How To Solve Your Biggest Organization Problems
by Orrin Broberg, on Nov, 28, 2013
A place for everything and everything in its place, right? Easier said than done. Life is hectic enough by itself but when you’re trying to juggle multiple tasks at work while keep everything running smoothly you can quickly find yourself overwhelmed. Ironically, the more “free” time you have, the more organized you likely are. Unfortunately the less organized you are, the faster things fall apart. That means there are a whole lot of busy people out there struggling to keep their heads above water.
Organization is essential for efficient workflow but it takes a little work (sometimes a little more than a little) to get organized. Below you’ll find common organizational problems that many people face at home and on the job. With a little creative thinking and some elbow grease you can streamline you operation so you can stay on top.
Buried In Paper
Paper in filing cabinets. Paper in bank boxes. Paper in drawers. Paper piled on every flat surface you can find. It’s easy to find yourself under a mountain of printouts, reports, mail, and notes (many of which you no longer need) but not so easy to dig your way out. The best solution is—of course—proactive: build a system and stick to it.
The first, and most essential, step is to eliminate any unneeded excess…with a vengeance. Look through the paper you collect everyday—sales reports, printed emails, memos, promotional materials—and if it’s something you don’t need or never use, recycle it. But that’s not enough. If you don’t stop the clutter at the source it’s just going to come back and you’ll have to deal with it all over again. Instead, go to the party responsible, whether that’s your sales team, your boss, your department heads, or just an automated feature of a piece of software and opt out. Keep in mind that in the digital era you hardly ever need hardcopies of anything and if you do—the digital copies are easy enough to retrieve.
Store the documents you do need in binders, filing cabinets, or bank boxes, but don’t hold onto them forever. Every document comes with a deadline. For example, some sales reports can be tossed after the quarterly review. Most tax documents can be shredded after seven years. Some memos don’t even need to last the week. Be wise about your discretion but be vigilant and be forceful when it comes to cutting clutter.
The next step is having a neatly organized filing system—cabinets, boxes, portable totes, whatever works for you. Make sure these aren’t in your immediate office. By keeping them out of site they’re not constantly in your face and won’t contribute to your stress level.
Lastly, you have to use your new sorting system as documents come in. Never let anything set on your desk for more than a day unless it’s something you are actively using. File it away.
Constantly Losing Files/Documents
Once you have a handle on the hardcopies, it’s time to tackle your digital filing. You should have a system of folders and subfolder for these digital documents as well that’s organized hierarchically so you can easily put your hand on a piece of information when you need it. One trick is to name folders by date or project. That way everything is right in one spot.
However, you also have to be smart about naming your files to begin with. Keep the filenames short and snappy, but never fail to make them descriptive. If you carve too many vowels out just to make it short you’ll likely forget the name and have a hard time tracking down the file when it’s needed.
Always archive older files. This follows the same logic as the paper filing—if you don’t use it regularly, you don’t need to be staring it in the face every time you turn around. It might be wise to invest in a separate hard drive or even a cloud-based storage solution for your archive material. This will allow you to keep a backup on hand that is not dependent on the health of your computer.
Lost in the Inbox
Email is great, but it just keeps coming and coming. Apply the following tips to your inbox and your email client can actually do most of the work for you. Set up a folder and sub-folder system by project or contact type (co-workers versus customers, for example). Then, use your email client’s setting options to set rules for incoming mail. Junk and spam should be trashed right away. Other incoming messages should be sorted by sender or keyword. That way your digital mail is sorted for you and all you have to do is read it.
It’s also a wise idea to use your settings options to send yourself a copy of the outgoing email or (as some clients do) save a copy of the message. That way you can avoid getting lost during a digital conversation.
Don’t Forget to Follow Up
We’re constantly bombarded with requests and good ideas throughout the workday but many of those get pushed out of our brains within minutes of being put in there. That’s why it’s important to make lists. Carry a notebook or business journal around with you wherever you go. Digital options are also available for your smartphone or tablet but can provided more of a distraction that their paper counterparts when those email and text notifications keep popping up.
In short, write everything down.
If you promise to research the answer to a question your boss asked you, write it down. If you made an appointment to meet with a customer next week, write it down. If you brainstormed an idea for solving your staffing imbalance during peaks seasons, write it down. Your brain isn’t as infallible as you would like to believe and a little reminder every now and again will you keep your organized and on track.
Try and Try Again
The people who have the hardest time with organization are the ones who try to get ahead of the problem then slack off. Tackling inefficiency is a never-ending prospect. You have to stick with it when the going gets tough and, especially, when it gets easy. It’s surprisingly simple to “let things slide” after you’ve enjoyed a little success but don’t fall into the trap. If you do, you’ll find yourself right back where you were before in no time.
Instead of keeping track of numerous printed sales, marketing, and other promotional documents, consider going completely digital with our product. Not only will it save on time and space, it will likely make your team more effective and efficient.