Friday, August 7, 2015

Put Everything in Its P-L-A-C-E - Part 3

In the first two installments of discussing how to organize your office, we looked at organizing your files and books, but if you’ve been working in your office for a longer time, it may be time to take aggressive action against clutter. To clear it of clutter and organize items for easy access and appearance, you’ll need to use the P-L-A-C-E process.

You can start decluttering your office by using the five steps in P-LA-C-E—Purge, Like-with-Like, Access, Contain, and Evaluate.

Purge: First, clear your space of clutter by dumping, donating, or distributing everything you no longer need. Whether you toss the dried-up pens in your desk drawer, clean out old files, toss away outdated research, or donate the books you no longer need, purging can ernpower all your organizing efforts. And you’ll see immediate results. As you get rid of those things that have built up over the years you’ve been in business, you’ll uncover additional storage space that will help to get your office organized.

Like-with-Like: The second step in putting things into place is to organize like things together. It’s amazing how many different places you’ve been storing paper for printing or office supplies like pens and such. The latter seem to grow like Topsy with a mugful here and a small box there.  Not only does grouping help you know where to look, whether you're searching for a file or a pen that works, but placing similar items together also often creates “centers,” one-stop spots with everything you need to complete a task.

Access: Once you have things grouped, placement for easy access is your next priority. Where do you usually use these items? Put them there. Place all items used daily on, in, or near your desk so that you don’t have to go hunting for them. For example, store printing paper next to, above, or under your printer. Perhaps build a small shelf on which to sit your printer, underneath which you can pile several stackable, plastic desk organizers in which to place your printing paper. Allow a separate organizer for each type of paper.  Place file cabinets with recent files close to your desk. You might even want to consider building a new desk area using file cabinets with a hollow-core door placed on top. It’s much cheaper and more efficient than the office furniture sold in office supply stores.

Contain: Containers do double duty from an organizing perspective—they keep like things together, and move things out of sight to clear the landscape and your mind. You can contain things on shelves, in drawers, with bookends or magazine holders, in hanging files, or in baskets, boxes, or closed containers in a variety of materials, shapes, and sizes. Contain within containers by adding dividers to drawers. The more you contain, the better you’ll feel. Don’t opt for expensive containers sold in office supply stores. Instead, check out your local dollar or discount stores. You’ll be amazed at what you can find for a dollar. You might also consider making your own specialized containers from assorted boxes.  Cut on a diagonal, some boxes can work well as magazine holders, and you’ll get two from every box.

Evaluate: After you complete the first four steps of P-L-A-C-E, you’ll need to evaluate your results. Did everything work as planned? Organization is an ongoing process, and organizing can often be improved upon as your needs change or you sharpen your skills. When you evaluate and adjust over time, your organization systems become self-maintaining. A good time to assess your organization is when you change direction or start a new line of writing. Writing books, for example, demands a different type of organization than writing articles or short stories. For one thing, you’ll need more storage for all your notes and drafts. What would have been contained in one manila folder for an article may take one or two or more file boxes for a book. 

Finally, schedule a yearly checkup to help you keep everything working at peak level and up-to-date with your current needs. You might plan this over the holidays in December or even on New Year’s Day.

Next week, we’ll attack your desk. It’s the place where you spend most of your time, so you’ll want to make it as efficient, attractive, and ergonomically comfortable as possible.

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