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Organizing Your Workspace

Written by on Thursday, 03 January 2013 6:00 pm
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Do you have an organizational problem? The key questions to consider whether you have one are:

  • What does the top of your desk look like?

  • What do your bookshelves look like?

  • Do you have piles of stuff to deal with later?

    If we use our desk as a parking lot for items to do later like tasks, unfinished projects and telephone calls, we are heading for the iceberg on the titanic. It can take us valuable time to find the memo, letter, phone number or report that we need. Do you tend to go into a frenzy when faced with producing something for a prospect, client or customer that you had recently but presently can't find?

    There is a reward for organization. If we counted all the hours wasted in trying to find those lost or misplaced scissors, documents, articles, the dress we wore six months ago, or needle nose pliers, the amount of time we could invest in more productive pursuits would be amazing.

    Studies have indicated that most people waste an hour each day trying to find papers or documents that are lost on top of their desk. That equates to twenty hours a month, 240 hours a year, which translates to the loss of thirty work days of production for every worker annually. Multiply that by the number of office, salespeople, management and executives in the United States and you have a significant waste of time.

    "Don't touch! I know exactly where it is!" I have heard that line and even used that line before with staff. The truth is in most cases as we stare at the piles surrounding us we have no clue. We knew where it was a day ago, a few weeks ago, a month or more ago before more piles were added to the mix.

    To maximize your time, the question needs to be turned around. Do you know the task, projects and objectives you must complete with time lines? Do you have all the materials, documents, and tools you need to take it to completion? That is, without putting out an all points bulletin?

    Whether you know whether a particular document, chart, report, or even piece of paper is in what pile, whether it's on the left side of your desk or right is not enough. Even if you do know where every piece of paper is, the real question is do you have what you need to get the critical projects, objectives and goals done at a high level within the time frame specified?

    The first rule to controlling your desk is that your desk is not a filing cabinet or a parking lot. Each person has their own desk, size, style, personal effects and tools in their desk. The general principle to follow with one's desk is less is more. The more pictures, notes, boxes, tools (staplers, paper clip holders, books) that occupy space on your desk, the greater the odds of distraction when working and the more cluttered it feels. It also has less space to spread out and think in an organized environment. A full desk translates to a greater feeling of stress and increased time to complete projects.

    The basic rule is to remove anything that isn't absolutely necessary from your desk top. The clearer and cleaner your desk is the better your time usage. I have removed the pictures of family and moved them to my credenza. I still have an opportunity to view them regularly throughout the day. It still helps me focus on why I am doing all this hard work. If you have other pictures of you with mentors and celebrities as I do then hang them on the wall. The goal is to have what we really need day to day to accomplish our objectives. When it comes to our desk and workspace the Boy Scouts motto of always being prepared is a recipe for disaster. We can have on our desk everything we might need by some obscure happening.

    Inside your desk in the drawers and filing areas have the tools, supplies and items you use weekly. Don't allow items that you rarely use or even won't look at again to take up space in your desk. Those items should be stored in a filing cabinet, storage boxes, closet or other areas that are less accessible than your desk.

    Your work space should be set up so you can be focused and productive for long stretches of time. The most productive people create a work space they enjoy spending time in. Some of us are more utilitarian in our views of our space. We don't have the need for aesthetics in our surroundings, while others are very aesthetically driven. Which are you?

    In creating comfort in your workspace do you need pictures, art and photographs in your surroundings? Do you need to paint the room a more comfortable color rather than the soft white most offices are painted in? If you work in a cubical how can you make that sterile environment more customized to your choosing?

    Do you need sound proofing because a colleague talks loudly and it distracts your concentration? Do you need to upgrade your office furniture? Buy a rug to put on the floor. Have a couch placed in your office for periodic cat naps in the afternoon. Do you need a small nesting table for intimate meetings with your team of people? How is your office or work space ergonomics? Ergonomics is just a fancy term for fitting the job tools to the worker. Some of work related injuries can be traced back to ergonomic problems with posture, office chairs, desks, work stations, and computer keyboards. Having an ergonomically designed space will increase your productivity, reduce your work hours and prevent work place injuries that can affect your work and career.

    Too frequently ergonomics takes second place to aesthetics. It's like my wife Joan who too frequently selects her shoes based on style and fashion rather than comfort. We are going to be walking around town for the afternoon and within an hour her feet hurt because she wore her fashionable slides rather than her walking shoes or athletic shoes. Let me give you a few tips to help your body and productivity.

    1. Use computer stations properly: Too many of us plop our computers on our desks. Most desks are made for desk work; writing, drafting reports, notes and letters. The standard desk is a couple of inches too high for computer use. If you spend a considerable amount of your time on the computer, say 50% of your work time, a keyboard at desk height can lead to problems with your back, shoulders, and neck. The most common ailment is with your wrists from Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Your computer, keyboard, and monitor should all be aligned in a straight line rather to the left or right of each other.

    2. Use a high quality adjustable chair: Most of us in our office environment spend the bulk of our time sitting. It's important when trying to avoid fatigue and injury to invest well in your chair. Features you should be looking for in a chair are:

    • Adjustable office chair in both height and tilt in the chair
    • Adjustable back rests for your lower back area
    • A rotating seat that has at least a five wheel base

    The cleaner and neater your desk and work environment the less time you will invest and the more positive, productive, and satisfied you will be at the completion of your day. Make the decision to clean and organize your desk today. The feelings of being efficient and effective will energize you each day to begin strong.

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      About the author, Dirk Zeller

    Individual news stories are based upon the opinions of the writer and does not reflect the opinion of Realty Times.