Welcome To The Clickable Office

Is your office a wreck? Are you drowning in paper and to-dos? Are you unable to function in the one place where you’re supposed to be most productive? Would you like to make your working environment more, well, workable? Just click on any button to reveal a whole host of decluttering, ergonomics, information management, efficiency, and other miscellaneous organizing tips for that arena. Now get to work!

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Copyright 2014 RamonaCreel.com

Regaining Control Over Your Computer (So You Can Stop Being A Technoslave) Getting The Most Out Of Your Work Schedule (While Also Having Time For A Private Life) Becoming More Efficient And Productive (So You Can Leave The Office On Time) Preventing Unwanted Interruptions By Cutting Them Off At The Pass) Setting Up An Efficient And Effective Work Space (The Key To Getting More Done) Disconnecting To Get Organized (A.K.A. Regaining Control Over Your Telephone) Figuring Out Where To Put Those Supplies (Other Than All Over Your Desk) Getting Rid Of The Paper Piles (And Emptying Your In-Box) Creating An Ergonomically Correct Office (One That Won't Give You A Pain In The Neck) Get your filing system in order once and for all! Stay organized even when you work outside of the office!

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Regaining Control Over Your Computer
(So You Can Stop Being A Technoslave)

Wasn't technology supposed to solve all of our organizational problems? Saving time, eliminating paper, relieving stress? Freeing us up to live a life of sunny days and grass hut leisure -- under-the-bam-under-the-boo? What the hell happened? Electronic devices have created their own own unique set of complications -- requiring a whole new collection of boundaries and systems to keep them from taking over your life:

  • Ever wonder why you can't get anything done during your work day? Well, let's start with a look at how many different instant notifications you have coming your way. E-mail, phone, text messages, social networking -- would you die if you weren't perpetually plugged into each of these channels?
  • If you have a hard time finding what you're looking for on your computer, you might want to examine your navigational structure. Do you dump everything into one single root "my documents" directory? Or do you take the time to categorize data into folders, like you would with a paper filing system?
  • Now, try the same assessment within your e-mail program. Is that inbox a bottomless-pit-dumping-ground of electronic communication? Or do you sort incoming messages for easier processing? Spam to the trash -- and the rest according to sender, topic, or the next action step you need to take?
  • Do you find yourself defaulting to those insanely long alpha-numerical file names some programs want to automatically assign documents? Or cryptic abbreviations that even you can't decipher six months later? Wouldn't it be nice to immediately recognize what a document is from the file label?

Getting The Most Out Of Your Work Schedule
(While Also Having Time For A Private Life)

Do you find yourself spending evenings and weekends at the office because you couldn't manage to get a damn thing done during regular work hours -- what with all the pointless meetings, eleventh-hour fires to put out, and really important water cooler conversations? Wouldn't it be nice if you could consistently complete the day's tasks before 5:00, then actually head home on time? What a concept:

  • Jammed-to-capacity is the first sign of a dysfunctional schedule. Are you overstuffing your day, like an eclair with sticky-sweet goo leaking from its orifices? Or leaving a chunk of time free the unexpected -- not just delays/emergencies, but also those sudden positive opportunities that spring up?
  • Do you actually plan your work -- or just do it? Do you proactively decide on priorities/goals and figure out how to make the best use of the available time? Do you structure your day so as to minimize interruptions and distractions? Or are you in a constant state of reacting to the external environment?
  • Take a look at your work/personal/kid/extracurricular calendars and to-do lists -- are your best efforts being sabotaged by too many scheduling tools? The scattering of information and reminders across multiple landscapes? Wouldn't life be easier if you brought everything together in one location?
  • Amid a busy schedule filled with appointments and meetings, do you set aside uninterrupted time for focusing on your own work each day? (I'm talking "make" time -- not "find" time.) Most importantly, do you protect that commitment to yourself when others ask you to sacrifice it for their priorities?

