Thursday, January 26, 2012

Organizing a project

Some people are naturally organized; others, not so much. If you are not naturally inclined to being organized, there are ways to learn this nifty trait that will make you function more efficiently in an office.
Start a filing system – Good office supplies will get you started. Essential items are large accordion files and clear (colored) plastic files with tabs. When you start a new project, take an accordion file, label it, and tuck in some clear files that are different colors. Label them as well. For example, if you’re working on a new website, label the accordion file: New website; the inner colored files could be named: copy; graphics/photos; architecture; memos/budget. Then, when you are digging through the file, you’re not sorting through dozens of papers. You can pull out the plastic file that pertains to your needs and sort only through the papers contained in that file. Always put recent papers in front. It saves you from combing through the file. Plastic inner files, not paper, are key because they slide in and out easily.
Color-coding – I use different color files for different clients. For example, my health care clients are green, legal clients are blue, university clients are orange, etc. Makes it easier to grab the right file.
Stackable magazine files – These rigid plastic containers are about 3 inches wide and 12 inches tall with a V-shape opening so you can easily reach the contents inside. Use labels to name the files and put the label on the front with the opening toward you. Set these within arm’s reach for current projects you are working on. For reference, put them on a bookshelf.  When filing them on a bookcase, turn the opening toward the backboard of the bookcase and label the spine. This allows for a neater appearance. These rigid files are roomy to hold bigger objects, which would weigh down an accordion file. Magazine files can hold DVDs, large reports, background material, and magazines or newsletters that pertain to the project.

Little bins – Small plastic bins are your friends. The 10 x 3-inch baskets are ideal for holding post-it notes, tape, staple remover, letter opener, etc … all the things that you use several times a day.
Paper notebooks – Even though we are in the electronic age and most of my notes go on the computer, I still use notebooks for various clients and for my own business notes. They are a handy way to review client history, record metrics and develop “to do” lists.

Binders – If you do a series of reports, place a year’s worth in a binder. This makes for a handy reference. This works great for chronological material that you keep adding to or research material that you often reference.

Keep your desk clean – I don't recommend in-baskets because they tend to be clutter catchers, but if it works for you, great. I tend to stack similar papers together, e.g. reading material, bills, reports and mail. If you also are the type to stack things, go through those stacks regularly and do one of the following: file the papers, read and toss, or act on them. Done weekly, you’ll be able to keep your clean desk - at least for Monday morning. I once worked at a large hotel and the CEO's desk was perfectly clean except for a pen set. He must have been a master delegator because it looked like he had nothing going on.
What are some of your time-saving tips for getting the job done more efficiently?