Don’t Let Office Clutter Clog Up Your Efficiency

For many small business owners, a cluttered desk or office is a sign of success. Things are good, so there’s more that has to be done. But it doesn’t take much for office clutter to go from a source of pride to a serious, potentially overwhelming problem.

According to professional organizer Chris Perrow, most business owners are on information overload, working long hours without thinking much about simple productivity issues of how and why things get done. “When they stop to analyze the situation, they often find much could be delegated, eliminated or done at a more efficient time,” she says.

The key to eliminating clutter is to have a system in place to keep that helps you get and stay organized. Organizing Coach Carol Halsey suggests a five-step approach to dealing with office paperwork that she calls DRAFT, for Discard, Refer, Act, File and Table.

1) Discard-If it’s something you’ll never retrieve again, trash it, don’t file it. Your files should be a “resource holding tank,” not a dead storage place.

2) Refer-If someone else needs the information or can handle it for you, pass it along.

3) Act-If it requires action by you, do it now. It’s inefficient to delay and handle the paper a second or third time.

4) File-If it’s important and you will truly need it later, file it in a proper filing system that allows you to find things quickly.

5) Table-If it’s something you’ll need in the near future (but not today), place it in a simple follow-up system for easy, quick access.

Because organizing is such a pervasive challenge, there are a number of resources available to help you improve both daily habits and overall efficiency. Some helpful and inexpensive books include Organize Your Office by Ronni Eisenberg, File…Don’t Pile by Pat Dorff and the Office Clutter Cure by Don Aslett. You can also find specialized one-on-one assistance from the National Association of Professional Organizers’ automated referral service. You can search for a professional organizer by location or specialty (e.g., home, type of business, special skills, etc.).  For organizing tips and further resources, see also the website of time management and efficiency expert Peggy Duncan.

To learn more about operating your small business more efficiently, contact SCORE “Counselors to America’s Small Business and its local branch in Chicago. SCORE Chicago is a nonprofit organization of more than 100 volunteer business counselors who provide free, confidential business counseling and training workshops to entrepreneurs and small business owners. You can set up an appointment at one of our 15 locations by clicking this link.  Check our website for details on our workshops or resources on topics of interest.  Call 312-353-7724 for further information.

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