Becoming More Efficient And Productive
(So You Can Leave The Office On Time)

You may not have been chromosomally-blessed with the "time management gene," but productivity is a career skill that can be taught -- like typing. Grammar. Finance. Few MBA programs offer classes in "identifying your true priorities" or "breaking projects into bite-sized chunks" or "understanding how long a task will realistically take to complete" -- so consider this a Get Your Time Shit In Order 101 short course:

  • Are you trying do more than is physically possible in the allotted time -- then getting frustrated when you fail? Wouldn't it be better to limit each daily task list to just a couple of items you know you can accomplish? And maybe leave work with a feeling of satisfaction, instead of a pocket full of irritation?
  • Lists aren't just for tallying up the stuff you need to do -- they're also for figuring out which things you don't. As you're itemizing and enumerating, do you take the time to review lo-those-many action tasks -- asking if each is necessary? If it has to be done by you? If it could be simplified in any way?
  • Are you plugging to-do items into your calendar -- assigning each to its own slot on a particular day? And do you have a clear sense of the time commitment required for each? I'm talking a based-in-reality-with-a-little-extra-padding-for-when-things-don't-go-entirely-as-intended estimate?
  • Do you really-truly understand your work style -- then schedule your day in a strength-maximizing fashion? Whether you like to tackle projects in short bursts or long stretches? If you do better focusing on one project to completion or mixing it up? When your high/low-energy periods tend to hit?

Preventing Unwanted Interruptions
(By Cutting Them Off At The Pass)

How much of your day is pissed away on interruptions? I don't care if it's a client with a question, a co-worker needing help, or your boss experiencing a sudden "emergency" -- rarely is the most efficient use of your time to drop everything and address the issue right that exact second. Border-protection just takes a little advance planning (heads-up grammar police -- I'm being doubly redundant intentionally on purpose):

  • How do you let folks know that you're focusing (and would none-too-much appreciate their derailing your concentration)? Shut the door? Send your phone directly to voice mail? Turn off all those flipping e-notifications? Put up a "do not disturb" sign? Go somewhere else far-far-away to work?
  • Along those lines, what steps do you take to cut intruders off at the pass as they're busting in on you? Keep them from taking a seat and making themselves comfy? Tell them you only have a few seconds, then ask how long this will take? Refer them to someone else who can help them?
  • Let's say something forces you to walk away mid-project -- what happens when you return to work? Do you just sit there, blank and clueless, trying to remember what the hell it was that you were doing? Or did you provide yourself with a quick memory-jogger -- to remind you where you left off?
  • How do you balance those "fuck off and leave me alone" periods with more sociable "at your service" policies? Setting guidelines about who/what exceptions are allowed to disrupt your work? Scheduling interruptions for later in the day? Establishing regular "open door" hours for drop-ins?

Setting Up An Efficient And Effective Work Space
(The Key To Getting More Done)

Achieving maximum productivity involves more than filing systems and calendars -- ya gotta tame your space, first. And there are no shortcuts. If you think that you can just skip over this step and make things more efficient without addressing the physical, I'm here to tell you that you're wrong! Cardinal rule number one -- getting organized is always a hell of a lot easier when your environment is set up correctly:

  • Can you find what you need (when you need it) in your office? Or are you always searching for something? A document, a pair of scissors, your mind -- lost amid the stacks of crap covering your desktop, the mess filling your drawers, and the clutter burying your credenza?
  • Does the equipment you use regularly live within easy arm's-reach of where you sit? Or do you find yourself schlepping across the room a half-dozen times during the day -- to get at the printer? Those reference binders? Your everyday files? Is there something we can do to cut down on your mileage?
  • Do you have plenty of room to spread out whatever you're working on -- as well as a way to pack it all up without misplacing something vital? A place for to-dos that are in the process of being done? A home for the temporary supplies, files, and resources you're using on a particular current project?
  • What daily clutter-prevention routine do you have in place to keep the stacks and piles at bay? Do you take time to clear your desk before leaving the office -- putting things with which you've finished back in their rightful homes? Then setting up your workspace so you can dig back in the next morning?

