Do you sometimes find yourself sitting at your desk in your office looking at a pile of papers and other clutter and wondering where it all came from? Or perhaps you know exactly where it came from but don’t know how to make it all go away. That feeling of being paralyzed by the mess is very real. It is hard to function when there are so many tasks vying for our attention. We just don’t know where to begin. A cluttered desk reduces our productivity levels significantly and creates a catch 22 situation. We find ourselves unable to complete a task because of the mess of our office papers and the incomplete tasks create more of a mess.
There are a few very simple steps we can take to get on top of our paper clutter, get those tasks done and get that paper filed away.
Step 1) Prioritize your tasks
Determine the most important job to complete today, keep all of the associated materials out for that task and put all of the others away. Don’t try to sort it, simply pile it all up and put it out of sight. This will allow your brain to focus on the one task that is the most important without the constant distraction and guilt of those other unfinished tasks sitting there calling for your attention. Everything you need will be on hand and ready to work with and there will be fewer distractions.
Something that regularly used to happen to me was that I would be in the middle of a project and misplace an important piece of paper. I could even lose it without ever leaving my desk. I would search high and low, wasting time and becoming more and more frustrated. Inevitably that lost piece of paper had become tangled up amongst the other piles of papers on my desk and it wasn’t until I was doing something with them that I would find it. So frustrating. However, if the only papers on the desk are those related to the task at hand, this problem will no longer be an issue at all.
Step 2) Make time to sort
Take time at the end of each day to go through those task you hid out of sight. Identify which can be done quickly and plan to do those straight away the next day. Then go back to step one: Determine the next most important job. You might also like to bundle up all items that relate to that specific task so that they are all together for when you need them and you don’t waste valuable time looking for anything. Then leave this file on your desk so that it is ready as soon as you walk in tomorrow morning and you can begin working on it straight away.
Step 3) File away the completed work
As soon as you have finished working with an item, file it away. Make sure that you label the folders and have a logical filing system so that you are not hunting around should you need to put your hands on something in the future. Doing this immediately will enable to you clear your desk off for the next important task on your list. It will also mean that there is no backlog that you need to spend a chunk of time clearing. If you are anything like me, if you don’t do it straight away, you will put off doing it until there is such a pile it takes a mammoth effort to put it right. Managing the paper as you go along makes the job a whole lot easier.
Of course, while doing this you will also be gaining new tasks to complete. Simply slot these in during step number two when you determine how important and urgent they actually are. Compare the new task to all of the other tasks you have waiting to be completed and manage them in their time and their turn.
Take these three simple steps every day and begin to chip away at those piles of papers waiting for your time and attention. Before you begin your work decide which is the most important work to be doing. Make time to sort out your paperwork in advance so that you have everything you need to complete the task. File away the papers once they are finished.