Get — and stay — organized

If your desk looks like this, or worse, it’s time to get organized. Read on for tips.

LIMA — Those with cluttered home offices may claim that all great minds have a disheveled desktop and endless piles of paperwork.

While this may be a comforting thought, a bit of organization can actually improve productivity and reduce stress — making it easier for that genius mind to think.

“I think the most important thing for organizing your home office is to make decisions and to make them quickly,” said professional organizer Janet Jackson, owner of Organization Solutions, LLC, in Piqua. “Those decisions mean understanding what those items that are coming into your home office are, what they represent. Are they action items? Are they just reference items? And then having a place for each of those groups of items.”

As Benjamin Franklin famously said, “A place for everything, everything in its place.” This is Jackson’s mantra for organizing practically any space, whether it is a closet or a home office. She shared these four guiding principles for getting and staying organized:

1. Set boundaries. This is where, “A place for everything, everything in its place,” comes into play. Make a place for the different categories of things that come into your office/work.

2. Make decisions. As things like paper, voicemails and emails come into your office, decide what they are and what you need to do with them. (Is it an action item, a reference item, etc.) Then put them in their proper place.

3. Change habits. Jackson noted that if a person starts doing items 1 and 2 consistently, they will be 80 percent there. However, it’s important to keep in mind that there could be some habits that need to be changed to prevent clutter.

4. Keep it simple. Jackson says she doesn’t use a lot of gadgets, apps or specialty software in her office. Instead, she uses tools that most people already have. “The more complicated the system, the more difficult it is to maintain,” she noted. “We want to set up systems that virtually maintain themselves.”

One common mistake people tend to make with both home and work offices is misuse of their desk drawers, or “prime real estate,” as Jackson puts it. In other words, she sees many people keeping items in desk drawers that they’re hardly ever pulling out. Instead, these rarely-used items should be replaced with more frequently used ones.

Another common faux pas is allowing stacks of paper and other important documents to pile up in a work area.

“They have piles because they don’t know where to put it,” Jackson said. “They’re afraid that if they put it away, they’re going to forget about it. But what happens is it gets buried in the pile and they forget about it, and you’ve got the stress of having a pile on your desk. So that’s why it’s so important to identify what these incoming papers are, what category they are and get them in the proper location in your office.”

On the flip side, one crucial item Jackson encourages everyone to keep on their desk may also seem surprising at first: A timer.

“That, to me, is the number one most important organizing gadget that you have, strange as that sounds,” she said. “Because it allows you to manage your time better, using your timer. It allows you to set your timer and focus.”

Once an effective system of organization is put in place, Jackson suggests setting aside 30 minutes each day to clean up, organize and plan for the next day — either at the beginning of the day or at the end of the day.

Another helpful tip Jackson offered is to place inboxes away from the work surface, or desk.

“Have it preferably on your door, in the hallway, so people don’t have to come into your office to set things in there, which causes you interruptions from what you’re doing,” she said. “If your inbox is on your desk, you’re constantly thinking about what’s in your inbox, as opposed to focusing on what’s in front of you.”

Kim Coomer with D&E Machine Co. in Lebanon has implemented Jackson’s organizational methods within her office with positive results.

“We implemented the filing process,” Coomer said. “How liberating to put something in a file and not worry about it until it’s time, instead of having all of it spread out on my desk or in a pile.”

Coomer learned how to simplify a monthly inventory report and organize her email, too, with Jackson helping to tweak these processes as needed.

“By helping me organize, create processes and delegate, she has freed up time for me to concentrate on the tasks I want to do at work,” Coomer said. “I have control over my day.”

The bottom line? Having an organized home and work office will cut down on stress and help a person to stay focused and on-task.

“It’s kind of taking things out of your head and putting them into a process,” Jackson said. “You can sleep better at night and not worry about missing things.”

For more information about Organization Solutions, LLC, which serves the greater Dayton and Lima areas, give Jackson a call at 937-623-1872.

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