Disconnecting To Get Organized
(A.K.A. Regaining Control Over Your Telephone)

I love that pavlovian phone-response when someone dials my client during an appointment where we've agreed to a "no-answer" policy. The knee-jerk-ring-reaction followed by voice-mail-brow-sweat -- then a flood of relief once they discover how good it feels to exert actual human will over technology. (Even more fun than dog slobber!) If they can learn to see unplugging as a productivity-boost, so can you:

  • Do you feel compelled to answer the phone every time it rings? Why, exactly? What dire, terrible thing will happen if someone has to leave a message? Will the planet explode? Will you die? Get fired and end up living in a box under the freeway? If not, do you think you could live with the consequences?
  • On your outgoing message, are you clear about what callers should expect -- or do you just say, "I'll get back to you?" and leave them hanging in answering-machine limbo? Do you offer other ways to reach you faster? Spell out how long it takes for you to return a call? Follow-through on that promise?
  • If you're getting crappy-quality voice responses, you might need to examine the quality of your initial request. Do you explain exactly what information you need? Whether or not you have to speak with them in person? How you'd like to be contacted? And (most importantly) a reply deadline?
  • Respect other folks and you teach them to reciprocate. (Don't, and they'll reverse-golden-rule you like dog-dookie.) So lemme ask -- do you gather together everything you need and fully craft your end of the conversation, before getting on the phone? If not, why the hell are you wasting everyone's time?

Figuring Out Where To Put Those Supplies
(Other Than All Over Your Desk)

If I asked for a black marker (or a binder clip, or a manila envelope) -- would you be able to locate one in 30 seconds or less? If not, you need a better office-supply-organizational-system. (Oh, and here's a big-ass FYI -- throwing a lot of random pens and notepads and glue sticks into a drawer does NOT qualify as a "system.") If you're tired of drowning in highlighters and tape, try a few of these simple tricks:

  • I have a practical question. How many pencils can you actually use at any one moment in time? One -- maybe two, tops (and only if you're an ambidextrous multi-tasking overachiever). So why are you keeping half the Faber-Castell factory inventory of number-twos in your top desk drawer?
  • What other supplies are you hoarding at your desk? Wasting precious space that could be given to stuff you actually use everyday? It's one thing to buy in bulk -- entirely another to store in bulk. Can we see about moving that workstation clutter to a farther-away someplace? Yes? Good! On we go!
  • Can you think of a more vertical way to store all the flatties? I'm talking letterhead, folders, notepads, sheet protectors, greeting cards, envelopes, you name it. Would you be willing make a quick shopping run for a set of stacking trays or a divider racks to help these pound puppies take up less space?
  • Are you always running out of supplies because you didn't realize you were low on sharpies or cardstock (or whatever the flip you use regularly)? Is there some way that you can give yourself an automatic "I've-gone-three-fourths-of-the-way-through-my-stash-and-I-need-to-buy-more" reminder?

Getting Rid Of The Paper Piles
(And Emptying Your In-Box)

Imma let you in on a couple info management secrets. One -- your desktop was meant for a higher purpose than paper storage. Two -- if anything's been occupying your inbox for longer than a month, you need to seriously rethink your mail-processing methods. Three -- choosing whether to keep a 15-year-old paystub or toss a memo from a job you don't even have anymore should never take more than an hour:

  • What happens when a new document lands in your hot little hands? Do you look at it? Evaluate the purpose it serves in your life? Decide what needs done with it? Pitch any "trash" components -- and store the rest in an action file? Or do you toss the unopened envelope onto a pile, to deal with "later?"
  • How do you handle items requiring immediate attention? Leave them sitting out -- hoping you'll tackle that task before the deadline hits? Or do you engage in a more systematic behavior? Perhaps that involves red-sticker-flaggage, calendar-schedulement, and the putting-away-of in an "urgent" folder?
  • Do you have a tendency to mix paper that requires an action on your part with documents being kept for reference purposes? Or do you segregate according function/form/category (organizing either alphabetically or chronologically within those groupings) -- like the lord god almighty intended?
  • So. You tell me that you struggle with staying on top of paper -- I would ask exactly when each week you set aside dedicated time for an "admin" period (to go through your to-do files and take care of any action items that have accumulated). What's that you say? You don't? Well, well, well.

