One of the key pieces to getting your daily work accomplished is maintaining and organized workspace. Whether you work from home or work in the office being organized is crucial to maintaining a productive work environment. Your workspace not only says a lot about you but it has a direct effect on HOW you operate. I propose five steps to improve your productivity by improving your workspace.
1.) De-clutter your Workspace
Clutter is the antichrist of productivity. When your workspace is cluttered you wont’ feel organized and you mind itself will start to become cluttered. Every time you turn your head from your monitor you see the mess and the mess will eat at you as one of things you need to deal with but haven’t the time. As your mind becomes cluttered trying to keep up with where the important documents are in all the clutter your productivity will suffer.
Sit down today and make the change to de-clutter your workspace. Shred any uneccessary financial documents, stack up your documents that need to be filed, and recycle the rest. Remove anything from your desk that doesn’t specifically relate to your work, or doesn’t provide value to your work. Once your desk is clear set to work on your “to file” pile.
2.) File Efficiently
How you file your documents will make dealing with documents as they come in considerably more easy and efficient. I file all of my financial and work related documents by using a hanging folder for specific categories and manilla folders within those folders to subdivide the contents. For organizing my finances I use the following structure:
- Taxes – holds all of the information related to my last 7 years of tax returns
- House – hold mortgage and second mortgage statements and contracts
- Insurance – Vehicle 1, Vehicle 2, boat, home, health, and life insurance
- Debts – Credit Card 1, Credit Card 2, Student Loan, Other revolving debts
- Investments – 401k, spouses 401k, IRA, and ROTH IRA
- Cash Accounts – Savings 1, Savings 2, Savings 3, Checking
- Social Security – Holds most recent social security statement for me and my spouse
3.) Eliminate Distractions
TV, Twitter, Facebook, and people are all distractions which vie for your time and keep you from accomplishing the task at hand. Unless you require a TV for your job, like monitoring markets and news for a trader, get it out of your office. You don’t need it and it provides no value to your work day. The next, less easy to get rid, problem is the Internet. You need to mentally prepare for your work day and tell yourself you aren’t going to tool around on the net today. Commit to avoiding it, or only allow you self a certain amount of time to tool around. Following the Internet people are your biggest distraction.
If you work from home you need to ensure you are properly isolated from children and spouses who may be in the home during your working hours. If you have doors close them and lock them so anyone trying to enter has to knock.
If you work in the office in a cube farm it is much more difficult to avoid people. Try to tactfully tell your coworkers you are closed for business unless it is directly related to business. Idle chat, while good, is not good for your work productivity. Catch up on lunch but work during the day.
4.) Plan Your Day
Just like in a war you don’t want to go into battle without a plan. Your plan is how you want to attack your day. The plan could be as simple as a list of tasks to be completed or as complex as a gant chart outlining your project and milestones.
I prefer to use simple todo lists to manage my tasks for the day. As items come in that need to be completed I either do them immediately or add them to my list. In true GTD fashion I flag my todo items as follow up needed, or next action. When I have list of what needs to be done I am able to assess my productivity and ensure I don’t miss out on what needs to get accomplished. When you identify everything you need to do and lay it out in an organized fashion you will breathe more easily.
5.) De-clutter your Inbox
My inbox is the bane of my existence. It seems I am in a constant fight to keep it cleaned up and organized. For my day job I have instituted a system where I label my email as it comes in as one of four categories. It either requires action, is waiting on some else, is reference material, or needs to be deleted.
What I have done is setup search folders for each of the categories so the mail is added to the respective folder when ever I add a category to the message. My Next Action search folder contains all unlabeled mail, Mail marked as action required, and mail marked as waiting on. The other folders are used to identify mail for either archiving or deleting.
I try to maintain a similar structure in my gMail box by using labels but I fail most of the time to adequately filter those messages. What you want to reach is an inbox that only contains those items requiring you to take some action. If you label the mail as it comes in it should filter itself out to delete, reference, or action required depending on the category you assign it to. However you do it you want to be at a point where your inbox is empty and your mail has been categorized so you know what to do with it, what requires follow up, and what you are waiting for responses on.
This list is by no means an end all be all of organization for your office. I hope to have given you some groundwork to get your ship in order. I can assure you that if you take these five steps you will have better piece of mind about you work and will likely be more productive.