Create 4 basic folders (Labels) in your email.
- Action (To act on fast - set task appointment and reminders)
- Deferred (Things that can wait)
- Read Review (Items of interest that are not important to act on)
- References (Information you can't just Google when you need it)
Delete the garbage (Archive/Delete as needed)
- select 'All mail' and use the search feature to find oldest emails
- grab all the old emails and archive or delete
- use search filters for past Newsletters no longer wanted and delete those too
- unsubscribe to unwanted news-feeds and letters as you go
Create tasks for actionable emails
- for date specific items, create a task in your gmail calendar with reminders
- place a star on email needing action
- file actionable email under the 'Action', 'Deferred' or 'Read Review' labels
- consider using Evernote for task lists (Free to use and it can sync anywhere)
- take time to set up good task lists
- learn the 'GTD - Getting Things Done' method of productivity for the most effective task list management
File away your resource emails
- these can all get lumped into the 'References' label
- search old email and file as needed
- only keep what you can't find easily on Google whenever you want
- if you have newsletters or email that need to be read but not urgently, place them under the 'Read Review' label
Create filters & practice quick communication
- create filters as needed for future news and resources
- review old labels and consider new filters for Read Review and Deferred tasks too
- keep your email engagement down to 2 minutes each as much as possible
- if you can answer or file away an email in less than 2 minutes, do it immediately
Start simply by making a complete list of everything you do in your office, grouping them into activity areas.
For instance, do you ship packages? Use a computer? Use a bulky paper cutter? Scrapbook? Sew?
Some activities can be done in the same spot, while others need more or specialized space. For instance, if you often use your paper cutter and your binding machine on the same project, you'll probably want enough room to use both at once. If you use your paper cutter for long periods of time, you'll probably find it helpful to have a counter-height cutting area so you don't have to bend over the paper cutter while you use it.
Assess the furniture and organizing supplies you already have. Does what you have work?
Based on the list you made, what do you need to add? Does what you have fit well? Is it too large? Too small?
Remember, you can put together a home office without spending a lot of money, so for this step, don't let budget considerations restrict you when making your list of what you may need to add.
That said generally the one thing that is set in stone is the space you have to work with. When making your list try to keep in mind the size and shape of your room, along with any restrictions the space may have (for instance, the wall of windows that lets in great light but means you can't have a wall of bookcases on that wall).
Do of course 'Think Up' when you can. Meaning when considering some areas it may be feasible and suitable to build organized units that reach the ceiling, so you can maximize your space.
Whether or not you are running a home based business, having a well planned and functioning home office is a big part of how effective you feel at getting things done.
Small office, large office, home business or just a place to work on your goals and take care of your finances, this post can be used essentially as your checklist to create the office space that works with what you already have, as much as possible.
When planning your floor space make sure your plan allows room for walking through the room, around furniture and through doorways.
Think about the features of the room carefully when playing with ideas.
For example think about ways to ensure that windows won't cast a glare on your computer monitor. If your home office has a great feature like a view or fireplace, keep that in mind as you sketch the floor plan so that you can ensure you get to enjoy that feature.
After you've sketched out your plan, it's time to make a life sized "model."
That's right, you're going to actually arrange your office and do a trial run.
Don't buy anything new just yet, but do feel free to "borrow" furniture from other rooms. For instance, a chest of drawers from the bedroom can make a great stand in in the office for a credenza.
Before you buy anything new, whether that be organization supplies or new pieces of furniture, live with what you have set up as close to your plan as possible for at least a week. Depending on your work schedule, you may want to use the temporary set up for longer than that. How does it work? What needs to be rearranged? Make tweaks until it's perfect.
After your trial run, you'll have a good sense for what you still need.
It's time to fill in the gaps. You're ready to head off to the stores and purchase what you need whether that be storage boxes or furniture pieces.
If you have a really small budget, head to thrift stores and ask friends/family for pieces that fit your requirements that they don't need anymore.
