Today we welcome a guest post from Janice Marie Simon, MA, CPO, a Project Director and in-house organizer at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, where she helps researchers and clinicians with productivity, organizing, technology management, and life management. She has a blog at TheClutterPrincess.com and is the Organized Auntie at SavvyAuntie.com.
As a professional organizer who works inside an academic medical facility, my clients work in offices, cubicles, laboratories, and patient clinics. No matter what their space is, some things are universal to their workplace environments: The look of their workplace matters – especially to the boss. And, too much paper and too many ineffective meetings are a daily part of work life. These three things aren’t relevant only to my clients, but to all employees who find themselves in a traditional office environment.
The Look of Your Space
A Career Builder Study shows two out of five managers are less likely to promote someone with a messy desk. Messy offices were once a sign of creativity or busyness, but shows such as Hoarders and Buried Alive have brought serious clutter issues out in the open. Standards have changed.
Since I began organizing, I’ve always had clients who were encouraged (sometimes very strongly) to call me on the recommendation of their bosses. In the past couple of years, the number of those clients has definitely increased.
In a few cases, the boss may be “hyper-organized” where even an organizer looks like a hoarder to them. In these cases, the boss is judging other’s spaces through a skewed lens.
Most cases, however, the client’s boss identified normal cluttering issues. Since presentation is everything, we focus on making long-term changes to their spaces. Simple steps we take:
- Remove all sticky notes and papers taped on the computer, printer, overhangs, and walls.
- Confine any papers and pictures to the borders of bulletin boards and the pushpin space of the cubicle wall.
- Have only one container for pens and markers. Put the extras in a drawer.
- Items such as the tape and stapler can go in a drawer if they’re not used every day.
- Toss any trash, including half-filled coffee cups.
If you look organized, you feel organized. It also makes the boss happy.
Go Digital and Go Paperless
It’s easier than ever to go paperless. You can use a scanner or many office copy machines now come with the ability to scan documents into PDF format.
While converting to digital, start where you are with your current work. There’s no need to go back and scan everything in your office. As you go forward, you can grab a handful of older papers to see what needs to be tossed or shredded and what should be scanned. Remember: not everything is scanworthy.
Detach attachments from your email and keep them with your digital documents. Email systems are not the best way to file documents since the files take up a great deal of space. If it’s important and you want to keep it, save the file to a documents’ folder, and rename it if necessary.
Have More Efficient Meetings
Make meetings more productive by having a detailed agenda you email out beforehand. Outline action items that require decisions so people attending the meeting know what decisions they need to make. This really helps introverts who like to have time to think about decisions ahead of time and be prepared. My fellow extroverts and I talk to think instead of thinking and then talking.
During the meeting, stick to the agenda and keep the action moving. If someone brings up a topic not on the agenda but requires additional time and research, put the item in the “parking lot” to be discussed next time.
Banning smart phones during meetings is becoming popular. This keeps people from multi-tasking and checking email instead of paying attention and participating in the meeting.
When you get back into your office after a meeting, capture action items on your to-do list. Sort the handful of paper you more than likely received, toss the items you don’t need, and scan in the ones you do.
By clearing your desk, ditching the paper and having more effective meetings, you will work smarter, not harder.