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Organize Your Desk: Optimum Desk Arrangement

Organize Your Desk: Optimum Desk Arrangement

Optimum desk arrangement not only makes work easier and more enjoyable, it also makes it better for your body. Too often, pain or discomfort can unconsciously distract you from your work. A well-thought-out arrangement of your accessories can make working easier and more efficient.

Ergonomic computer screen and keyboard setup

Keeping a straight spine helps with proper functioning of the body. A computer screen set up at the right height keeps your chin level with the floor, which also helps your posture. A keyboard at the right height helps avoid carpal tunnel syndrome.

If you’re working on a laptop, consider getting a stand for the laptop and an extra keyboard so you can position everything optimally. It’s also good to remember to get up from your chair at regular intervals; or consider a standing desk.

Clear space in front of you

Keep a space in front of you clear from distractions or extra clutter. That gives you space to create, and a place to put materials relating to the task at hand. If you are working digitally on several projects, consider using different desktop views for different projects. Look for tools such as VirtuaWin for Windows or Spaces for Apple. Keeping all the programs/documents etc. you need for one project on one desktop or space allows you to quickly resume where you left off without cluttering your working space with other projects.

Quick notes

Have a system for taking quick notes. Whether to capture an idea that just popped into your head or make notes during a phone call, you need a way to quickly record things you need to remember later on. Either keep a notebook just for notes handy, use post-it notes, or try an electronic notepad. I like using post-it notes. I use post-it notes to record actions I need to take or to record details of a conversation that I’m going to permanently record elsewhere (like jotting down someone’s email when I’m talking to them on the phone.)

The trick with using post-it notes is to only record one note or notes relating to one project on each note, then once the action is complete or the information is transferred, you get rid of the post-it right away.

Arranging your desk in these ways will help make your working day easier and less stressful. In the next post, we’ll discuss the best tools and supplies to keep at hand.

Ready to achieve your optimum desk arrangement? Check out our Virtual Organizing services.

Organize Your Desk: Mail and More

Organize Your Desk: Mail and More

In this post, we’re going to discuss how to organize mail, and some ideas for dealing with paperwork.

Incoming mail

Developing the habit of sorting and acting on incoming mail immediately dramatically reduces the amount of work it takes to manage your paperwork. Be brutal with the advertising that comes to your home. Unless you’re actually going to use something, not just think you might, recycle it immediately. Set aside a short time every day to manage your incoming mail. Depending on the volume of mail, you may want to take action on the incoming mail each day, or set aside some time each week to manage anything that has come up. Do not skip a day. Do not let it pile up again! It will become easier and easier to stay on top of it.

Clear your desk between projects

Clearing your desk between projects allows you to focus on each project without distractions. This applies both in real life and on your digital desktop. As you are coming up to the end of the time that you’ve allocated to complete a task, give yourself a minute or two to clear any paperwork and close any windows on your computer that are related to that task so you can move on with clear space for the next task.

Project Paperwork

Store paperwork related to a particular project together. This applies to your digital notes as well as your actual paper notes. When you keep all the paperwork together for a particular project, it allows you to return to that project quickly and easily, without having to shuffle through paperwork to find the notes that you wrote last time you worked on it. Store papers in folders or in hanging files near your desk. Be sure to label the folders so that you can find the project again easily.

Complete, Complete, Complete!

Keep your focus on completing tasks so you can clear them out of your workspace and out of your mind regularly. Allowing tasks to linger creates a backlog that clutters up your thinking. When you complete tasks you can stop thinking about them. Letting them go out of your mind allows you to keep a clear mind as you move forward with the tasks at hand. The same applies to the paperwork associated with the tasks. Filing everything to do with that task allows you to keep your desk clear. This can be done digitally as well as in real life.

Managing paperwork is a continuous task, but if you keep on top of it you will find your desk a lot less overwhelming.

Ready to start? Check out our Virtual Organizing services.

Organize Your Desk: Common Traps and RAFTS

Organize Your Desk: Common Traps and RAFTS

Dr. Katherine Macey

Hello! I’m Dr. Katherine Macey with Organize to Excel and over the next four blog posts we’re going to explore how to organize your desk so you can be as productive as possible. We’ll be covering the following topics:

  • Behavioral strategies you can use at your desk
  • Tools and supplies you can use to make it easier to work at your desk
  • Where to position your printer and other office supplies
  • How to create a clear workspace so you can be as productive as possible

We’re going to create some clear space for you so that you can have a clear mind as you do your work. Fewer things cluttering your workspace allows you to focus more effectively. If you have extra items around your workspace, your brain has to work to ignore them.

We’re going to make sure that the things that you need often are handy, without cluttering up your space. Let’s organize your desk!

Traps

Some of the traps that people fall into are wanting everything at hand. It’s actually okay to have to get up from your desk to get things occasionally. It’s good for you to be moving and not stuck sitting at your desk the entire time.

Another trap people fall into is leaving incomplete projects sitting around. You’ll learn in upcoming posts how to set up a space where you can collect the incomplete projects so that they’re not cluttering your space.

A third trap people fall into is not clearing the paperwork at the end of a project. Endless drafts, scribbled notes, and supporting documents all lead to extra clutter that does not need to stay on your desk.

Keep these traps in mind as we discuss our first major topic: paperwork!

Paperwork

To help organize your desk, it is best to stay on top of your paperwork. You’ve seen executive’s offices without a paper in sight. Perhaps you know someone who is never behind on their paperwork. If you are not those people and you have a little to a lot of backed-up paperwork, you probably have some piles around. Typically these piles of paper include reminders of things you need to do, records that need to be scanned or filed, advertising and more. The piles make it look like you have a lot to do and it feels overwhelming. Usually when we go through people’s paperwork, less than a third of the paperwork actually represents actions that need to be taken.

