Management March 29, 2010 Last updated March 29th, 2010 734 Reads share

Less Mess = Less Stress

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How many of you have a messy desk? Do you have files, papers, magazines and piles of clutter all over it?  Have you even forgotten what colour your desk is under the mess?  If you said yes to any of these questions then perhaps the time has come to clean it.

A clean and tidy desk will reduce stress and boost good time management.  Some study suggests that about 15% of our time is wasted looking for misplaced files, paperwork or that post it that you scribbled a phones number or email address on.  The trouble with not keeping paperwork under control is that it piles up, and then your desk ends up as a storage area rather than a workplace.

Where to start for a clean desk –

Cleaning your desk properly may take all day so its best to make a date for this job and block off a realistic amount of time, but once a date is made then stick with it.  Get the supplies you need in advance, some things you will need are –

  • Paper files
  • A black marker
  • Filing Trays
  • A waste bin
  • A recycling box
  • A Shredder
  • Holding boxes & File boxes
  • A4 box file

Sort the surface of your desk –

Clear everything off the top of your desk; this is the time to sort through all the clutter and to decide what you keep or what gets tossed. The following are an example of the essentials that you absolutely need on your desk –

  • Computer & Printer
  • Phone & Fax machine
  • Paper trays
  • Desktop diary and calendar
  • Notebook and a few pens
  • One or two photo frames maximum

Now its time to tackle that paper work –

Use a good management system for paper, most of all clutter on desks is paper so break it down like this –

Inbox –Use a standard stack-able letter tray; place all documents that you haven’t had time to deal with yet here, from post that just arrived to files given by colleagues for your attention.  Ideally this tray is dealt with twice a day; a good idea is to deal with this tray every evening before you finish your day so that you have a clean, empty tray for the next morning.

A good process for your inbox paperwork is quite easy; break it down like such –

  1. Do it – if it takes less that a couple of minutes get into the habit of just doing it.
  2. Delegate it – If you are not the right person to do it then send it to the correct person for the job.
  3. Defer it – If it takes more than a couple of minutes and you do not have the time to deal with it place it in your action tray.

Incubate Box – place another tray on top of your inbox and place all paperwork and items that are not ready to be dealt with yet.  These can be anything from project sketches and ideas to invitations or information on upcoming events.

Action Tray – Place all paperwork requiring an action from you in here, from forms to be filled out to documents to be read and reviewed.  You do need to keep a close eye on your action file as much of this paperwork often comes with a deadline.

Projects Rack – use a small file box to hold all folders for active projects that are happening now and once projects end file the folder in archives within your filing cabinet.  For each new project create a paper file marking the project on the front with a black marker, this is a good habit to get into.

Filing Cabinet – if you haven’t got one then it’s a good idea to invest in one.  This should be used for projects with are completed and archived.  If you run your own business this is a good place to store all bills and documents that apply to the business.

Dump boxes (rubbish bin, recycling box and shredder) – As you sort through your entire paperwork mountain place your clutter in the boxes that apply, recycle all that you can (such as old magazines, company handouts etc), shred any paper work that may be sensitive and be sure to empty these boxes regularly.

Now that you have dealt with the surface of your desk, clean it, get out the furniture cleaner & a duster and wipe down your desk, clean the surface of your computer and printer, and polish the glass on your photo frames.  Once you get this far you can start on your drawers applying the same principle.

Once you have done all of this stand back and take a look, how does your desk look now? Does it look more inviting? Does it look like a place where you can be happy to work for hours at a time?  A clean and organized desk makes you feel better and is a good first step towards better time management in the workplace (or the home).  You desk serves a purpose, you should be able to process, store and retrieve whatever you need quickly and with ease.  Your desks purpose it to help you produce, the cleaner and tidier it is the more effective and efficient you will be.

So what does your desk look like?

Catherine A Connors

Catherine A Connors

I am a Stress Management Coach (also a Holistic & Natural therapist and teacher). I am dedicated to managing stress, resilience and well-being, my training courses and consultancy are designed to help create a working (or home) environment where resilience is enhanced and well-being is protected, allowing people to respond positively to challenges and perform at their best. I provide in-house training courses, consultancy and workshops to private and public sector organisations (also one-on-one sessions). I specialise in providing practical training for managers and employees aimed at minimising the risk of stress and enhancing well-being within the organisation.

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