As a professional organizer, there are two common organizing mistakes that make it difficult to maintain order. These two actions are often the root cause of a messy office. No office (at home or otherwise) is perfect, but if you have one of these two habits, the process may be more difficult than it needs to be.
#1 – Setting things aside ‘temporarily’: Almost everyone has a pile of stuff. You know exactly what pile I mean. It’s the random paperwork that’s been sitting on top of your desk for six months, or maybe the file folder that you haphazardly throw everything into.
More often than not, a ‘To Do Later’ pile means that you simply don’t have a home for things or a system for managing your stuff. By setting those items aside rather than creating a system, however, you create clutter that distracts from your daily tasks and impedes productivity.
#2 – Delaying decisions: Just like setting aside a pile of stuff ‘temporarily,’ many people postpone making decisions or stop just short of drawing an answer. It hurts our brains to stop and identify a specific scenario in which we’re going to use something. Often, that’s because we know, realistically, that we’ll never use it, but we just don’t want to give it up.
When working with clients to declutter an office I use Barbara Hemphill’s Art of Wastebasketry questions to help determine what to keep (and more importantly, what NOT to keep) and lead them toward making a decision rather than promoting the habit of ‘I’ll set this aside to think about later.’ You too can use these questions to help guide your decision making.
- Does this require any action on my part? Is there a physical action you need to take (email, call, add to calendar, give to my spouse, etc.) to get the ball rolling? If the answer is ‘no’ – then you need to ask more questions. If the answer is ‘yes’ – how do we get closer to actually performing that action?
- Does this information exist elsewhere? Do you already have this information stored on your computer, or can you find it on the internet? If so, you may want to think about if keeping a physical copy is necessary.
- Can I identify a specific use for this? SPECIFIC being the key word here! Really think about when your future self is actually going to use this information. So many of us keep ‘good information’ that we never actually put to good use. If you can’t identify a specific circumstance when you’ll refer to something, you’re likely going to toss it into your ‘miscellaneous’ file and never look at it again. That just creates clutter. It will stay there until it becomes outdated or irrelevant.
- Are there any tax or legal implications? Does your business have a retention policy for certain types of documents or forms? Is there a legal reason you may need this paperwork at a later date – for instance, is it a signed document from a client? If not, it may not be necessary to keep it.
Clutter and disorganization can creep up on us if we don’t stop it in it’s tracks. One day you have a clean desk and then six months later you’re apologizing for the mess and clearing a spot for someone to sit. Think about if these two habits are habits you’re in the habit of making – they could be the culprits.
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