While there is no one formula for success, office organization is sure to be a key ingredient in all of them. An organized office helps contribute to success by keeping everything where you need it so that you can spend less time looking for supplies and more time being productive.
It is simple to think of office organization as just being about supplies in a physical workspace, but it’s much more than that. Office organization is just as much about keeping what you need ready to go — not only in your physical workspace but also in your digital and head spaces, too.
So what is office organization and what does it have to do with being productive?
When you are out to be productive, there is nothing more important than time. Time spent trying to find what you need, whether that is a pencil, a file, or even motivation, is time better spent being productive on what you want to be doing.
An organized office helps you save time by keeping what you need where you need it. If you can reach for the pencil and paper you need without having to break your train of thought, you can get to producing what you want, faster.
Office organization also helps reduce stress. Knowing where to look for a file or project that you need to access, rather than tearing apart your office for it, is so much less stressful.
But even beyond that, a clear workspace is a sign of a clear, focused mind. Being organized helps you feel more in control and more knowledgeable about what you have and where you have it.
When it comes to office organization, one of the things you need to remember is that everything has to have a place. Knowing what you have at a glance, and the ability to access it, quickly helps to keep your workspace clean and efficient.
Start with a vision
Before you get started, take a moment to visualize how you use your workspace. Think about the tasks you do every day. What are you reaching for? Where are you reaching for it?
Use your visualizations to guide you. If you are instinctively looking to your right-hand side to grab a pencil and paper, that is where you should put a note-taking station.
Additionally, think about what tasks you tend to do together. When you are printing out papers, do you staple or bind them together? If so, then it would make sense to have your stapler, paper clips, and other paper binding supplies nearby.
You have it pegged
Once a mainstay of the garage and tool workbench, pegboards are versatile organizational tools. By utilizing vertical wall space, you can optimize your office organization without taking up valuable real estate on your desk or in your drawers.
Pegboards are incredibly easy to customize. Furthermore, pegboards are easy to upgrade or change as you need, thanks to a variety of pegboard accessories.
Divvy it up
An unorganized drawer is like a black hole: What goes in may never come back out. Keeping your drawer organized is an excellent way to help boost your office productivity.
There are plenty of thrifty, DIY drawer organizing ideas you can use. Make your custom organizers out of foam core or repurpose small, sturdy boxes to hold small items like paperclips, rubber bands, and charging cords. You can even paint or cover the boxes in decorative contact paper for a little personality.
If you’re not into DIY, there are a lot of different organizers available. Organizers with Interlocking bins allow you to customize one for your own space and needs. You can also find organizers with pre-defined compartments.
Control the paper
Paper clutter is the bane of just about every office. Whether you are waging a battle with paperwork or just trying to control your incoming and outgoing mail, taming your paper chaos is always a priority.
The first part of controlling the chaos is to determine what paper you need to keep. If possible, cut down on the number of mailers you receive. If you are dealing with a lot of printed documents, ask yourself if you need hard copies.
Figure out your paper clutter hotspots and implement an appropriate filing system to deal with paper as it comes in. You can buy a ready-made filing system or make a DIY one.
For example, keep a shredder near your mail station. Shred any junk mail immediately and then place your mail into “action” or “outgoing” as needed.
Great office organization isn’t just about controlling the physical clutter. If you find yourself being less than productive during the day, you may need a mental office organization makeover as well.
Less is more
While this may sound counterintuitive, establishing a good routine allows you to think less so that you can do more. When you don’t have to think about what you need to do next, you can focus your energy on being proactive and productive.
But remember: When it comes to establishing new routines to follow, start simple. Simple routines are easier to develop into habits.
Eat your frog
We all have something to do in the day that we dread. Rather than ruining your whole day by dreading whatever that task is, get it out of the way first thing.
By getting the worst task out of the way first, you can approach the rest of your day with a more positive outlook.
If you hate the task, figure out ways to make it more tolerable. One way to do that is by rewarding yourself with something fun to look forward to once you complete your dreaded task. Another possible way to do it is to allow yourself to vent to a colleague who may be able to sympathize.
Productivity experts often repeat the phrase: “Work smarter, not harder.” This is going to look different for everyone, but in short, focus your efforts.
Whenever possible, let yourself focus on the work that you love rather than the stuff you don’t. Delegate tasks you do not need to do yourself.
Office organization isn’t just for your physical office. Think about how much work gets done on your computer. Your digital office organization is just as important as your physical workspace.
Go for a good declutter
Just like organizing your physical office space, your digital space can get super cluttered. Sometimes, you need to take the advice of Japanese organizing expert Marie Kondo and do a digital “Konmari” purge.
Get rid of files you no longer need. Does that cute picture of kittens give you joy? Or can you thank it and put it in your digital recycle bin?
Of course, work-related files may be more challenging to get rid of for various reasons. For work files, you can archive them onto a more permanent medium, like an optical disk or USB drive. Uploading files onto a cloud service may also be an option but keep in mind that cloud-based services may not always be secure.
Hotkeys, macros, and more
Do you find yourself repeatedly performing the same set of commands on a program over and over?
For example, if you’re a photographer, you may rate photos from a shoot you want to edit later in Lightroom. Or if you’re a writer, you may have to look to make sure you didn’t use that em-dash that your editor told you not to.
Save yourself some trouble with these types of repetitive tasks by using hotkeys. Hotkeys allow you to map processes in an application to a set of keys. You can program keys onto your existing keyboard. Alternatively, there are dedicated programmable keyboards where you can easily set keys for each application.
Extend your browser
Using your web browser as just a web browser is so last century. If you are not using browser extensions to customize your digital workflow, you are missing out!
Think of extensions as mini-applications that your browser can run to help improve your online browsing experience. Browser extensions can save you precious time and effort.
For example, Grammarly is a proofreading web application. When you install the browser extension, it can proofread your writing as you are typing.
One easy way to help break up your work and help with your digital office organization is to automate tasks. In fact, one software quality assurance engineer allegedly took this to the extreme by automating the entirety of his job for nearly six years!
Of course, you don’t have to go completely overboard when it comes to automation. More importantly, you do not have to be a tech genius, either! There are easy ways to automate some of your more tedious work tasks.
For example, use rules in your email and calendar to help sort email and events in bulk.
Do you use a lot of web applications? Use IFTTT or Zapier to create your own automation scripts with no programming skill required.
Want to automate tasks on Mac or Windows? Check out Automator and Windows Task Scheduler. These may take a little more study to master but being able to set it and forget it is well worth the effort!
Office organization is just one of the keys to eventual success. What good office organization does is enable you to be productive and to spend your time wisely. When your office is organized, with everything in its place and ready for you to use, it’s easy to put in the hard work you need to increase your productivity.
Do you have any tips on how you stay organized in your office? Tell us about it in the comments!