The Key to Efficiency is Effective Organisation
Photos: This Brit & STIL & Unsplash
Business is a strange place. If you’re fortunate enough to work for yourself or for an innovative, creative and forward thinking company then it’s likely that you will mainly work on a digital space with little to no paperwork. Unfortunately for the majority of other organisations, paperwork is a key part of everyday processing, and therefore keeping an organised and tidy desk can be difficult, particularly when you’re busy and have a million things you need to do. In the finance industry, paperwork plays a key role in record keeping, we keep a digital and paper copy of absolutely everything, which means that 90% of the time, there is a fine coating of paperwork scattered over my desk.
Most industries become busier around this time of year, whether its gearing up for tax year end or the new spring season, our schedules get busier and that’s when it can be difficult to remain efficient, organised and stress free. I heard somewhere that your house usually reflects your mind, if you have an extremely clean and styled house, then your mind will likely also be clean and organised. As we spend most of our time at work, imagine this is the same for your work mind linked to your desk. The more stressed I am, the messier my desk is for sure.
For the next couple of months, I will be expected to manage a small team of people in addition to my own schedule. I’m pretty nervous as it will be the first time that I will be properly responsible for other people rather than just myself. For a few months, I’ve been paying attention to my manager’s way of managing people, and I can see that when he’s is feeling the pressure, it stresses out the rest of the team; I know I can quite easily lose my head so I want to avoid that next month. So here are a few things that I will be implementing in order to keep myself stress free, organised and efficient, in the hope that it will have the same impact on the team.
Regularly take a break to re-organise
It’s unlikely that when you’re working, all of the paperwork stays in their respective piles. The easiest way I find to combat piles of paperwork is to find a flow through my desk. If you’re looking to do the same, think about where paperwork comes into your desk, sits pending to be processed, moves to for processing, and finally where it goes before it leaves.
My mum taught me to have always have an “in tray” and an “out tray” on my desk, whether that was at work, home or anywhere else that I was working. Such a simple tip has worked wonders for my organisation. I have mine stacked on top of each other, however you may like to have a conveyor belt style of working, where their in trays and out trays are at opposite ends of your desk. Whatever your working style, this is a great thing to introduce. You then have to think about any other trays or groups of paperwork you might need, I have two types of “out trays” as paperwork leaves my desk in two ways, either it needs to be scanned onto the system and archived, or it needs to be passed onto someone else for processing. I also introduced a pending tray, for when I need to sort through a bulk print job, this might work for you so you have a place to put any work that isn’t necessarily new onto your desk but still needs processing.
Effective storage is easily the most important thing to master when you want to be highly organised. If you haven’t found a storage system that works for you then, then it will be impossible to actively follow any of the other tips in this post. Depending on the way you work, and the type of work you do, different storage systems will be right for you. Whilst a filing cabinet will work for one person, a folder system might be perfect for another, alternatively, you may not need a filing system at all, and may simply need a storage box to archive old paperwork. The organisation you work in will have a specific way they like to organise things, although this might not work for you, it’s important to have a cohesive filing system across the whole company, therefore, make sure your top level filing is accessible to other people and is managed like the rest of the organisation’s work is, then your day to day filing can be organised however you like.
An example of this, is that we have company wide filing systems. We then have storage cupboards per team, and these are used by each team to organise themselves however they wish. We also have individual drawers for personal filing. Depending on the size of company, and your influence, will depend on how much of an impact you can have and what changes you can make. Find a filing method that works for you and the company you work in, and then spend some time organising yourself and your storage areas to suit that system. As your role evolves, so will your filing habits, so continually making little tweaks will give you the space to stay focused.
