Getting and Staying Organised at the Office

When things get busy at the office, we sometimes let messes and clutter pile up rather than taking the time to get organised. Then, before we know it, it’s ten minutes before an important meeting and the report we need is nowhere to be found! Being disorganised at work, in addition to causing these moments of panic, can interfere with your ability to focus and reduce your resiliency, meaning you won’t spend as long working at difficult tasks. Research shows that a neat work environment allows us to focus to the best of our ability and process new information effectively. Here are some tips for getting organised at work.

Get Your Workspace in Order Using the P-L-A-C-E Method

Start by doing a paperwork purge - make a “toss” pile for things you don’t need (old takeout menus, memos that are no longer relevant, etc), a “store” pile for things you should keep on file, and a “to-do” pile for items that need addressing. Then, use the P-L-A-C-E method to organise all of your other supplies: Purge any items you don’t need, put Like with like (group your items together), place items according to Access needs (extra supplies shouldn’t take up valuable desk real estate!), Contain your things with storage containers, drawer dividers, and other organisational equipment, and Evaluate after you’ve spent some time working within your new system - you may need to make adjustments.

Organise Your Digital Life

Digital tools like email and online calendars can be incredibly helpful in keeping us on track, but they can bog us down if not managed properly. First, tackle your email backlog, putting old emails into folders according to the year in which they were received. Then, develop a labeling system for incoming emails in the future. You can create labels such as “Needs Response,” and “Discuss with Manager,” so you can label emails even if you’re not able to respond to them right away. Don’t let emails remain in your inbox if there isn’t an action item associated with them - use the “delete, forward, or file” rule to keep your inbox clean. Use online tools such as Evernote to track to-do lists, so you can access your lists from any device. Make sure your calendars are synced across all your devices so you only have to check one of them to see your schedule.

Commit to Staying Organised

Once your physical and digital workspaces are in order, you’ll want to create a system that helps you stay organised. It’s a lot of work to sort through thousands of emails and piles of paperwork, and developing a system will allow you to avoid having to do it all over again a few months down the road. Schedule an hour each day to sort through unanswered emails and address unfinished tasks. At the end of the hour, tidy up your desk to get rid of any clutter and possibly uncover forgotten items. Develop checklists for tasks that you complete frequently to avoid errors and to keep you on track. Finally, you might consider creating a “meeting bin” where you keep items that you’ll need in upcoming meetings. If you think of something that you’ll need at your next meeting, add it to the bin to ensure you remember to bring it along without creating additional clutter.

Recommended Reading

If you need help with the organisation process, here are some books we can recommend:

Get Organized: How to Clean Up Your Messy Digital Life by Jill E. Duffy

Based on a weekly column Duffy writes for PC Mag, this ebook is a starter guide for organising and managing technology. Beginning with your computer desktop and working up to your smartphone calendars, Duffy explains how to manage your digital life, protect your data, and maintain your online presence.

Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen

The main premise of this book is that when our minds are clear and our thoughts are organised, we can reach our maximum productivity levels. Allen outlines how to overcome feelings of being overwhelmed, delegate effectively, and plan projects efficiently.

Organizing From The Inside Out by Julie Morgenstern

Professional organiser Julie Morgenstern shares the techniques she has been using with clients for over ten years now, and outlines how to avoid common pitfalls. In addition to sharing practical tips, Morgenstern explores the psychological processes involved in creating and getting rid of messes, so you can learn to work with your personality rather than against it.  

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo

Marie Kondo outlines a unique organisation system that moves away from the “little-by-little” approach, which often leaves you picking away at piles of clutter indefinitely. The KonMari method helps you clear clutter on a category-by-category basis, keeping only items that “spark joy,” inspiring a calm, motivated mindset.

It may seem like a daunting task to sort through all the clutter and get organised, but you’ll find it much easier to remain calm and focused at work once you do. Make sure to put a system in place that will help you stay organised, so you can continue to benefit from all your hard work.