It’s been said that being organized is being in control. We put that saying to the test by talking to a couple local experts about how getting organized at work will lead to less clutter and stress, and more efficiency and productivity.
In my experience, people who scribble down words for a living aren’t the most organized people. I would go as far to say that “organized writer” is a bit of an oxymoron. Legend has it there are some writers out there that live in a world beyond one filled with used up steno pads cluttering up their desks and stacks of newspaper and magazine articles on the floor. These mythical creatures are often described as having labeled bins for office supplies and even color-coded file folders for various projects. Who knew there were such things!
If you didn’t guess by now, I admit that I am in the former group described above. Before we had a showdown of wills, my wife would come into my home office to chat with only a few moments passing before her urge to organize my “stacks” would overtake her. I would lovingly attempt to inform her that these stacks are my inspiration; they are thousands, perhaps by now, millions of words that surround me in a cocoon of stimulus. Okay, “lovingly” might be a stretch. But before our exchange reached a point where my voice would either go up several octaves as I screamed out like a little girl, “Just leave my stuff alone!” or would drop a few octaves and a chilling, “Get Out…” would spill out from behind clinched teeth, she used to ask me, “Why don’t you just organize your stuff?” My answer to that silly question would always be the same: “Ask me where anything is. I can find in less than 30 seconds.” And I do – it might take a bit longer than 30 seconds, perhaps a minute, but I always found the document in question. And who needs to find anything important in less than a minute besides an ER doctor?
But, whether it’s wisdom that’s finally filling out with age, or simply that I don’t want to fight this fight about my so-called messy office any longer, these days I’m starting to ask myself, “Is there a better way to get organized?”
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Admit the problem
For Heather Masterson and Kristi Miller of Fort Worth-based Urban Organizers, life is too complicated to be unorganized. Friends for more than 35 years, both women bring a long history of talent and experience to the organizing game. Before starting Urban Organizers, they were both consultants for Contained Home with The Container Store. They were also recently featured in 360 West Magazine as the Who’s Who of Professional Organizers.
When they meet clients, Masterson and Miller want them to see that the objective of organizing is to increase productivity, improve time management, and reduce stress and frustration. “Our goal is to incorporate an organizational system into your daily life that will increase your efficiency, which will in turn increase your overall productivity at the office and the home,” said Miller. “Being organized and being productive work hand in hand. It’s almost impossible to be productive if you’re inefficient. Being efficient will increase your overall productivity at work and when you are more productive, you save time. Everyone needs more time in their day!”
Like many issues that we face as human beings, the first step to becoming better organized is to admit that we have a problem. “If you are feeling overwhelmed or stressed out on a daily basis, leave work without feeling much was accomplished, can’t see the top of your desk or can’t ever seem to find what you’re looking for - you are likely unorganized at work,” Masterson said. “There is not one specific system that works for everyone. Different personalities and different job positions will determine what type of personalized system works best for you.”
So if there is no one system that will work for everyone, what’s the best way for us to figure out which system will work for us? And many of us work in teams. What if different team members use different systems to stay organized? How will they all gel together? For Miller, the best way to start getting organized is to keep it simple. “Set up a system personalized to fit your specific needs. Make sure all paper has a place - i.e. in a file, ‘in box,’ ‘to do box,’ etc. It’s vital to maintain your system in order for it to be effective,” Miller said. As far as working with a team goes, Masterson suggests working your own system until it becomes clear that one system will work better for the group. “When working with a team it’s best for everyone to stick with their own personal organizational system that they are accustom to. However, if the team leader wants to implement a system for the team, that would be the system everyone should follow,” said Masterson.
Work the system
Once we make sure that our papers have a place of purpose in our offices, what Miller and Masterson call “Paper Management,” then it’s time to move on to the other four steps of their master plan to help us be more organized and perform better at work. The remaining steps are as follows:
Filing Systems - A system made up of labeled file folders for papers that need to be accessible at any given time. Your filing system must make sense to you, whether you choose to organize your files by alphabetical, category or chronological.
Spatial Design - Rethinking and rearranging an office space to make it effective and efficient. For example, the placement of a printer would be more efficient located near the desk as opposed to across the room.
Simplification Techniques - Ways to save time by making daily tasks simplified. For example, if you are required to write in only black ink, discard all other colors and have black ink pens easily accessible.
Maintenance Procedures - Plans to help maintain an existing organizational system. For example, setting aside a specific day and time of the week to go through mail.
Finally, Miller and Masterson are big fans of using technology to help us. But once again, apps and digital files should be set up in the most efficient manner possible. “Have your computer files mimic your paper files. It’s always good to have tangible files for those times when technology fails us. Shared calendar apps are great for busy families with working parents. Everyone can input their work schedules as well as social activities so the entire family is in the know,” said Miller.