Stop Playing Clutter Catch-Up


By Ann Yaggie, Certified Coach & Executive Consultant

You wouldn’t believe how many of my coaching clients who are all impressive, professional, and often overachieving have struggled with clutter at work and home. The fact of the matter is, the world around us is full of mail, contracts, bills, receipts, statements, emails, free handouts, advertisements, post-its, and a million other types of electronic and physical items that constantly enter into our lives.

Although these things seem initially benign, the way we deal with these items can mean the difference between successfully achieving the project of your dreams and failing to get the memo about an action point that could cost you your career.

Perhaps the word “organization” conjures the image of drawer organizers and an alarmingly clean and sterile desk. But organization is more than just a keyboard cleaner—it’s about using routines and structure to help you fulfill your own potential.

Therefore, organization is not necessarily about placing restrictions on your life. A well-organized office and work life actually results in freedom—the freedom to live, work, and relax exactly as you want. Your environment should encourage the way you live, who you are, and what you want to achieve—not hamper it.

The Biggest Organizational Obstacles

  • Clutter
  • Planning
  • Follow-Through

Clutter concerns your physical environment, while planning and follow-through are about time management. Today we’ll tackle your space and stuff.

The process of conquering the stacks of stuff involves asking five situation-assessing questions:

  1. What’s working? It’s helpful to know what’s not “broken” so that you don’t spend time fixing it. Also, a little “good news” is nice to hear.
  2. What’s not working? Take a big picture approach here. It takes forever to get things done, because I can’t easily find what I need, so I work a lot of overtime.
  3. What items are most essential to you? What do you need to have at hand? What papers represent the crux of your business?
  4. Why do you want to get organized? These are the benefits you will derive from an organized office/desk. Less anxiety, more energy for work, more room for work.
  5. What’s causing the problems? Some of the most common sources of office clutter: inconvenient or insufficient storage, no designated “home” for things, perception of not enough time to get or stay organized.

Once you’ve identified what isn’t working, come up with a strategy for developing a better way of storing and organizing. When dealing with paperwork, which is often the #1 source of clutter in the office: use these four guidelines for refining your approach to processing paperwork—and even electronic communication—so that it doesn’t build up. To take control of your piles, always take one of the four actions below:

  • Toss it (Delete, if electronic)
  • Refer it (Forward)
  • Act on it personally
  • File it (Archive)

If you always take one of the four actions above when faced with a new piece of paper, you’ll soon be enjoying the bliss of a paper pile-free life (and long live the TOSS!).

Related posts:

  1. Why the Organized Bird Gets the Worm
  2. Can You Say “No”?

Leave a Reply