Depending on what you're changing in your office, perhaps you could propose a swap of furniture you don't need for furniture you do. Remember how you "borrowed" furniture from elsewhere in the house for step 4? Keep your options in mind.
Since you're decorating a home office, remember that furniture that's designed for other rooms, whether that's a kitchen buffet or a bedroom dresser can actually fit right in and be very functional.
So, when you go shopping, don't feel like you have to stick exclusively with "office" furniture.
Rather buy furniture and accessories that have the right functionality, that suit your budget, and that you like the look of.
It's the perfect time for small business startups as the economy gears up for further expansion, and the opportunity to run a business or work from home becomes ever more possible.
Working from home, whether as an employee, self-employed or a small business owner, can be immensely rewarding, allowing a wide range of opportunities to control the working environment. The daily journey to work that may have stretched to an hour or more, with all the frustrations of commuting, now takes a minute or less from breakfast in the kitchen to work in the office up or down the stairs.
Though the business concept may be brilliant and may kick-start orders for services or products, it's easy to lose track of how important organizing time and information and carrying out general administration efficiently is, either for the business or as an employee.
Here a few suggestions as to ways to stay organized as a home worker:
It's really simple to set up labeled box files for each category: financial information, legal requirements, orders, invoices, etc. A good filing system makes good business sense.
Working from home can make it difficult to separate home life from working life, especially if family life has to be taken into consideration. Designating a specific space as an office that is kept tidy and uncluttered allows a home worker to concentrate on tasks at hand and then close the door when it's time to relax.
There is nothing worse than opening the email program and finding dozens of mails, many of which may be spam. Good spam filters are essential, and responding as quickly as possible to genuine inquiries or responses will help generate confidence in the business.
Taking away some of the strains of administration can be a great bonus, allowing an entrepreneur to concentrate on marketing and building the business. This is where an umbrella company, which can deal with all aspects of financial administration, such as self-employed payroll, invoicing and taxation issues, can be of real benefit.
Taking control over a home working life means that the best possible outcomes for productivity and success are ready to be actioned.
Everyone has paper!
Paper, Paper, Paper!
It’s everywhere and I know that many are struggling to deal effectively with it.
Oh sure, paperless sounds like a great idea and is an option for a vast majority of information that comes in paper form. Yet, not everything can be effectively stored on your computers system, and even before you start on such a project you first have to have a basic understanding of what to keep, for how long and where. Oh yes, and back it up!
File retention, proper naming conventions and a clear logic filing system are imperative no matter if we’re talking about paper or digital files.
I mentioned electronic filing just now, yet we won’t go into that today. Anyone that needs help in that area in encouraged to go to my ‘products’ page for some ‘ready to go’ electronic filing systems (Home and Office are covered). Those systems include pre-made electronic folders, instructions and an index which I will email you after your purchase, when and if you’re ready to tackle your electronic files. And for paper files I have solutions too. See the Freedom Filer and Paper Tiger Systems links in Products and 'Paper Tiger' links above.
Just remember, the tools are here for you, yet you still must be prepared to set aside the time to do the work to effectively ‘tidy up’ your files, paper or electronic.
Remember I am here for you if you need help with organizing either, of course. That’s my greatest passion.
Today let’s get back to focusing on ‘paper’ files as I share some tips and information about ‘filing cabinets’ and the features that will ‘make’ or ‘break’ your filing success…
Poorly designed supplies
Ever wonder how much thought goes into some of the office supply and equipment on the market today? Well I do. And every week I am reminded of just how poor some things are made and how it can lead to office clutter.
One big pet peeve of mine is poorly designed file cabinets. The kind that when the drawers are fully open a 3 to 4 inch gap of inaccessible file space is left behind! This leaves you digging your fingers between the files and the top of the drawer, desperately trying to reach the files at the bad. Grrrrrr!
Only solution: Stick that big bulky box that came with your latest software purchase at the back of the file drawer. Most people can’t bring themselves to part with these boxes anyway, and at least here it can be useful.
