Messy Desks May Hurt Your Career
If your desk is a mess, it’s time to start thinking about getting organized. According to an article in USA Today, not only can messy desks lead to lost documents and lost time, there’s also a possibility they can result in a lost raise or promotion.
Believe it or not, the cleanliness and organization of an employee’s desk are considered by more than half of America’s managers when they conduct annual reviews, hand out raises, and offer promotions, a survey by office supply company DYMO of Stamford, Conn., revealed. In fact, of the 2,600 bosses surveyed worldwide by the firm, 51 percent agreed there is a link between a worker’s organization skills and job performance.
In other words, employers look more positively at neat nicks than slobs. And the reason may have a little to do with the bottom line. It is estimated that for every document lost an employee costs a company $120, the survey found.
“There are uncountable hours lost each year in the workplace because of disorganization,” said Julie Mahan, owner of Indianapolis-based Simply Organizing, which offers workshops and one-on-one counseling for organizing offices. “But people mix up cleaning with organizing. Being clean is a visual thing, but being organized is being able to find things when you need them.”
According to the USA Today article, employees fall into a variety of categories when it comes to workplace organization, the DYMO study revealed. About half of American workers are professional but relaxed, meaning their desks are organized but have a couple of small, neatly stacked files; 31 percent work among organized chaos; 13 percent are the creative type, or very messy; and 7 percent are prim and proper, meaning the only thing on their desks is a paperclip.
For workers seeking help with getting organized, Mahan teaches her own detailed system of organization, which includes a critical question: What to do with all that stuff which lands on your desk. “Handling those incoming items is a big issue. We get buried under it,” she told the newspaper. “The physics of clutter is that it will come into your office without your assistance but will not go away without your assistance.”
Her advice is to handle all mail, e-mail, voice mail and verbal requests immediately and make one of five decisions: discard it, delegate it, respond to it, file it for follow-up, or put it in a safe place for future reference.
And as you make that decision, remember the 80/20 principle. “Eighty percent of the stuff you get, you are never going to need again,” she said. “Twenty percent you do need, and you need to prioritize its importance.”
E-mail can be a particular challenge in organization and time management, the article pointed out. Most people deal with e-mail as soon as they arrive at work, but it’s the worst thing to do, according to Janet Nusbaum, owner of Simplified Spaces, a professional organization in Carmel, Ind. “Get a few critical things done first thing before you check your e-mail,” she counseled. “Because (e-mail can be) so distracting it can just really derail your whole day.”
A key to being organized is determining what time you are most productive, whether that’s at the end of the day, right after lunch or first thing in the morning. Schedule your most important task of the day then, Nusbaum recommended. And when the day is over, check the next day’s calendar to prioritize your schedule.
Getting organized in the office may seem a bit daunting to some. But actually it just takes discipline so that things don’t pile up. To help you, USA Today cited the following tips from several entities that specialize in workplace organization:
When you receive a piece of paper, an e-mail, voice mail or verbal request, immediately decide to:
- Discard it if it’s junk or something you will never need.
- Take immediate action, if it’s yours to take care of and needs to be responded to.
- File for follow-up, if it doesn’t need immediate attention but definitely needs to be done.
- Put it in a reference file, if you’ll need it in the future.
In your daily grind:
- Keep only supplies you need on a daily basis on your desktop.
- Have a master list of file names to use when deciding where to file a piece of paper.
- Set aside a certain amount of time once or twice a day to check and respond to e-mails.
- If you don’t have to answer your phone every time it rings, let voice mail do some of the work.
In your files:
- Keep a file labeled for each day with things that need to be done.
- At day’s end, pull out the next day’s file and prioritize tasks.
- In the morning, pull out the first task and start to work on it.
- Move anything not accomplished to the next day’s folder.