Make as much space as you can on your desk, without sacrificing comfort because this will give you enough space to work with and create a workflow. If you have a relatively small desk compared to the amount of paperwork you have to work with it can feel much more overwhelming than if you have a large desk. At our office, we do not have control over the size of our desks, nor do we have control over where we sit, therefore we have to work with the space we are given. Although some people need trinkets, photo frames and other bits and pieces on their desk to make them feel at home, I don’t like having that on my desk, but I’ll talk about that in a later section. To make as much room as possible on my desk, I have pushed my computer screen to the back of the desk, and I have key (non-confidential) information stuck to my screen. On the top of our screens, we are required to have a name tag, on this name tag you are supposed to write a motivational quote, or something that means something to you, but instead I wrote down all of the phone numbers and email addresses for our team so on a call I have the information easily accessible and I don’t have to waste time trying to remember them.
We have an open plan office, and therefore do not have cubicles, or walls we can pin things to; so I use my screen to put important notes on so I can refer to them every day. If you have cubicles or an actual office, you will find it easier to keep things off of your desk, using shelving and storage cupboards to your advantage.
Stationary is a great way to inject your personality into your desk which is also extremely useful. There is so many different types of stationary out there, and I’m sure you’ll find more than enough that matches your aesthetic and personality. Corporate offices are extremely plain, dull and counter-productive in many situations. Florescent lighting and stuffy air conditioned spaces create a dark and uninspired environment, but that doesn’t necessarily mean your desk has to be as dry as the office that surrounds you.
Paperchase is full of brightly coloured and fun desk accessories, or if you are looking for something more unique take a look at CB2. No matter what your style is, injecting your personality onto your desk will keep you motivated and might even help you to enjoy your job more, particularly in those busy periods.
Trays and Folders
Just like your stationary, injecting your personality into your storage is important. It may not be possible to use your own folders, as the files may need to fit with the company’s branding however, if you are using folders to keep your own work organised, and it won’t necessarily be touched by the rest of the organisation then go for it.
I have discussed the importance of trays above, and these we use on a regular basis across the whole office. Folders on the other hand – I personally hate them, because it means I have paperwork I need to store. At the moment we are trying to digitise everything, and keep folders to a minimum, but when we do have them, they are carefully organised, frequently updated and in regular use. Using dividers and discussing as a team the best way to organise paperwork so that it is accessible and easily labelled is really important. As a team, we use different coloured dividers for different things, but we also clearly label them so anyone new to the team understands how we work.
In your office, have a think about how you would like things to be organised, and whether colour coding, or folder storage would be helpful. Trial something new on your desk, and if you find it works, ask the team their thoughts and whether you can role it out across everyone. Getting everyone to invest in your idea and get on board.
Extra ‘fun’ items
Effective organisation does not mean that you can’t inject your personality into your work space. Personally, I prefer to ensure everything on my desk has a purpose, I’m not a fan of having photo frames, toys and sentimental items cluttering my work space, I find them distracting and I’m not at work to feel homely, and to be honest, I would rather keep work and home separate, however other people are different and need those things to stop them from feeling home-sick, and find comfort and motivation from these things. I recommend finding out what works for you, if you are a person who likes to display those items at work, keep them out of the usual workflow area, so you don’t continually knock them over, or end up working around them.
I actually only have one item on my desk which came from outside of the office, and that is a small spongy cat which sits in the corner of my keyboard. My friend has one on her desk too, (I love the fact they’re the same) sometimes she’s the only person who gets me through the day at work, and everyone can tell when we’re both feeling the pressure because both cats will look a little worse for wear.
She was actually the one who bought it for me, and it’s the best thing ever. It’s got a really fat belly which is fun to poke and tug on when on a long phone call (especially if the customer is angry, it’s helpful to push my frustration into this than take it out on them). One day I’d like to get a plant and some cool stationary, but that’s only after I start to feel settled there. I guess the cat is a bit like a stress ball or a fidget thing, do you have anything like that on your desk at work?
I would like to think that I’m an organised person, and I always feel much better when my house and work space is organised properly. Are you the same as me, or do you find it quite easy to operate when things are a little messier, or not so clean cut? My colleague finds it quite easy to work with loose piles of things on her desk, and she is super efficient and great at her job; I just don’t know how she does it! If you’re like her, or like me, let me know in the comments what you do to stay organised when you’re stressed?