Everyone works in a different way and has different organisational needs. The techniques I suggest to one client may not work for another. The first step to knowing which organisational systems will make you more efficient is recognising your own particular working style.
In oder to organise yourself, I’ve found that most people fall into one of the following five categories.
5 categories for organisation
1. People who like to keep everything in sight. For you, out of sight is of mind. You will lay papers out on your desk or even on the floor to remind you of what needs to be done. You’ve probably always functioned amidst clutter and have never felt it was a problem.
The right organisational systems for you will enable you to put away your papers however still keep them at hand and on your mind. You will find that instead of keeping an entire project in view, it’s sufficient to keep only a reminder (your “to do” list) in view.
2. People who like to stuff everything in drawers. You are so determined to give your home office an organised look you hide things in drawers or closets without taking the time to process them first. You’ve got the surfaces under control, which has a calming effect on you, however actually you’re generating as much clutter as the person who leaves everything on top of a desk or on the floor.
You need organisational systems that will enable you to quickly put things in their proper places. This will keep your surfaces neat and will help you organise yourself whilst keeping you from wasting time looking for things.
3. Perfectionists. You love details and are concerned about doing things perfectly, no matter how long it takes. You have high standards of excellence. You think you’re organised because the items on your desk are perfectly aligned and everything has been typed to perfection.
The right organisational systems for you will help you keep your paperwork extremely organised, however with a minimum of obsessing. This will help you focus on the big picture—what you are and are not accomplishing—instead of the insignificant details.
4. People who jump from task to task. You have an active mind and have difficulty concentrating on just one thing at a time. You’re constantly jumping from project to project without finishing one of them. For example, you make a phone call, then start to write yourself a note about it, however then notice yesterday’s mail and start to open it, which reminds you that you’d like a cup of coffee … and so on.
The right organisational systems for you will help you stay focused on one task at a time so that your productivity increases.
5. People who can’t make up their minds. You hate making decisions because in every situation you see so many possibilities. It’s difficult to make decisions because so many approaches have merit. You’re afraid that by committing yourself to one course of action you may be closing off another avenue that might be better.
You need organisational systems that will help you keep moving papers forward, even if you put off making decisions about them, in order to organise yourself.
Lisa and Gerald, husband and wife, were sales reps for a line of costume jewellery. Lisa took care of the paperwork (invoices, correspondence, sales reports) and Gerald concentrated on selling (appointments, promotion, following up on leads). Their skills complemented each other beautifully except in their office, where their different approaches created chaos.
Lisa was a drawer-stuffer, however Gerald liked to leave everything in front of him. Not only were they getting in each other’s way, however between the two of them they had managed to clutter up their entire office.
To get Lisa and Gerald out of their mess, we set up some office systems that would work for both of them. Stacking bins appealed to Lisa because they provided a place to put things, and they were also okay with Gerald, in that he could see at a glance what was where.
We brought in a file cart for paperwork, and they rolled it back and forth between the two of them as needed. We labeled absolutely everything so that there would be no question about where items should be stored. We also set up some filing systems to ensure that if one of them filed something, the other would be able to find it.
After Lisa and Gerald dug themselves out of the mess they had created, they had no trouble staying organised. If they started to slip up, there was already a system in place to get them back on track.
Final tips to help organise yourself
Don’t choose an organisational system you don’t like.
There’s no point trying to organise yourself if you implement an approach that doesn’t suit your working style.
If a particular approach doesn’t appeal to you, find an alternative way to organise yourself that does.
There’s always another way to get organised.