The Case Against Disorganization

How to arrest this time bandit

If you were to visit career consultant Peggy Duncan online (www.peggydun can.com), you would find her sitting cross-legged upon an oversized clock. Her point? You can conquer time. Well, you can at least become more efficient with the precious time you have — once you identify, and then arrest, the time bandits. If you find the hours of the workday whirling by with less and less being accomplished, you are probably a victim of the biggest office offender — disorganization.

“It is the root of lost time and a breeding ground for all other distractions,” explains Duncan, author and publisher of Put Time Management to Work (PSC, $13.95). “It is the thief that robs you of about six weeks a year just looking for things. And two weeks of everyone else’s time who’s helping you look.” So for those who argue that they don’t have time to get organized, it might be worth the investment.

If you’re the type who operates with multiple piles atop your work space, Duncan says, you interrupt yourself all day long. “Every time you pick up something or go through a pile, you get reminded of something else you were supposed to do,” she says. It’s the reason we procrastinate. “If you can’t put your hands on something, or if you’ve got a lot of things in front of you, you don’t know where to start.”

Disorganization also interferes with setting goals and priorities, which are essential for work efficiency. “But you can’t prioritize your work when you’re not sure of what you should be focusing on,” says Duncan. As a result, instituting an effective work process for accomplishing goals is also rendered as a challenge.

She offers these steps to “de-junking” your office and, as a result, becoming more productive and time efficient:
Remove clutter. Clear your work space so that you can begin to think more clearly. Throw out anything you don’t need. How do you know what you don’t need? Duncan says ask yourself these four questions:

1. Have I referred to it in the past year?
2. Can I get the information somewhere else?
3. Do I need to keep it for legal or personal reasons?
4. If I throw it out and need it later, can I live with the consequences? If you need certain materials, create a file for them.

Unclutter the mind. Don’t rely so heavily on your memory. A cluttered mind, like a cluttered office, says Duncan, can reduce productivity. She suggests writing down commitments and ideas in one spiral notebook. If you use a legal pad, chances are you have several of them with notes written on all. And where are they? In a pile?

Set up a system. There is a place for everything. Develop a detailed filing system with an action file containing documents you refer to regularly. Organize your drawers and your work space with all the necessary tools.

Set goals. Now you can clearly set target dates for accomplishments to better prioritize your day, as well as delegate tasks.

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