How Efficient Is Your Workspace?

Your office may look neat and uncluttered, but that doesn't mean it's organized. Here's how to know if you have a hidden problem.

Q:How do I know if I need to reorganize an area in my office or home? Although it doesn't look cluttered to me, I have lost time looking for things.

A: Want to discover how you can know instantly if you need to reorganize an area in your office or home? Ask yourself this question: "Am I going through my work to get to my work?" Whenever I ask that question in my seminars, I get major groans from the audience. "That's exactly what I am doing, all day long," is their response. If you're going through your work to get to your work, then you're costing your company money and wasting precious time that could be spent be working, producing or perhaps relaxing with your family.

For example, in your home, are you lifting three pans to get to your skillet? Are you moving countless knickknacks in order to dust? In your bedroom, are you constantly shuffling through your stockings or socks to find the correct pair? In your office, do you move your papers from one location to another because you don't have enough space to do your work? Are you piling your work files and then having to unstack in order to find the current file you need? If you can say yes to any of the above, you are going through your work to get to your work and thus you are doubling your work.

So let's look at what this may be costing your company regarding its bottom line. Let's say you have a secretary who grosses $30,000 per year. That translates into about 25 cents per minute. If she spends precious time going through her work to get to her work, then she is probably losing (conservatively) 30 minutes each day. It means that in a year, the time wasted will cost your company about $1,500 in lost productivity.

Translate that to your salary: Perhaps you gross $90,000 per year. If so, you are worth 75 cents per minute. If you lose 30 minutes each day looking for your work, you are costing your company $4,500 per year in lost productivity. All this because we are simply looking for our work.

Perhaps this thought still doesn't motivate you to change. Well, what is going through your work to get to your work doing to your psyche? You stew because you constantly misplace your files, your keys or whatever. Your marriage is negatively affected because now both parties have to stop their normal routine to search for what was misplaced. You get angry at yourself and promise yourself, yet again, that you are going to get organized. But then life swallows your time, and off you go--never stopping to address the real problem. Consequently, this dance is repeated over and over.

Take some time during your workday to notice if you are searching for your work. If you are, then take some more time to reorganize and establish a system for your files, paperwork or whatever needs adjusting. Not only will you feel better about yourself, you'll save your company lots of money and yourself a lot of energy.

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 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.

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