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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 his office.

A teacher was so anxious about her clutter that her doctor put her on medication!

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 Organizing:

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 If itís not yours, you don't know who it belongs to, it's outdated, it can't be repaired, or you don't need it, get rid of it.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 file.

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 enter.

* 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 review time!

# # #

Professional Organizer Janet L. Hall and Contemporary Prosperity Advisor Paula Langguth Ryan are the originators of the Enough Is Enough! seminar series which comes to the DC Metro Area on October 26. Their unique 3-hour adventures in money, clutter and time management are designed exclusively to help you tap your true potential and achieve better balance in your life. For more information about upcoming local seminars, and their services and products, call 800-507-9244 or visit their website at http://www.overhall.com.

Permission is granted to quote this article in its entirety or in part, provided attribution is given, in the form of the above paragraph.

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