I wrote the following article for Fujitsu ScanSnap recently about the 3 things that steal your productivity in your office. I hope you'll find some tips or ideas to spur you on to a more productive office environment.
As a Certified Professional Organizer (CPO) I consistently see the same three productivity issues in offices: paper, clutter and time. By implementing some simple changes, you will be able to enjoy a more organized, productive home office.
A. PaperThe question I most often hear regarding paper is, "Should I have a paper or paperless filing system?" This is a personal choice with many variables, but which ever you choose, a good file system is a must. Your paper needs to be organized in a way that you can retrieve what you need quickly. In a paperless system, scanning allows for quick retrieval because the computer can do the searching for you. In a paper system, you do the searching so you must have a consistent set of guidelines for how you file each document: title, category, number or key word. I have used Paper Tiger and Freedom Filer as well as a basic category system. The key is, choose a file system and stick with it!Purging is the key to keeping your files usable and accessible. Before filing a paper, identify whether it is a permanent file or a temporary file. EX: car titles are permanent, but car registrations are temporary. Temporary files are easy to purge: simply remove any document already in the file before filing the new document. This keeps your files up to date without having to do a major purge. Then, schedule a 5 minute appointment with yourself each day to deal with paper. This will keep your paper under control and keep your desk area clear.
B. ClutterThe professional organizing industry has defined clutter as "delayed decisions". In a home office, these delayed decisions mean the difference between a productive day and a day filled with frustrations. When organizing your work space (desk, cabinets, counters etc.) the first step is to identify what categories you require in order to operate your business on a daily basis: office supplies, files, current project, equipment, printing supplies, and bills. Once you've identified the categories, you need to choose the best place for them to be stored. This is the organizing step where many people start the "delayed decisions", thus a disorganized office.As an example, let me give you a mental picture of my home office. I have a 4 ft desk, 2 drawer file cabinet and large bookshelf. The top left of my desk holds a decorative leather box with lid which is my "to be scanned" box. It's easy to drop papers in and it looks nice on my desk. I have my laptop in the middle back area and my scanner on the back right area. The front ½ of my desk stays clear as my "work space". My left hand drawer is home to office supplies such as staples, clips, pens, and notepads. I measured the drawer and purchased a kitchen utensil divider - it works great for small items. My right side drawer holds computer supplies like cords, PDA, and flash drives. My file drawer surprisingly holds much more than permanent files (I run a paperless office). I store many office supplies and paper supplies in hanging folders; envelopes, address labels, colored paper, card stock and brochures. My book case is a storage unit for more than just books, it is decorative and functional. It can be dangerously easy to clutter so I've made very clear categories for my bookshelf; current magazines in holders, current projects in their own decorative box/binder, and a DVD case (looks like a library book) to hold all program and utility cd's. Each day I schedule two appointments on my calendar for a "5-minute dash". I spend those few minutes putting things back into their assigned homes. By doing this regularly, my office stays clutter-free and allows me to be productive in my business. If you look around your office you'll realize that many items can be stored differently than on the closest flat surface. Get creative. As you gain control over the clutter your time can be spent productively and you'll find you have more time for the things you enjoy in your business.
We waste it, we lose it, and we even try to expand it, but rarely do we learn to control it. The two most common time stealers in offices are email and to-do lists. There are numerous opinions and options out there for handling email and to-do's but I've chosen to get back to basics in my office.
It seems simplistic, but you have two choices when email comes in: Delete or Decide. I recommend doing a quick run through to delete everything possible. Then go back and begin the Decide process. If you can handle the email quickly (2 minutes of less) then do what is required immediately. Forwards can be handled quickly by just adding your input in the subject line before forwarding. In deciding how to handle the more time consuming emails, I recommend setting 15 minute appointments on your calendar for "email time". Email steals our time when we allow it to dictate our schedule so close your email program until the next appointed time! By setting email appointments we take control of our schedule and time.2. To-Do'sIn working with disorganized clients I hear the same complaint in every office, "I can't seem to get my to-do list done". Is it really that we run out of time? No, we just aren't equipping ourselves to use our time productively.
If you think about it, anything on your list will take time, so if you want to accomplish it, it needs to have a time value. I don't actually have to-do lists anymore; I have appointments set with specific times on my calendar. By changing from a list to actually putting the to-do on my calendar, I accomplish much more! As an example, I need to buy ink for my printer. Instead of adding it to a long list of to-do's, I add it to my calendar. "Monday, 1:00-1:30, buy ink at office store". This accomplishes two things, I actually accomplish getting ink and I am in control of my time and schedule. My clients who have changed over to calendar appointments instead of to-do lists have found more time in their schedule and the satisfaction of a calendar of accomplishments.