon.
20. Reference Zone.
Set up a specific zone in your office for these materials. This could include binders, books, manuals, magazines, dictionaries, and professional items. A bookcase should fit the zone nicely.
I have a giant cupboard over here that I got at an auction. It holds so much stuff, it’s unreal, but this is where my reference zone is. All of my binders and reference documents from any program that I’ve ever joined, or documents that I create for my students is right here, and it’s behind a closed door so I don’t see it. If you can get something where you can close the door and keep that organized, that’ll be great.
21. Fresh Start.
Straighten your desk at the end of each day. That way, when you sit down in the morning, you can start with a clean slate. If you have a priority task that needs to be completed first thing in the morning, leave it out on the desk to help you get focused and ready to go.
If you do this one tip, I promise you your productivity is going to skyrocket. That is something I do, systematizing pretty much everything in my life, but at the end of every day, this desk is cleaned off.
That way, I can sit down with a clean slate, a clean mind, and get going first thing. If I sat down with piles of stuff everywhere, that’s not a good way to start your day.
It takes two minutes. Just clean off your desk, put everything away, and turn it off, shut it down, and head out.
22. Label It.
A label machine is your best friend. Labeling all files, folders, bins, containers, trays, boxes, and other organizational tools lets you know exactly what’s inside.
I used to have a Dymo label maker and stamp printer on my desk that took up a lot more space, so I switched to this because I don’t want clutter.
So label everything, and that way, you know exactly where everything should go.
23. Charge It Up.
Designate a space in your office to charge all of your devices. There are three children and two adults living in this house. We all have multiple devices. There were cords everywhere. Everybody was charging things in different places until I got a dry sink at an auction. And we set up a charging station. So everything’s organized. We have all of the charging cords labeled, so we know whose cord is whose, and everything’s right in one spot.
24. Organize Your Valuable Documents.
Create a special kit for all of your valuable documents, assets, and personal information. I ordered a fireproof briefcase from Susie Orman, the financial guru. We keep marriage certificates, birth certificates and anything about our assets in there.
You have to think if the house were to burn down and you could grab one thing, what would you need? That’s where you want to keep all those documents. It’s super organized.
25. Build a Life Binder.
Organize important papers in an easy grab-and-go binder. Here are some categories: medical, pet, auto, manuals, house, kids, and personal.
Many manuals are kept online now, so you might not even have to keep those anymore—just something to keep in mind. Keep it in your reference zone, and you can pull the binder out, and everything is right there and organized.
26. Utilize Wall Space.
If you have a small space, use your wall space to hang filing systems, calendars, whiteboards, shelving, and more. There’s so much more space when you go vertical.
Before I moved here to Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, I had a smaller office at my old house, and I used the wall space. It had all of my calendars and whiteboards and shelving.
Here, I don’t need it as much. I have a much larger space. I like things out of my sight. So I have these two glass cabinets, the big cupboard here, and then the dry sink back here, where everything is organized and put away out of sight. Use the wall space if you have a smaller space.
Keeping yourself and your office organized isn’t difficult after you create systems that you stick to. Following these simple tips will keep your office running smoothly, enable you to accomplish more, and help you feel less stressed.
If you are struggling with organization and clutter, it usually is a sign of something going on up here. You need to learn how to organize your mind, thoughts, and to-dos, and usually, the external physical environment becomes much easier to keep organized.
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