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Six Essential Steps to an Organized Desk

Today is National Clean off your Desk Day! Focus on visual results today. Corral your papers into meaningful places, so you can see what you have and start getting things done.

Monday, Jan. 9 is National Clean off your Desk Day! Focus on visual results today.  Corral your papers into meaningful places, so you can see what you have and start getting things done.

Most folks are capable of sorting and piling papers into categories. Before they can finish, though, they find they need to reclaim their work space and the papers get piled again and set aside. The desk remains messy, and they never feel "done."

Papers are a challenge because they typically represent something else, like a memory, an event, a task to complete or an idea we want to keep. Acknowledging that, you need a physical storage system for your papers and ideas, and the motivation and perseverance to finish and maintain your system.  Here’s the plan: 

  1. Remove non-work items from your desk (see list from last year's blog.
  2. Set up a physical system (per Freedom Filer) for Passive Papers:
    • Passive Papers have been acted upon, and now wait for a pre-determined time until they are no longer needed for reference (e.g., receipts, paid bills, balanced bank statements, etc.).
    • The storage system consists of 24 hanging folders in an open top vertical holder on your desktop. Label 2 folders for each month, with "- Even Year" or "- Odd Year" tacked on the end. You’ll have two years of folders, one set for last year (2011, ending in "- Odd Year"), and one for this year (" -  Even Year"). The Odd Year folders hold 2011’s papers, and you will add to the Even Year folders 2012. Few papers should be kept longer than two calendar years. 
  3. Set up a physical system for Active Papers in the same type of holder on your desk top. Name folders based on What Actions To Take or By Project, or sometimes, both! For Example:
    • Actions To Take: Receipts for Reimbursement; Make Calls; Pay Bills; Complete Forms; or Coupons, gift cards and shopping ideas.
    • By Project (examples from my desk): Past clients to call; Proposal for Productivity Class Series; LLC Research / Paperwork; Event Folder, Communion Party; Strategic Management, product development ideas.
  4. Set up a box for Archival Papers / Treasures. Archival Papers are long-term papers, from home purchases, filed taxes, appliance manuals / warranties, wills, etc. Treasures are school projects, travel papers, received greeting cards, photos, etc. These are projects for another day, get them off your desk.
  5. Grab two bags, one each for papers to shred later and recycling, and start distributing your desk papers to their new homes. Grab a notebook and jot ideas down as they occur to you, do not get distracted and lose focus.
  6. Now, Get Up and Put Your Stuff Away. Distribute your papers to your new folders, deliver other items that need to go elsewhere in your home or office. Bask in the glow of your clean desk top, then tackle another pile, using the same steps. You can do this!

This is part of the Jan. 9 edition of Colleen CPO's Blog.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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