How much time do you spend looking for something every day? It could be as simple as a stapler or as important as a client contract. No matter what, youre wasting time and effort that could go to growing your startup.
What's more, if your office is mess, consider what that says about you: Would you rather be giving off the impression of someone in control or overwhelmed? You may feel that you just dont have time to stop and organize your space, but the cost of not organizing is high and increases as your business gets more complex.
Here are seven steps to turn your office into a functional and efficient space in just one afternoon:
1. Free up at least four hours. This means no phone calls, no email and no meetings. Shut your office door and make sure everyone knows to leave you alone unless blood or money in the six-figure range is involved. You need to stay focused and multitasking is the enemy of organization.
2. Remove everything that doesnt belong in your office. Oh, theres plenty of stuff if you really look. Copies of Sports Illustrated -- unless you publish a magazine or sell sports equipment -- snacks, aspirin, last weeks take-out boxes, and personal bills or other correspondence do not belong in your place of business. If you must have these things close by, assign a file or desk drawer for them and get them out of sight. These things are a distraction and will get in the way of your productivity.
3. Make a pile. Gather up all of the projects, letters or other materials that you have to deal with soon.
4. Gather supplies. Determine the office supplies and file categories that you use at least once a day. Place them all in one spot in your office.
5. Divide and conquer. Separate out those things you only use once or twice a week. Find another location to collect them.
6. Start relocating. Corral those items you need once a month or less. Open your office door and place them on the floor outside. If you need something once a month or less, it shouldnt be taking up space in your office. Set up a spot in a nearby storage room or file cabinet and put them there.
7. Leftovers? You can be pretty sure that there will still be things left after you finish this sorting. Take the time to determine if the leftovers fit into any of these categories. If not, create a miscellaneous pile -- but it had better be small!
Once you've gathered and sorted, here's what to do: Time and space efficiency experts recommend that anything you use daily should be in easy reach without getting up from behind your desk. Place any everyday office items on or in your desk. This also means that active files should be at hand. If you dont have file drawers in your desk, how about picking up one of those rolling file carts? Theyre handy, inexpensive and hold quite a bit.
Now heres the key to making files really work for you: Only have active files in reach. When you finish with a project, complete a client contract or meet a deadline, pull everything together and move the file to a less active location. This way the only files on hand will be the ones youre dealing with at the moment, which makes it much easier to find and file current papers.
Files or supplies you need a few times a week should be in your office but not immediately at hand or they get in the way every day. Less-used tools and files should be out of sight and reach most of the time.
Want to avoid having to spruce up again in the future? Build an uninterrupted half hour into every day or, at the least, an hour a week to handle those tasks. With effort and a little luck, you can get them off your desk and onto someone elses. After all a desk -- and office -- thats under control leads to a more efficient you.
What other office-efficiency tips would you suggest? Leave a comment and let us know.
The author is an Entrepreneur contributor. The opinions expressed are those of the writer.
Matthew Toren is a serial entrepreneur, mentor, investor and co-founder of YoungEntrepreneur.com. He is co-author, with his brother Adam, of Kidpreneurs and Small Business, BIG Vision: Lessons on How to Dominate Your Market from Self-Made Entrepreneurs Who Did it Right (Wiley). He's based in Vancouver, B.C.