The typical office worker today has more distractions than their counterparts in any other time in history. A 2016 Express Employment Professionals survey found that 38% of business leaders cited constant emails and interruptions from co-workers and others as the biggest sources of wasted time in the office. But “general disorganization” was cited by 9% of business leaders as the primary time waster. Best-selling author Stephanie Winston wrote in her book The Organized Executive that the average executive loses about an hour per day in productivity due to clutter and disorganization.
The time it takes to get and stay organized is worth it to all office personnel, and will pay literal and figurative dividends now and in the future. Here are three quick tips to get your personal workspace in order.
The digital age has brought with it less of a need for storing paper files. But the paperless revolution is not universal across all industries. A 2018 survey by software firm Foxit found that 69% of business leaders use paper documents daily or weekly in their positions. While some of these paper files can be replaced electronically, others are necessary to keep in physical form.
A simple solution used in many office settings is utilizing lateral file cabinets. Most workers do not need their own cabinet. Instead the drawers are divided by name and color codes for each worker to have their own section and eliminate the need for desktop document trays. Each worker should at least have an archives folder, a WOR (waiting for response) folder, and a "to be filed" folder for when you're in a hurry and must get back to it later.
Knick-knacks, photos, and other trinkets are common in workspaces to provide a personalized feel. Granted Zappos.com CEO and entrepreneur Tony Hsieh is famous for his messy workspace. But most people are distracted by excess clutter, which leads to hours of lost productivity over the course of a year.
Professional organizer Lisa Zaslow recommends no more than three personal items per workspace. Leon Ho, the founder and CEO of Lifehack, developed a "declutter formula" with the acronym RFSR. It stands for Recency (last time used), Frequency (how often used), Acquisition Cost, Storage Costs, and Retrieve Costs. In short, if you haven't used something on your desk in over a year and it costs only a few dollars, get rid of it.
This idea may sound a little far-fetched until you think of it in practical terms. Humans in the Western world have become hoarders in the last century or so. We've been conditioned to believe that bigger is better (supersizing your meals at fast food restaurants) and that excess is a symbol of wealth. Whether we like it or not, our subconscious minds are programmed this way because of what we see daily on television and in the movies.
Larger, more visible trashcans remind us of the concept of disposal. Memos, junk mail, and other papers that only need to be read once will find their way to the big bright blue recycle bins because we think of them more frequently. Some creative types decorate their trashcans with facial features to make them more personable and subsequently more utilized. Trashcans are the most useful and most underrated tools in offices that prioritize order, cleanliness, and minimalism.
A disorganized, cluttered workspace leads to lost productivity, stress, and anxiety. Your efforts to create an efficient, organized workspace will pay off both in the short and long terms.