Tips for running a tight ship
In this electronic age of paper- less promises, our desks still seem to be magnets for piles of paper. We have so much information available at our fingertips, but we don’t have
good-bye, Paper Piles!
time to read articles on our office
computer screen, so we hit the “print”
button. Then, that stack of papers just
continues to collect dust, as we add
more and more paperwork that “we’ll
get to later.”
But a messy desk is more than an
annoyance. In fact, clearing off your
desk will help you focus better on the
task at hand, and you’ll work more cre-
atively and more productively, giving
you extra time!
The best way to get rid of that towering
stack of papers on your desk is to grab
the pile and turn it upside down. Think
of clutter as delayed decisions—you put
paperwork into a pile for convenience,
rather than deciding where to file it.
With the pile upside down, the most
outdated paperwork is on top, making
it easier for you to discard. Sort
through the stack—even for only
five or 10 minutes—until you are
all caught up.
Hello, Office Files!
There are three categories for all office
action files. This is paperwork you
need now or that relates to a project
you are presently working on, including current job proposals, client
records, this year’s financials and so on.
Action files should be placed in a file
drawer that is within arm’s reach from
your desk chair.
Reference files. This is paperwork that
you may refer to, on occasion, but
don’t use on a daily or weekly basis,
including personal development, vacation travel, files of former clients and
so on. Reference files should be organized in a file cabinet a few feet away
from your desk, somewhere in your
archival files. Old, outdated papers
you may never refer to again, but need
to keep for legal or medical reasons,
including old IRS tax records (but don’t
save more than seven years’ worth),
family medical records, etc. Archival
files should be stored in a sealed labeled
bin, not in your office.
The Four D’s of Desktop Clearing
Every piece of paper that comes across
your desk should be handled by one of
the following D’s:
• Do. If a paper aligns with a task that
should only take you two minutes or
less to do, don’t file it—just do it!
• Decide. If papers are needed for a
project you can’t work on today,
make a decision as to when you will
work on it and file it in your action
files, by date or by project. Then,
make a note in your electronic calendar or day planner to serve as a
• Dump. For all outdated desk papers
no longer needed or of interest to
you, toss them in the recycle bin.
• Delegate. For paper clutter aligned
with tasks you can’t get to, delegate
to a co-worker or family member.
The art of delegation applies only
to tasks that need to be handled
regularly. If a one-time task would
take you longer to train someone
than just doing it yourself, it’s not
Lisa Lelas is a business pro-
Clean Desk, Clear mind
ductivity consultant and best-
selling author and speaker on
time management and goal
attainment. A former TV/film casting director,
Lelas shares her Casting for Success formulas
to diverse audiences. Go to www.LisaLelas.com.