Recently I moved into a new office at work, much to my former office mate’s delight. With two desks, two bookshelves, a filing cabinet and a large printer/scanner all crammed into a small room, he and I felt like we were always in each other’s way. My moving out gave us some breathing room as well as the opportunity to assess what should go where.
My first task stepping into a new, solo office was to figure out what I needed in hardware and systems. I came up with four categories:
- Working areas
- Storage points
- Exit points
I made this plural after careful consideration. The idea is to have as many inboxes you need, but no more. Right now, my inboxes are:
- A box labeled “In” on my desk
- The notebook I carry in my pocket at all times
- My email inbox
These three pieces of hardware allow me to capture everything I typically see in a day. Papers, forms, and documents from staff and co-workers are placed in the inbox tray. The notebook captures what I come across during the day, like requests, questions, and ideas I need to follow through on. The email inbox, well…that’s its own thing. Here’s an article on how I handle that particular job.
This is obvious but I need to get work done while in my office. That means an adequately-sized, flat surface where I can process all those inboxes and get down to tasks and projects. For me, that’s my desk, which I keep completely free of clutter. The only items allowed to live there long term are:
- 3×5 index cards, for jotting down items that need follow-up (These are tossed into the inbox for later processing.)
That’s it. When I’m working on something, the related files come out and are placed on the work surface. When I’m done with that particular project, all related materials go away. Which brings me to…
I’ve got two types of storage: analog and digital.
Analog storage is a good, old-fashioned filing cabinet. Hanging folders don’t work for me as I always knock them off the tracks. I prefer labeled, standard file folders. Sorting by simple alphabetical order is best for me as I can find anything.
Digitally, I use Evernote. It holds information that may be useful in the future, but doesn’t require any action such as policies and procedures, etc.
Just like the inbox, the outbox sits on my desk. Anything that isn’t digital and must travel from me to someone else, begins its journey in the outbox.
None of this is new technology or technique, but it works for me. It’s also clutter-free and efficient. While the office I describe here is at work, this setup would benefit a home office, student’s desk, or homework area. See if you can reduce your office system down to what’s necessary and see your efficiency and productivity rise.