Is your desk littered with Post-It Notes, old client invoices and random pieces of mail? Is your chair overflowing with samples from your last client visit? If you answered “yes” to either (or both) of these questions, here’s a fact that may make you re-think your sloppy ways: More than 77% of businesspeople said that a messy workspace hampers their productivity, according to a survey by Office Max. Even more sobering: According to the Datapro/Gartner Group, the average employee spends 400 hours a year searching for paper documents. Stop wasting time and increase your productivity by using these four tips to get organized at work now.
Clean off your desk. If your desk is messy, it will keep you from being productive—and, people will judge you, says Claire Grundman, an organizational psychologist. “Fair or not, people look at a messy desk and see the desk’s owner as being scatterbrained—maybe even as someone who can’t be trusted to handle a project,” she said. If your desk has more than five things on it, Grundman says, clear off everything and decide what you really need to keep. “Most things can be thrown away, and those that can’t should be filed neatly somewhere,” she advises. So, what stays on the desk? Grundman recommends keeping a To-Do list front and center, along with any immediate paperwork. “Personal photos are okay, but only keep a favorite or two,” she says. “Remember, you’re in a place of business, not at home. Save the big photo gallery for Facebook.”
Use a single calendar. Whether you keep track of appointments and due dates on electronic calendars or paper ones or both, choose one calendar that works best for you and use only that one to keep track of everything. “It’s too confusing to go back and forth on multiple devices or calendars,” Grundman says. “You’ll be less likely to miss out on an important date if everything is in one place.”
Store your samples. Promotional product distributors get samples all of the time, and while they’re important sales tools, they’ll clutter up an office space quickly if left in a heap on a chair or desktop. Find a storage area where you can put them in labeled bins so that you can easily find them when needed.
Keep a To-Do List. Use a notebook or electronic day planner to write down the important tasks you need to accomplish each day. To stay focused, considering setting deadlines for each task. For example, you may allot an hour in the morning for cold calls, and an hour in the afternoon to work on a client RFP. “By setting these kinds of time limits, you’re more likely to keep on task,” Grundman says. If you don’t complete a given task that day, place it on a future day’s task list to make sure that it is not forgotten.