What you may not have considered is that the time you spend in your office is also your non-billable time. What you do in the office makes sure the money keeps coming in to make you profitable. Therefore, efficiency is extremely important.
REAL ESTATE AND STORAGE
The amount of surface space (desktop) is your primary real estate and it is very valuable. While we may be doing more on computers than ever, paper—writing on it, sorting it and storing it—is still very much a necessity.
Most of us have made the big investments for an office: computer, monitor, printer, fax and maybe a scanner. These machines take up the major part of your real estate. Combining the latter three machines into an all-in-one machine can save you money as well as space. That is the easy part of real estate conservation. Trying to make the best use of the remaining square inches is the biggest challenge.
Take a moment to look over your real estate. How many things do you have sitting on your desktop that really must be there for regular access? How many temporary things are there taking up surface space but will be gone in a couple days? How many unnecessary things are there? Now visually imagine your desktop with all those things gone. Do you have more space than you thought?
If you have never sat down to a completely cleared off desk, you need to try it—at least one time! You will be amazed at the freedom and energy you feel to get your work done. It really is a psychological boost.
Now look at your wall space in your desk area. This is your secondary real estate. With the right tools on the wall you could dramatically increase your storage space.
What you are attempting to do is to change a house and yard cluttered with old furniture, broken toys and weeds into a well-manicured, half-million-dollar home investment. It can be done if you will commit the time to do it, and it will likely require no more than a minimal financial investment.
Now you need to analyze your work flow. The following questions will help you clarify your current situation.
• Where does paper come into your office?
• What is the first stop for the paper? The second? Third? And so on? Follow the paperwork all the way through to billing and the finished product going out the door or the bills being paid.
• What paper/books/data need to be quickly accessed?
• What paper/books/data need to be accessed daily? Weekly? Monthly?
• What is dead information that you must keep but will likely never or rarely be needed? Can it be stored in another place?
• What needs to be included in your reference library? Is the miscellaneous reference material that you save going to remain pertinent five to 10 years from now?
• How often do you need your reference library? Can it be in another room?
• Are you saving things (magazines, mail order catalogs, etc.) that you are likely not to ever need? How many times have you actually used these items?
Write out the answers to the above questions and do a rough diagram of your office. Number in sequence where paper goes in your office, and draw lines with arrows from one to the next. Are your lines crossing over each other?
TUNE UP WHAT YOU HAVE
Before you go shopping for new tools to make your office procedures more efficient, try to make what you have work better. Be sure to have a big trashcan beside you.
The things that you need daily and weekly must be within easy reach from your chair. Have a place on your desk or right beside it for all the things that need your immediate attention.
Monthly things, e.g. bills, should be accessible from your chair if possible. The things that you need only a few times a year or yearly can be stored, but accessible.
A reference library that is rarely used does not have to be accessible from your desk chair. It even can be stored in another room depending how often you use it. If you have never used information you have stored, seriously consider trashing it, especially if it is something that is quickly outdated.
Go through your filing cabinets. Throw out what you really do not need! Consider if you can or should digitize some of the material you do want to keep. When I find good information on the Internet or in e-mail, I copy and paste it to a folder on my hard drive. I also back it up on CD. This takes far less room than a filing cabinet!
Maybe digitizing past information is not time-effective, but think about how you can control the information you regularly collect in the future.
Have a way to purge aging transient information. When I get a new mail-order catalog, I write the month and year on it or circle the expiration date if there is one. As I file it in the drawer, I remove outdated catalogs.
If you have mail-order catalogs and other resources that you have never used but think you might, find the companies on the Internet. Bookmark their Web sites and toss the catalogs.
If you did a work-flow diagram and the arrowed lines crossed each other, then you are wasting time/movement. Try to rearrange your process so that no lines cross. Lines that cross while you are sitting at your desk are not likely to be a problem.
If you found you have lots of notes scattered across your desk and wall, you might find that digital sticky notes are the answer (zhornsoftware.co.uk). Thanks to Minutes Matter, I have this program on my computer and I love it.
After you have finished your reorganization, it’s time to see what you need that could help you even more. Start a list of things you know you can get to help you streamline. Maybe you need a vertical filing unit instead of horizontal files, or maybe you need a place to store your CDs.
You may have needs that you are not sure can be helped. Maybe you just think there has got to be a better way for filing. Add filing help to your list and anything else you wish you could find help with.
The help you are looking for must save or consolidate space, organize your process, and make filing and retrieval more efficient. Also consider anything else that could make your office experience more pleasant. Perhaps a plant or photographs? Look through office stores and catalogs, and online. Some of my greatest finds have not been in any store.
Thriving in a peaceful environment rather than the stress of continual chaos is so important to your mental health. I challenge you to clear your desk just one time in the next month. Then sit there a few minutes and pay attention to how you feel.
Next month, I will show you several tools that can help you enhance your organized office. In the meantime, go schedule a day to systemize your office and don’t forget to schedule a reward!
Kitty Stein, CWP, WCAA past board member, is a 29-year veteran of the drapery workroom industry. She has owned both retail and wholesale drapery workrooms as one person and as a company of nine, and she is the founder and past owner of Workroom Concepts, a consulting firm offering educational resources to the industry. Her experience includes professional speaking and writing for two industry trade magazines. She currently owns Kitty Stein & Co., which supplies industry-specific products she has authored including Order in the Workroom, The Price List, Workroom Specifications, and Price Your Work with Confidence, available through D&WC.