When you’re drowning in paperwork, use RAFTS

We use this system when clearing someone’s desk:

Recycle any paperwork that you have scanned that doesn’t have personal information, like advertising, old post-it notes, etc.

Action items need your attention. They are a reminder of a bill to pay, a letter to write, a phone call to make and so on.

File items are items you may want to refer back to at a later date. Any statements, school records, policies, etc. I highly recommend getting electronic copies in the first place so you can skip the paper step.

Trash/Treasure might be memorabilia or that little thing you picked up that you’re not quite sure where it came from but you’re keeping in case it shows up as missing, but you’ve had it now for a couple of years…

Shred anything that has account numbers, social security numbers or other non-public information. It is not necessary to shred anything that has your name and address since that is a matter of public record and can be found anyway.

Once you have sorted your paperwork and shredded, recycled, filed and tossed everything in those categories, you will be left with your action items.

Store papers vertically

A long-time organizer friend describes papers as either lying down asleep or standing to attention waiting to take action. I like that analogy as it encourages you to complete actions associated with any paperwork. It also takes up less space on your desk. Utilizing file folder organizers keeps the folders vertical. File cabinets or file boxes are a very efficient way to store papers vertically, but I do recommend using hanging folders to store related categories together and keep the folders from sliding under each other. As much as possible, reduce the amount of paperwork you keep by scanning documents. And for goodness’ sake, don’t print anything that you don’t have to!

Develop a prioritization system

If you have a backlog of action items, it’s best to develop a prioritization system to manage them. Use a combination of due dates and level of importance to decide what to tackle first. Your system can be very simple (do the item in front first) or more complicated depending on the volume of paperwork you need to complete. Here are some ideas for your system in increasing complexity:

  • Do what’s in front first
  • 3 folder system – Folder #1 for hot/red/do now items, folder #2 for warm/orange/do soon items, folder #3 for cold/blue/do someday items
  • 8 folder system – time based. Decide which day of the week you will be doing which items and drop them into the corresponding day of the week. The 8th folder is for anything that is not being done this week.
  • Keep a running list, inventory style. A numbered concertina file is best for this with a list of which slot each action item is in.
  • Tickler file. A system of 43 folders, one for each day of the month and one for each month. Decide when you will be doing the action and drop it into the corresponding day/month. This requires diligent action be taken each day to complete the tasks allocated for that day.

The more complicated a system, the more time it will take to maintain it unless you stay on top of it.

I hope these tips help you organize your desk by managing paperwork effectively. Next time, we’ll discuss common types of paperwork and how to deal with them efficiently.

Ready to start? Check out our Virtual Organizing services.

10 Tips for how to stay on top of Email

10 Tips for how to stay on top of Email

Email. A blessing and a curse. It’s a wonderful way to reach someone without having to play phone tag. It’s a wonderful way to deliver necessary information. And it’s also an easy way for other people to send you the information they want to send you. Work reports that don’t actually pertain to your work. Marketing from a store that you bought one thing from 3 years ago and you might go back to one day. Reply-alls from well-meaning individuals in a group email. And spam. Managing it all can be overwhelming. Here are a few tips to help you stay on top of your email.

on top of email

1. Limit what comes in
It’s so easy to sign up for interesting and useful newsletters and subscriptions. Set up a separate email address for your newsletters and subscriptions that you can check on your schedule, not theirs. Be judicious about who you give your primary email address to. Use a spam service that automatically reduces the amount of spam you have coming into your inbox.

2. Segment the incoming mail
Use rules or filters to put incoming mail into pre-designated folders for the mail that you don’t have to respond to right away. Examples of this type of mail may be from professional groups that you belong to. Or perhaps you pay extra special attention to those groups and want to be able to see the moment a message comes in from one of those people. Separating their email automatically allows you to go straight to them.

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10 Tips for how to stay on top of Email

How Habits Make Life Easier

It’s extraordinary how much of our lives are run by our habits. It’s our choice which actions we allow to become habits, although many habits are formed unconsciously. The trick to make life easier is to run supportive habits, rather than bad habits. Charles Duhigg’s book, “The Power of Habit” has an excellent and easy to understand model of how habits are formed and operate. Stephen Covey’s book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” talks about general strategies to live by in order to be effective. These books are all very good in theory, but how can we apply the theories to every day living?
 
Here are a few ideas in different areas of the house that have made my life easier over the years.
 
In the kitchen: I admit, the kitchen is not my favorite place to be. I go there because I have to eat and I have to feed my family. I don’t love pouring over recipes finding the next cool taste explosion. I don’t have a million little gadgets for shredding this and that or spiraling those, or whatever else they all do. I prefer to get to know a recipe well and then make it by approximation from memory, because when I do a new recipe, it takes me ages to read and do, read and do. I also hate cleaning up in the kitchen. My worst nightmare is when all the pots and pans have been used, they’re spread all around the kitchen, a dozen chopping boards are out, miscellaneous forks, spoons, knives that were used in the cooking process are sprinkled around. In short, it’s a disaster. It seems so overwhelming to have to clean up at the end of the day.
10 Tips for how to stay on top of Email

5 Tips for Getting Things Done

We’ve all been there. Task A should be done today, yet when we get to the end of the day, it’s not done, again. Yet there are people who seem to be always getting things done. A common phrase of advice is “If you want something done, give it to a busy person.” Why is that? What do people who get things done have in common? And how can you learn from them in order to be as productive? 
 
So you have a task that needs doing, but it doesn’t get done. Sometimes we experience negative self talk about it.
 
negative self talk
 
Or we make excuses about it.
 
excuses
 
But what would it be like if, instead of focusing on the failure, you focused on what you could do about it? 
 

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