Over the years, working at home all the time, I’ve tried different ways to get organized, with much trial and error. Some worked, some didn’t. I tried some of those fancy looking matching desk sets. They looked beautiful and for some, I’m sure they are perfect. But for me, they took up too much valuable space. Space I needed to proof my work, keep my reference books, or keep those essentials that I use on a regular basis. For me, when I work I want everything within an arms reach. I want to have immediate access to the tools I need to complete my assignments.
I have a kitchen desk, and on it I have my laptop, printer, and about 2 years ago, the phone. Beside my desk I have a two-drawer filing cabinet. This was possibly the greatest thing I’ve ever done to organize my business. I learned this long ago when I studied GTD by David Allen. In it I have my files and supplies that I use on a regular basis, such as, client designs, client files, a file for my receipts, all personal letters, paper, folders, etc.
Whenever these files get bulky with client documents, I simply empty them into the main filing cabinet. For example, my main clients in my website design biz, whom I’ve been working with for almost 15 years, their files in the main cabinet are quite large. It’s nice to have the smaller file close by with just their recent updates. Plus, when I need a folder, an order slip for my books, a copy of my stationery, it’s all right there. AAAHHH, now that’s convenience.
Now for the receipts’ and bills file. We keep it monthly. Everybody in the house knows that. At the beginning of the month, I simply replace the file with the new month’s file. That way, at tax time, I don’t have to go through a whole year’s receipts and divide it up. It’s already separated.
Here are some other organizational tips you might find beneficial:
Mail—We have a round basket by a small table by the front door. All incoming mail goes in there first. Then when I have the opportunity to sort through it, I get it and put it in its appropriate place. Always pitch anything you aren’t keeping. All business-related mail is sorted and put away immediately. Anything that might need work done on it is logged into my Daytimer and then put in the To Do Bin.
Desk—Your desk should have on it only those items that you use on a regular basis. Look around. What haven’t you used in the last month or two? Start dumping. Find another spot for it. But find the RIGHT spot for it.
No Piling of Anything Allowed. This is one of those habits that can be so easy to get into. Definitely one that I catch myself doing a lot! But I stop myself now because I know it will just be brushed off to the side and forgotten. Too often I miss something important and regret the piling blunder again. You will be amazed how much more organized you will feel if you just don’t do this one thing. And time yourself. You think you are too busy, but it takes seconds and how long does it take to look for that missing document.
Daytimer—Now this isn’t only for Time Management. Your Daytimer can have a space for all your business cards, keys, notebooks, etc. How great it is to have all these right in the same place. On the date of your appointment, you simply grab your things and off you go. Also, I have Outlook to log in appointments as well. It has a calendar and I can look to it to get a feel for the day and the week to follow.
Three-ring Binders – I saved my best for last. I got this practice from Anakin’s homeschool. I do a lot of research in doing publicity for clients and also have a lot of e-mails that I need to print and save. I use paper that already has the wholes punched for insertion into a 3 ring binder. I will print out some really important research, client e-mails I need to save, work that I’ve done so I can review it later, etc., on this paper and then put it into the proper binders. I have a binder for all clients, research, PR, myself, and miscellaneous. You would be amazed how clearer things are in a binder than tossed in a file cabinet. For my business it works tremendously. (Not everything gets printed though. I only choose the most important things to save on paper, ink, and the environment!)
Start the beginning of the day and the end of the day with a clean-up. That’s a really awesome feeling. When you are done with a project, away it goes. When you start the next project, out comes all the material you need.
There’s nothing like the feeling of sitting down in the morning to a nice clean organized desk and office. Once you feel this a couple of days, you want to experience this every day so you’ll take the appropriate steps to make it happen.