11 Steps to a Clutter-free Zone

March 1, 2006

A messy work environment is not conducive to peak productivity. Here are some ways to get rid of the piles taking up valuable desk space.

1. Reduce your reading pile. Rather than keep entire publications, tear out the articles you want to read and discard the rest. Take reading material with you whenever you leave the office.

2. Pare down large piles first. Concentrate particularly on large, bulky items. You’ll see immediate results and be motivated to keep going.

3. Sort piles into categories. Assign items to action- oriented categories — such as to do, to read, or to file — and then actually perform the assigned task.

4. Open your mail over a shredder or recycling bin. Make an immediate decision on how best to deal with each item, and you’re more likely to avoid creating piles in the first place.

5. Create a “consider” file. Put items that require more time and consideration into a file so they don’t clutter your work space. Make an appointment each week to review the contents of the file.

6. Set a disposal date. If you haven’t read something within a reasonable amount of time, say, two months, you probably aren’t going to read it. If you find yourself regularly discarding the same publication, cancel the subscription.

7. Avoid scraps of paper. Use a spiral notebook to keep phone messages and notes in one place.

8. Keep organizational systems simple. When deciding where to store items, ask yourself, “Where’s the first place I’d look for this?”

9. Organize items based on frequency of use. Only things you use every day should be on your desk. Items you use once a week should go in your desk. Things used less frequently should be kept elsewhere, such as a storage closet.

10. Make time to organize. Set aside 10 minutes at the beginning or end of each day to clean up your workspace and put things in their appropriate places.

11. Be consistent. Staying organized is a lot easier than getting organized.

Source: The Time Manager, Newark, Ohio