Seven Strategies for Eliminating Clutter In the Workplace
By Janet L. Hall and Paula Langguth Ryan
A computer consultant sent us pictures of his "disaster area" at
work, after his boss demanded that he come into the office on the weekend to
clean up his workspace.
An employee of the Department of Agriculture showed up at a seminar
distraught after his boss gave him an ultimatum: Start managing your time better
or start looking for another job. He was spending too much time looking for
important documents that were either buried in mounds of paper or mis-filed in
A teacher was so anxious about her clutter that her doctor put her on
A publisher found herself working 12-15 hour days trying to stay ahead of the
paperwork in her office.
Finally, a long-time employee who was retiring from a big corporation had a
co-worker who overheard two officers of the company talking. They both agreed
that the retiring employee would have gone a lot further in the company if his
office space hadnít always been such a wreck. He never knew his bosses felt
this way. And he certainly wouldnít have chosen to hold himself back from a
better paying job.
Luckily, there are a few simple steps you can take to eliminate clutter in
your workspace and put yourself on the fast track to a higher-paying job. Thereís
no reason for you to put your job or your health at risk. Thereís no reason to
work around the clock to keep your clutter under control. Start by looking over
the things you are hanging onto in your office and ask yourself the 5 Wís Of
Who does this belong to and who needs it?
What use is it? What do you need it for?
When will you need it? Will you actually use it?
Where will you find it? Where does it belong?
Why do you have this? Do you really want it?
Once youíve honestly answered these questions, you can take action to
eliminate the clutter in your workspace before it costs you a promotion Ė or
your job. When you get ready to sort through your piles, drawers, filing
cabinets, bookcases, briefcases and anything else that needs to be sorted
through, be ruthless, determined and honest, using this seven-step TEASER to
help you decide what action you need to take on each item.
Start by getting a garbage can or bag. Move everything into one area and grab
10 boxes or make 10 piles and label them as follows:
1. Toss it. If itís not yours, you don't know who it belongs to,
it's outdated, it can't be repaired, or you don't need it, get rid of it.
Outdated trade journals, ancient software, old phone books or directories, dead
files Ė send them straight to the circular file.
2. End it. This pile is where you put anything you don't want anymore
or that you want to cancel, or that you don't read. This could be an interoffice
list that doesnít really pertain to your job, a subscription you never read or
a good-Ďtil-cancelled product that you are overstocked on.
3. Act on it. This pile will contain all the items you need to take
action on. This includes anything that needs your signature, a phone call or
immediate attention. Donít stop now to do these things. Put them in the
"act on it" pile and keep moving.
4. Store it. There are three boxes that fall under the "store
it" category. These include Current Stuff, Things I Need to Reference, and
Historical Stuff. Current stuff goes in your closest filing drawers, things you
need to reference can go in the hallway outside your office, and historical
stuff can get archived in the corporate storage area.
5. Enter it. This is where you should put any information you need to
enter into your planner, calendar or computer.
6. Refer/Recycle/Read it/Repair. If an item belongs to someone else or
you think they need it, refer it to them. If you can use it again or it can be
recycled, recycle it. If itís something you want or need to read, put it in
your reading pile. If itís something that can be fixed, it goes in the repair
7. Schedule a date and time to act on the items that you sorted. Once
you have the date entered into your calendar, donít make more piles to sit
around until that date. Get a Tickler File and file all your new papers under
the corresponding Tickler File date.
Some of the action steps youíll need to schedule are:
* Call, write, or email the items that you want to END or stop from coming
into your life.
* Decide how and where you will STORE your current, reference and historical
papers or 'stuff'.
* Sit and ENTER all your information, or delegate it to someone else to
* Pack up and do away with items that you are REFERRING to someone else,
RECYCLING or taking to get REPAIRED.
* Put READING material in an area where you like to sit and read and create a
TO GO reading folder to take with you whenever you leave your office. If you get
stuck in traffic or a long line or are waiting for a client, you can read your
important reading material instead of someone elseís!
These seven simple steps will help you create a more productive working
environment. Youíll spend less time looking for lost items and more time
making profitable business decisions. And your boss is sure to notice, come