Having stacks of paper on your desk can make you appear to be busy and have a big workload, but they can also cost you time and productivity by forcing you to sort through them every time you need to find something.  Yet we continue to let things pile up, along with our stress levels.

Has a coworker ever come to your desk when you were away, looking for something they knew you had but couldn’t find it?  You return to find them searching through your stacks and that feeling of panic increases as you worry about your piles getting disorganized.  Well there are a few simple steps you can take to get rid of the piles and stay organized and more productive.

  1. Get over the pile = productive mentality. We judge the busyness of others based on their desks.  The more you have piled on there, the busier you must be (although there is a point where they are seen as messy and too lazy to file anything).  It’s great to have a clean desk and you will actually be more productive and have less stress if everything is put in its correct place.  You will also be able to access paperwork much more easily if you know where it is.
  2. Have the resources.  It is hard to stay organized if you don’t have a system and a place for everything.  If you need to keep paperwork, make sure you have a place for it.  Make sure you have plenty of folders, file cabinets or banker’s boxes, and all the resources you need to get and stay organized.  Also important is a paper shredder and a garbage can.  Use file labels, alphabetizing and consistent file names to make filing as easy as possible for you.
  3. Have a schedule. Keep in mind your organization schedule does not and should not be the same for everything.  Some paperwork can be filed immediately while others are pending approvals or payments.  Just make sure you understand and keep to the different schedules.  It can also be very helpful to keep a “pending” area where this paperwork can be kept so you know exactly where to find it once you have what you need to file it.
  4. Go paperless. I am fortunate enough to have a great scanner to easily scan my paperwork to my email, so not only do I have a copy filed in my email, I have folders where I can easily virtually file my documents.  This makes it incredibly easy to find and file my paperwork without having to dig through folders.  I also have the ability to search using Google Desktop as well as store copies online using Google Documents or Dropbox.
  5. Stick to it. Once you’ve gotten rid of your piles and improved your organization, the hard part is over and all you need to do is to maintain it.  Whenever you see piles start to form, go through the paper and start filing.  You will notice a relief come over you as you put everything in its place.
Staying organized not only benefits you, it benefits those around you.  Several times, I have been able to assist coworkers because they have been unable to find paperwork or emails.  By staying organized, you are seen as being organized and reliable. 

What steps do you take to improve your organization?