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As tele-working has become a viable option in crowded metros and more home-based businesses have emerged, the concept of “the workplace” has evolved. No longer is “the office” exclusively a corporate space provided by an employer. Here are five simple tips from my book, “Organize Your Office In No Time,” to help you get organized, increase productivity and maximize your success, no matter where your office may be.

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1. Be Consistent. Business success depends on developing effective processes and routines and using them consistently. Use one calendar for scheduling meetings and appointments, and use it consistently. Do your administrative processes the same way each time. File information the same way from one day to the next. Identify places for all your items and always store them in their homes so you can find what you need quickly. The more consistent your routines, the fewer things that will fall through the cracks.

2. Schedule Catch-Up Time. Even if you normally handle quick tasks in the moment, when you’re working on something important, rather than interrupt your work, it’s often better to keep a running list of tasks to do later. Schedule some “catch-up time” each week devoted strictly to handle the items on your list and re-organize your desk. This time can be as long as a half-day or as short as an hour, but it’s a crucial element in staying caught up on your work and eliminating further procrastination. Scheduling and using catch-up time gives you a fresh start for the day ahead.

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3. Zone Your Space. Mentally divide your workspace into “zones” to ensure you can find what you need easily. Zone One is the area nearest to you as you’re sitting down. This should be reserved for frequently accessed items such as pens, stapler, your computer, and telephone. Zone Two is a little farther away and includes your closet, the walls or the credenza behind you. This area should be used to store items you refer to regularly, but not necessarily every day or even every week. Items include printer paper, software programs, reference manuals and the like. Zone Three is out of your office — a basement, central supply closet, or storage facility. This area is used for archival information, extraneous furnishings, historical items, bulk storage of marketing or promotional materials. The specific items you keep in your zones may vary, depending on your industry and work style, but the key to choosing the most appropriate zone is evaluating how frequently you access each item.

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4. Guard Your Minutes. Hours are made of minutes, and lost ones add up quickly! There will always be people who seem to have nothing better to do than steal your minutes by calling just to chat, or standing in your office droning on about their weekend while you’re trying to work. Maximize your productivity by guarding your time and setting boundaries on how you’ll use it. Close your door if you have one, as a signal others to give you privacy to work. If you’re a cube dweller, check out Cube Guard as a cute alternative to a door. Cut phone calls short or better yet, let them go to voicemail unless they’re of an urgent nature. Time is your most valuable resource, so guard your minutes to make every hour count.

5.  Know Your Priorities. When choosing how to allocate your time each day, it’s important to know which tasks and projects are your highest priorities so you don’t waste time on unimportant things. If you’re not sure which tasks should take priority, ask a superior, a co-worker or evaluate the consequence of delaying each task. When you complete your tasks from the highest priority to the lowest, you accomplish what is important and increase your effectiveness and success.

Organization is not only about having the right organizing tool, although that’s an important piece of the puzzle. Of the six tips offered, three of them address aspects of time management, because it is very closely intertwined with organization. The better you manage your time, the more you can devote yourself to being organized in other ways, which in turn, helps you manage your time even better in the future. It’s an upward, positive spiral once you get it started. These six tips will help you streamline your time, your office space and processes, ultimately increasing your effectiveness, productivity and success.

Monica Ricci founded Catalyst Organizing Solutions in 1998 and has been helping people change their lives ever since.

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