Other signs of a poorly design file cabinet are:
* Not enough clearance for the file tabs that are attached to top of hanging file folders
* No bottom surface to the bottom of the drawer
* File rails that hinder the smooth flow of the hanging files
* Hanging bars that keep coming off or bend with the weight of the files
* Drawers with no hanging file rails (A quick fix with Pendaflex Speedframe)
* Drawers that stick and won’t open easily
* Cabinets that don’t have locking mechanism that prevents more than one drawer open at a time. (A real safety hazard that should not be overlooked!)
Highly functional systems
If you want to file effectively and enjoy the experience much more, please keep in mind these key points.
After all, this stuff you’re keeping is important, right? So you’ll want to be effective in your management of it.
For highly functional file drawers consider the following features:
* Capacity is in line with your needs leaving 10%-20% extra space
* That it is either Legal or Letter sized depending on your long term needs
* The quality is good and it will last as long as you feel you will need it
* It has security keys if needed to lock up valuable or private documents
* The drawers allow access to very back of drawer
* The drawers open and close with ease
* File rails are sturdy and won’t wear and bend over time
* The look is acceptable with your decor
* You have enough file holders and tabs to suit your labelling needs
Please take some time to share your success,
your own pet peeves about filing products,
your own best solutions, and more.
We would love to hear your story and share your great ideas.
Last week I walked into the office of a new client who was struggling under piles of paper. I’ve seen it before of course, it’s nothing new, and I know what to do to set up a system that works. Of course the next step is finding the commitment to the time and effort that will inevitably be needed for this to happen. Getting it done is truly my joy and passion. My reward is sharing in the joy of watching their faces light up as the final touches come together.
One of the things that I try to impart on my clients during the process is that there are some very clear guidelines on the various types of categories things fall into. It’s the same for ‘stuff’ as well as for ‘paperwork’. Everything falls into a category and determining what that main category is, is really important.
Something to remember is that when you are categorizing as part of the process of organizing, there are going to be some grey areas between some categories. When we run into those items which fall in between two otherwise distinct categories we have to make a choice. That choice should be whatever category it is ‘more’ like. With paperwork I would say it first depends on whether the paperwork/file represents an ‘action’ that must take place first.
Alas, I won’t get into the complex dynamics of workflow in this article today, instead what I would like to do is share some ideas on the ABC’s of a great filing system, some key tips to setting up a system and also maintaining it.
When it comes to files there are three basic types of files everyone and every business should have.
Basic Files and
ABC of course!
Sure, these files have gone under different names before, and within these broad categories lay other sub-categories, yet this ABC method of explaining these basic categories may serve to keep things extra simple and help with the bigger picture.
In fact it really doesn’t matter what you call these categories as long as you know what goes where and how long you are keeping it for.
‘Action Files’ consist of things you must work on themselves and the materials that support everyday workflow. These materials can be checklists, projects in the works, pricing quotes etc, etc. To hold action files I suggest a tabletop file sorter for daily, short-term filing, and an area for ‘projects’ and ‘resources’ that are ongoing.
Then there are ‘Basic Files’ which are kind of like the office or household working file system. Best kept in a file cart, cabinet or drawer, basic files hold medical insurance records, home records, credit card statements, rent receipts and bank statements. Within this category you will need to have areas for the property records, current finance records, policies, personal family records and perhaps resources too.
‘Classic Files’ are meant for long term storage, such as for tax returns. Use file cabinets or records boxes to protect these items for long-term storage. If you have trouble remembering when to purge old records, try setting up a rotating system, such as with the Freedom Filer.
If you struggle with knowing where your files belong, try thinking about these ABC’s while organizing your files. It may just help put your filing system into a better perspective.
