You may have heard the saying, "a place for everything, and everything in its place". This is a critical organizing concept. Take a look around your office; specifically look at your piles. If you know right where something belongs, it is easy to return it to that spot. Usually the items that pile up do so because they do not have a home. Do not leave any of your papers in your office "homeless" and piling up.
Follow this list of essential items that every productive office needs and eliminate the piles of homeless items in your office:
- Inbox – Whether you work alone in your home office, or you have a steady stream of visitors, it is imperative that you have a physical inbox. An inbox give you one consistent place in your office to put new items. You can not always process them immediately, so you need to have a home for them.
- Outbox – This gives you a spot for the items that are ready to leave your office (eg out-going mail, a task to delegate, etc.)
- 'To File' Tray – This provides a spot for the papers or files that need to be filed. They might come from your inbox, or they could be papers or files that had been folded and need to be re-filed. If you have an assistant, create a process so that they check it daily and file any items in this tray.
- Shredder – You need to have access to a shredder. It does not matter whether you have a small shredder in your office or a large shredding console in your building, as long as you have the means to shred sensitive information.
- Recycle Bin – If you and your office recycle, place a bin in your office or your building to easily enable this habit.
- Wastebasket – This might seem obvious, but you need to have a home for the trash, too!
- Calendar – It does not matter whether it is paper or electronic, but you must have a "home" for your appointments if you want to stay on schedule.
- Contact Management System – This can take many shapes – an old-fashioned Rolodex, or software such as Microsoft Outlook, ACT !, Highrise, or Salesforce.com. The important thing is to have one place to go to find contact information when you need it.
- Action Files – You need files setup to manage your active projects and daily to-dos.
- Reference Files – You need a filtering system that makes sense to all parties involved so that you can easily file items for future reference and most importantly, find them when you need them.
Implement these essentials in your office, and watch your productivity soar!