Contributed by Brian O’Connell
In high school I learned that there’s no such thing as “cold” – that the condition we call “cold” is just a lack of heat.
Along those lines, I’d like to suggest that disorganization is just a lack of organization. And it takes time to clean up the chaos that threatens to overwhelm you.
I make CPA websites for a living, which involves plenty of paperwork. I don’t like neatening up my desk every night before I go home, but I have found, after many years, that it actually saves me much more time than it uses.
In the past, I’ve been tempted to hire an assistant just to help keep me organized – but eventually I found that a few simple work habits make all the difference…
Everything in Its Place
Designate a space – a drawer, shelf, closet – for everything you own. Then consider labeling those places. Using labels helps motivate you to clean up, because when you use something, you’ll know exactly where to put it back.
Mind Your Space
The foundation of effective organization is adequate storage space. Be very careful not to bring in more items than you have space for. Once you run out of shelf space there’s not much you can do except pile stuff up on your desk and – gulp – floor. Take some time to buy the stuff you need, and while you’re at it, get a place for temporary storage.
As with Your Keys, So with Your Papers
Do you have a tray near the front door of your home where you can hang house keys and place outgoing mail? Most of us do. It just makes it easier to gather our stuff before leaving the house.
The same principle applies to paperwork. If you’re going to have a meeting or important task that day, go ahead and pull the stuff you’ll need and put it on the desk.
A Few Minutes Here and There…
I know it’s easy to let this one go, but taking a few minutes every couple hours to tidy up can have a huge impact. And try to put away papers, files, and other items as you finish with them. Not only will your place stay cleaner and your mind stay more focused, but also you won’t dread that hour of cleaning to dig yourself out of the hole.
Take Control of Your Logins and Passwords
Constantly forgetting and resetting passwords and login information can become a vicious time sink. In some cases login recovery is impossible and you need to set up all new accounts – a waste of time AND money.
To avoid this frustration, aggregate this Information into a single .txt document. Better yet, if you have a Google account, consolidate your login details in a Google doc so it’s available wherever you happen to be.
Wean Yourself Off Paper
Using an email inbox and emptying it weekly, at least, will greatly reduce the amount of paper you use – which has the benefit of reducing the amount of paper you misplace. You may need to use multiple inboxes – one for home, one for work, or separate inboxes for sales, product development, and employee issues.
Organize Your Appointments, Too
Missing or being late for appointments can REALLY hurt your professional relationships. Use a calendar to keep track of events. Google has a great calendar app. My calendar allows me to publicly post my schedules and availability, which helps my clients and colleagues.
The calendar also reminds me of upcoming events by email and with on-screen pop-ups. This keeps all my scheduling in one place and makes it much easier to keep tasks straight.
In short, staying organized is completely feasible – and the rewards are immense. Keeping your office tidy and logically laid out can definitely help you be more productive, more relaxed, and generally happier in the workplace. Try implementing one or two tips a week. In no time, you’ll be a happier worker, too!
Brian O’Connell is CEO of CPA Site Solutions, a web design firm providing CPA websites, blogging, and other marketing services to accountants, CPAs, bookkeepers, and tax preparers nationwide.