Q:I've read all the books and gone to seminars on organizing my office, but I simply don't have the time to spend in getting my office into some kind of order. I work 60 hours per week, and the thought of spending a Saturday cleaning up this mess is more than I can bear. I just don't have the time to get organized. How can I possibly accomplish this monstrous feat?
A: I hear that comment everywhere I go: "I don't have time to organize." We live out that maxim in so many ways. We're constantly looking for our keys, yet we don't take the time to create a snappy, simple system so that we always put our keys in the place where we can always find our keys. How about our files? Constantly, we shuffle through each file to find what we need. If we would take the time and put the file into a system, we could instantly find it when we need it. We are buried by our good intentions. We save all this paperwork because there are some great ideas we might want to do one of these days. But we never get to it, and the paperwork mounts up. We shuffle and unstack, search through and swear over it, yet it never occurs to us to stop work and establish a system that works.
Here is a classic story regarding one of my clients. I was in Indiana working in a corporation, and upon entering an office to start my coaching process, I noticed a pile of neatly stacked papers in the corner. The pile was about 3 feet tall, and my client said that it was a monthly report, which he referred to about seven times per day. When I asked him to find the March 17 report, it took him three minutes. Multiply 3 by 7, and you get about 20 minutes per day that he wasted going through work to get to work. I suggested we organize the report into a simple system so that he could access any report in seconds. Do you know what he said? "I don't have the time!"
This is a fabulous example of how we waste precious time operating under the wrong paradigm. Needless to say, we took the time to set up a system. (It took about 20 minutes.) We just set up 31 hanging files numbered 1 to 31 and placed each report in its corresponding number. The March 3 report went into the number 3 file, and so on. Now when he needs to reference March 12, he goes to the file numbered "12" and pulls out the report in five seconds, saving 20 minutes a day. I estimate he grosses about $100,000 per year. That's $50 an hour, or about $1 a minute. When you take $20 per day and multiply that by 244 workdays, you get about $5,000 per year. That's money I saved his company, simply by setting up a system.
I share in my seminars that the only prerequisite to getting organized is the desire and willingness to change. The drawer that is a mess, the room that is piled high--these are not the problem. Instead, think of clutter as postponed decisions. We put things down and not away, and then it just piles.
Instead of saying "I don't have time to organize," start thinking just the opposite--start saying "I will organize to have time." Changing your thinking is the first step to getting organized. In fact, I usually say that if you organize your thinking, getting organized will follow.
Sue McMillinequips and encourages her clients to clear office and home clutter, enabling them to find anything they own in seconds, recover 40 percent of the space in their environment, gain up to an hour a day in productivity and save as much as $5,000 per employee per year. Some of her clients include 3M, ABA, Boeing, Eli Lilly, Fannie Mae, Intel, Kodak, Marriott, MCI, NEA, Steelcase, Toyota and Xerox.
The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author, not of Entrepreneur.com. All answers are intended to be general in nature, without regard to specific geographical areas or circumstances, and should only be relied upon after consulting an appropriate expert, such as an attorney or accountant.