Piles aren’t necessarily a bad thing.
As long as you are managing them (and not the other way around), they can actually be quite useful.
But if you find that they are impeding your progress instead of supporting it, if you’re constantly working around your piles instead of with them, it’s time to gain the upper hand.
First Things First
- Understand why you pile. Is your workspace really working for you? Do you need a larger area or more storage? A bigger or more efficient desk? Is it a case of needing more consistent, effective habits? Is there something going on in the business that is causing you to drag your feet? Identifying some of the root needs will tell you what your next steps should be.
Create More Workspace
- Utilize closet storage to keep clutter you don’t need or use every day (such as office supplies) out of eyesight.
- Install shelving to get books and other resources off your desk.
- Use binders to group and store certain hardcopy information that can then be shelved.
- Use stack trays. Assign each slot a particular category of information (e.g., by client or project). Instead of taking up several spots across your desk, you are making more use of vertical air space.
- Get some wall slots. These make for perfect to-do bins, in-boxes, or storing active client files. I use magnetic ones that I place on each side of my lateral file drawer. Makes great use of space that would otherwise go unused.
- Add more drawers. If your desk doesn’t have built-in drawers, buy a roll-away file drawer. Drawer space is particularly handy for tickler systems and keeping supplies and info you need regularly at your fingertips, but out of the way.
- Write on the wall. Whiteboards and chalkboards are great for instantly capturing those ideas and to-dos that flitter across your mind. Once completed, you simply wipe them off — a sure-fire cure for post-it clutter. Whiteboards these days also come in magnetic models for double-duty and have come way down in price. Or, paint a wall with chalkboard paint.
Instill More Productive Habits
- Put things away. Everything should have a place of its own. When you are done with something, put it back, if not right then, at least by the end of the day. Make this a habit.
- Observe the rule of 3. When you start to create that fourth pile, you know it’s time to stop, regroup and clear out the clutter. Piles should be a productivity tool, not a default.
- Reserve piles for active projects. These piles might be comprised of any amount of paperwork, notebooks, reference books, etc., and sorted by project. Piles you aren’t actively engaged with need to be dealt with and dispersed.
- Don’t let Shiny Object Syndrome get the best of you. By all means, indulge those creative, entrepreneurial ideas. Store them in a hardcopy or online notebook. But better to finish existing projects first than to start new ones that will only add to your piles, overwhelm and inertia. Completion creates a positive forward momentum in and of itself.
- Use a tickler system. This is a set of hanging file folders numbered 1-31 (one for each day of a month). A ton of desktop paper clutter can be reduced and better managed with this system. Each morning, check that day’s folder. Keep out the work you can do that day. Move any work you can’t forward into the next day’s folder. Store notes and papers with dates and deadlines in the corresponding numbered folders. When that date rolls around, you have everything right there in the folder ready to go.
RESOURCE: Aesthetics are very important to me in my surroundings. I love See Jane Work because they get that business and organization can be both functional and stylish. They always have a large and ever-new selection of binders and desk sets in fashionable colors and designs.
Were these ideas useful to you? Let me know if the comments!