Office organization: start the new year clutter-free

Office organization: start the new year clutter-free

Every so often, a study comes out detailing how much time people who work in offices waste looking for papers, files and other essentials. Some reports have tagged the figure at as much as an hour a day. The problem appears to be two-fold: poor or non-existent systems for keeping track of things, and excess clutter. Uncluttering and organizing your office and individual work stations can help boost productivity and reduce frustration that leads to stress. Follow this plan to start the upcoming new year clutter-free.

Depending on the depth of clutter you have around your office, decide if it’s worthwhile to declare a “de-cluttering day” when everyone comes in to work exclusively on dealing with the mess, or if it makes more sense to direct each staff member to spend a set amount of time (maybe 20-30 minutes a day) to purge and organize their work areas over the course of a few weeks or a month. Take “before and after” pictures, just for fun.

Train staff to use the “touch it once” system. This means that mail, reports, files and documents should, ideally, be dealt with only once. Picking up the same item again and again before deciding to take action on it, file it or toss it creates unnecessary clutter, and it wastes time to boot.

It’s likely that your office is using an electronic medical record system, but what about all of that other paper that continues to mount up? Set a goal for 2012 to implement systems that will reduce the amount of printing and copying you do in your office. So often, hitting “print” is habitual. Encourage staff to consider saving a document to a computer folder instead of printing a hard copy .

Ask to be taken off the lists of companies that send catalogs you no longer use, magazines that no one reads and junk mail. Visit , , or click here for information from the Federal Trade Commission.

Engage in cord control at each workstation in the office by bundling computer and phone cables with Velcro and, if possible, getting them up off the floor where they tend to collect dust. Go wireless wherever you can.

Once you’ve conquered office clutter, make it easy for your staff to keep their work stations tidy by providing enough trash and recycling bins, and making sure the receptacles are in convenient locations around the office.

Certain staff members may resist office de-cluttering efforts, claiming that they work better with everything imaginable strewn around their work area. In cases like this, you’ll need to reach a compromise because, it’s true that some people do prefer to have essential items in view than in a file drawer or desk-top organizer. Create and enforce rules about what an acceptable maximum level of clutter is for the office (i.e., a stack of files awaiting signatures is fine, but a week’s worth of empty coffee cups is not).

If your practice has become a genuine disaster area due to years and years of ignoring clutter and allowing disorganization to reign supreme, consider hiring a professional who specializes in office environments. Check out the National Association of Professional Organizers to find a reputable organizer.