No matter what kind of files you are working with, the following 8 tips should make things a lot easier for anyone to set up a good system that works well:
1. File "alpha-numerically", by "subject" or "chronologically" by date. (Be careful to chose which makes most sense in each category and sub-category for the long term and short term before deciding)
2. Create an "Information Map" showing layout and the logical relationships between various file sections. (Keep this handy for all to see)
3. Use "Visual Helpers" such as colour coding, well labeled cabinets etc.
4. Separate unnecessary information so that it doesn't become stored.
5. Active files should be routinely purged and Inactive keep current also. (Use a well established system and file consistently using that system)
6. Don't let "To Be Filed" piles grow. Never more than a week should go by before the pile is completely filed correctly.
7. In large offices there should be a card placed in files place when a worker removes the file. This way anyone else looking for it will know where it is.
8. Break down larger files into manageable sections. (For example a large project may have several sections like, payment records, scheduling, correspondence, floor plans, contacts list etc.)
Now that you have the tips to create an easy to use system that works here are a few things you should try to avoid when it comes to filing.
-Keeping materials past their need date
-Keeping files "Just in Case"
-Failing to review and purge regularly
-Filing duplicate information
-Not communicating procedures others.
As a home and office organizer I know that the task of setting up a good system fast can seem daunting if you haven't done it before.
Paper clutter can be a big issue for many and I would like to remind everyone that is suffering with paper clutter that you are not alone!
I’ll say it again, you are not alone!
Throughout the year I hear many people comment to me about how they feel alone and overwhelmed. It seems that ‘I’ll get to it soon’ story we tell ourselves is just that, a story we use to keep putting this work off.
De-cluttering piles of paper and clutter can be a daunting task, I know. I actually enjoy this work but that’s just the way I happen to be. I recognize that organization isn't everyone's strong point, yet it is something anyone can get good at. With a little practice putting things away and writing things down, staying organized can be alot easier.
To get started on the right foot, some professional organizing assistance can make it even easier. Also, the act of having a partner to work with sure helps the task seem less stressful. Call on me if you have paper piles and clutter you need help with. It would be my pleasure to assist you.
And remember, I love hearing from clients and readers and I will personally answer all your questions and comments. Leave your comment below the article on my site.
These harmless looking thieves can be stealing your time.
Be on the look out and handle them accordingly...
The pencil cup caddy.
Having writing utensils close a hand is a great idea. Yet how many is enough, really?
Check your pencil caddy for excessive amounts, dried out pens and pencils that have seen better days too. Weed out the undesirables and keep your best close at hand only.
Tips: Test your wares and keep your spare writing utensils in a drawer or bin with other extra supplies.
Paperclips are great yet sometimes they can be a problem as when documents are stacked up they can trap papers that don't belong together.
Tip: Use staples when possible; they can always be removed later.
Peek around your office today and see if there are any other timewasters stealing your productivity one minute at a time. They could be in the form of distracting objects, defective supplies or drawers full of junk.
1. Handle paper only once
And if that is not possible, at least try to move it one step closer to completion every time you do pick it up.
2. Make decisions now
Don’t put things down ‘for now’. Commit yourself to decide what to do with each piece of paper immediately.
3. Clear out your in-box for 15 minutes each day
Don’t turn your ‘in-box’, into a ‘procrastinator tray’.
4. Sort by Category
Mail and e-mail should be sorted into categories. Try sorting ‘by Priority’, ‘by Action’ or ‘by Date’
5. Write notes in the right place
Numerous scraps of paper and notes will only serve to frustrate you. Choose one place to keep notes, and if they pertain to a client folder or project, put the notes in the proper file as soon as possible.
6. Get real about what you can read
Limit subscriptions, clip articles out if you want to keep it and recycle the rest of the periodical right away. Be realistic about how much you can actually read too.
7. Purge papers regularly
Twice a year purges will do wonders to keep the volume down. Take time to thin out files that contain unimportant notes, drafts and other non-essential information.
8. Keep file systems logical and easy to use
Creating a Dewey Decimal coded system or trying to develop some mythical ‘Perfect’ system is an urge you should resist.