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Getting Organized

Lisa Kanarek is a nationally recognized organization expert in Dallas and the author of Organizing Your Home Office For Success (Plume) and 101 Home Office Success Secrets (Career Press). Here she offers advice for whipping your office into shape.

Getting organized is easy for some people, while others struggle to set up files, plan each day, and find what they need when they need it. These 10 tips will help you save time and improve your productivity.

1. Take a close look at your office, and remove anything that is not used for business. Even if you are using part of a guest bedroom or den as an office, make sure everything in your "office" is business-related.

2. Take control of your day by using a daily, or at least weekly, to-do list. It provides an overview of what to expect each day or week and gives you time to make any changes in advance. Determine whether a paper-based system, electronic organizer or computer program best fits your needs; then find the right system for you.

3. Choose an office arrangement that lets you reach everything you need in seconds. Use a table next to or near your desk to hold your computer, printer, fax and telephone so your desk is free for you to handle paperwork and projects.

4. Resist the urge to jot down phone messages on the nearest scrap of paper. Instead, use a phone log notebook within your daily planner or contact management program to enter phone numbers and messages. When you're ready to return a phone call, you'll know exactly where to find the number.

5. Store papers vertically in files rather than horizontally in piles. If you know what's in each stack of paper on your desk, you've shuffled through the stacks too many times.

6. Forget the saying "Handle paper once." Instead, do something to move each piece of paper forward. Either take action on it, file it, pass it on to someone else, toss it, or make a note on your to-do list of what you need to do with it before you file it.

7. Keep hanging file folders to a minimum. Group three to five related manila folders inside and label the hanging folder with a main category. Periodically go through your files and throw away papers you no longer use.

8. Fight the urge to stash supplies wherever they fit. Instead, designate a specific place to store your extra supplies, stationery and other office products.

9. Save office space by using stacking bins to hold magazines and papers to file. Bins work better than stacking trays because they are larger, and there is more space between each bin. In addition, you can place them next to or under your desk, not on it, leaving you ample room to work.

10. At the end of each day, take a few minutes to file the loose papers on your desk, put away supplies and plan for the next day. You'll save valuable time the next morning, and you'll start your day feeling in control and on the right track.

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