Creating An Ergonomically Correct Office
(One That Won't Give You A Pain In The Neck)

How to do you feel after a day in the salt mines? If the answer involves eye-strain, leg pain, stiff neck, or carpal tunnel -- you ain't doing it right. Used to be that only ditch-diggers and axe-swingers got hurt by their jobs. But we've reached a weird place in modern society where work-related injury is now more common for those who sit on their ass at a desk -- which puts roughly 80% of the population at risk:

  • Does a pain in your butt/back ever keep you from being able to concentrate? Or your legs going to sleep, all pins-and-needlesy? Look at how you're sitting -- can you put your feet flat on the ground? Do your thighs rest parallel to the floor? Is your back straight? If not, your chair needs adjusting/replacing.
  • Do you tilt your neck up/down while sitting at the computer? Crane it to the side, holding your head at an uncomfortable, unnatural angle -- in an attempt to avoid the light (overhead or sun) that's reflecting back in your eyes off the monitor? Dodging a glare that makes it hard to see the screen? Let's fix that.
  • Are you holding your arms in any position other than "angled-slightly-down-at-the elbows-with-wrists-flat" while you type? Does your keyboard sit too high or too low to accommodate this? Is there some way we could see about shifting things around -- maybe with a wrist prop or keyboard tray?
  • Ever get hyper-focused and not realize that you've been in the same position for eight hours until you're stiff all over? How often do you move around, shake out the kinks, get the old blood flowing? Could you set an alarm -- reminding you to get your arse up and take a break every half-hour or so?

Get Your Filing System In Order
(Once And For-Flipping All)

After every piece of paper that crosses over your desk (and passes through your action files) is done being processed, it needs a home -- and I don't mean left in a pile on a bookshelf, or shoved into an overflowing cardboard box, or crammed in a random file drawer sans rhyme or reason. Have you given any thought to your options for long-term document storage? Not so much? Well, then let's think it through together:

  • How do you distinguish between fingertip files (that you refer to daily, weekly, or some other variation of "all the damn time") -- active files (that you get into less often but still regularly) -- and archive files (that you have to keep a long while, possibly even forever, but may never again need to access)?
  • Do you possess an excessive amount of paperwork, but far-less-space-than-could-ever-accommodate-it-all-even-if-you-severely-pared-down? Have you ever considered packing everything up, shipping it off, and allowing a document storage company to safeguard your old records in an off-site facility?
  • Ever confuse draft twelve with draft three? Or the handout for clients vs. the handout for vendors? How do you distinguish between different iterations of a document? Something having to do with the naming convention? The color bond upon which each version is printed? Where you store them?
  • How do you know when a particular piece of paper has reached its expiration? When it can legitimately vacate your filing system? Do you mark pages with the discard date? Have a standard records-retention policy to follow? Go through all of your files once a year to clean house?

Staying Organized
(Even When You Work Outside The Office)

As technology improves, more and more of us will be joining the mobile workforce -- punching our time clocks and bringing home our bacon from remote locales. The freedom is awesome, but portable productivity requires even sharper organizing skills than being an office drone. Why? Because ain't nobody else cracking the whip, keeping you on track, or telling you how to align your quacklings:

  • Even if you push a pencil, you still need a certain amount of "stuff" to do your job. How are you toting it all back and forth? Did you procure duplicates? Or do you use the same equipment in both places? Have you put together a grab-and-go office supply kit? Whatcha got for files and other paperwork?
  • Using your own car rather than a company one for work (especially when it's a shared family vehicle) means a problematic mixing of functions. How do you segregate rolling-personal from wheeled-business? The stuff you carry around? Scheduling who gets driving access on any given day?
  • If your business travel is more along the "planes-trains-automobiles-out-of-town-for-days-or-weeks-at-a-time" line, you may be expected to pick up and go on really freaking short notice. Have you pre-packed a bag with toiletry/supply/accessory essentials for a time-saving quick getaway?
  • How well you handle information and communication on the road can make or break your work trip -- do you have a standard procedure for clearing up outstanding issues, deciding what to delegate, and instructing your minions about how to handle routine items vs. emergencies before you leave town?