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THE MAGAZINE      September 2002
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It’s Time to Get Organized!

By Sharon Mann

Summer was fun—but it’s over. It’s time to get serious and get organized. Take these tips from the president of the "I Hate Filing" club on how to straighten out the messes in your life.

Reduce Clutter

Limit Personal Items in Your Workspace.

Personal objects can bring a certain comfort level to the workplace. But too much stuff just becomes clutter, making it tougher to concentrate on your job. Strike a careful balance between personalizing your area and filling it with things that simply take up space.

Group Similar Items Together.

Sort your papers and projects so that anything you need will be grouped together for easy access. This also cuts down the pile of "miscellaneous" papers on your desk.

Never Handle the Same Paper Twice.

Once you have a piece of paper in your hands, attend to it. Look at it so you can then file it and move on to the next task. Dispose of any papers not needed.

Stow Disks and CDs in Containers.

Keep these items handy in storage containers or hanging files specifically designed for them. It’s a real time-saver time when you need to find each diskette or CD-ROM.

Keep Things Straight

Create Action Files for Daily Tasks.

Your work flow can run smoothly when you separate your tasks according to priority and follow-up actions. Use labels such as Immediate, Pending and Call.

•. Sort Your Mail.

Separate your mail into categories depending on the action needed, such as To Read, To File, To Pay and Pending. Sort bills using a bill-paying organizer, and designate a time to pay them each month.

Use Your Voice Mail.

When working under a deadline, take advantage of voice mail and let the phone ring. When you answer the phone, your mind wanders from the task at hand. Returning phone calls is easy, while returning to your original train of thought is not. Work it both ways, and use voice mail efficiently for outgoing calls. Leave a clear, concise message that explains why you are calling. Specifically state what you need so that the person can be prepared when responding to your call.

Respond Promptly to E-mail.

Not only is it proper business etiquette to reply within 24 hours, it also impels you to make immediate decisions on your incoming e-mails—whether to act, file or delete. It’s just like working with paper.

Make Files Manageable

Color Code.

Industry studies show that using colors in a filing system can decrease the amount of time it takes to find a file by up to 50 percent. By adding color to your filing system, you save time and money—two very important factors in any business.

Don’t Overload Drawers.

Leave at least 4 inches of unused space in each file drawer. This gives you room to fit your hand in and maneuver the folders to find what you need. Make sure you have enough room to open the folder into a workable "V" shape when searching for documents.

Purge.

A periodic purging keeps your filing system in working order. Create an archive for outdated records, making current files and information easier to access.

Sharon Mann (smann@esselte.com) is an organizational expert for Esselte Corporation,a leading maker of organizing products. She also serves as president of the Pendaflex "I Hate Filing" club, composed of nearly 100,000 office professionals who enjoy finding new ways to become more organized in the workplace.