Is Your Office a Hot Mess?! It Doesn't Have to Be!

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“You’re not on top of things.”

That’s the message a disorganized office sends to your boss, your colleagues, or your family if you work at home. A messy office screams “constant overwhelm!”--probably not the foot you most want to put forward professionally.

In one of the stranger twists on the modern workplace, as technology improves many of us feel less productive. In some ways, all the tools we now have at our fingertips lessen our ability to accomplish things. How often do you say (or hear) that there are too many meetings or too many emails to get the basic elements of your job handled day by day? To say nothing of the Internet lurking in the background to snatch you away from focused time with Facebook, Flappy Birds, or Kevin Spacey’s twitter feed.

If you follow this blog regularly, you already know some of my tips and tricks from previous posts: declutter, purge, clean, label, etc. So let’s just assume those crucial basics are all part of whipping your office into shape. Now let’s go deeper than that and talk about other lesser known measures that will improve your personal organizational style--and send an alternate message to the world at large.

Plot your master calendar

There’s nothing like seeing deadlines written or typed in to a calendar to make them more real than dates that drift aimlessly around in your head. Whether you keep a digital calendar or an old-school paper version, get used to listing all important dates and deadlines as far out as you can go. You’ll feel more committed to the outcome--and things won’t fall through the cracks.

Find your sweet spot

Some people are most productive in the wee hours when the office is empty or the house hasn’t yet started humming; others don’t really get their creative juices flowing until their three o’clock cup of coffee. Get a leg up on your productivity by determining your sweet spot and how you can best harness it for your work day.

Exercise the “two-minute rule”

Productivity consultant David Allen, author of Getting Things Done, encourages us to relieve stress and make progress by identifying what can be done in two minutes and simply doing it. Whether it’s a phone call, a brief return email, filing some stray papers, or making an appointment for your dog at the vet, small tasks that can be done quickly and efficiently reduce our mental and physical clutter.

Keep notes

Keep track of calls, notes from phone conversations, and any other important “small stuff” in your work day in a spiral-bound notebook. No more random Post-it notes in random locations that never turn up when you need them! When you have these things captured together in the same place, it makes it super easy to backtrack and pull up info quickly. Or, if you’re only wired for digital, you can always use the “Notes” section on your smartphone or Evernote, which will sync notes, projects, photos, and files across all your devices.

Nurture your flexibility

The world changes fast these days; faster than it ever did before. One way to keep on top of things is to learn how to flow with change--and to have a sense of what Plan B might be if a client flames out or you have to scramble to do a presentation for a sick coworker. Instead of using your mental juice to be upset, judgmental, or resentful, channel your energy into embracing the change; it’s much easier to shift gears and move forward that way.

Clean up before you leave

This is so simple I can hardly believe I’m recommending it, but it’s one of those “so obvious you could miss it” kind of tips: arriving at an organized desk every morning gives you the sense that you’re ready for the day and what’s ahead. Even if all you do is put away files, neatly stack your in-box, and wash out your coffee cup before taking off at the end of the day, the energy of a fresh start awaits you in the morning. Use the last few minutes of your day to give yourself that gift.

Like management consultant Peter Drucker said, “Plans are only good intentions unless they immediately degenerate into hard work.” How great would it be if your hard work in “organizing” your office started broadcasting something different every day, like “Wow, you’re really together,” or “I can’t believe how much you can get done these days!” Give your workspace and your personal work habits a tune up, and let the compliments roll in.

Happy Organizing!

Not Just Another Pretty Screen: Digital Desktop Tuneup

Since more than 75% of American adults use computers either at home or at work, it’s probably time we got better at learning how to clean and organize them. I recently saw a computer desktop that had hundreds of files scattered across it like a bad case of screen acne. It made me realize that a cluttered computer desktop has the same unbalancing effect as a cluttered desk surface in your home or office - it makes you feel chaotic and mildly out of control.

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Before we get into the nitty, let’s attack the gritty. Dr. James Francis, a British microbiologist, did a study a few years back in which he took samples from 33 office keyboards in London. He then compared these culture samples to swabs taken from toilet seats in the same buildings. Yup, you guessed it. The average office keyboard had germ levels up to five times higher than those commonly found on a toilet seat.

So what do you say we clean these germ factories up?

First power down everything. If you’re a stickler, you’ll want to go with purchased cleaners and cloths that are meant for computer use. If not, you can use common household items.

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Clean your screen with a microfiber cloth or a cotton bandanna, as paper towels can scratch. Spray the cloth, not the screen, with an equal mix of vinegar and water and wipe carefully.

Use a dry paintbrush to dust the keyboard. A Post-It note folded over will get out any stubborn crumbs or mysterious substances (or you can blow off the keyboard with an air compressor for the same result). A Q-tip lightly dipped in alcohol will clean between the keys--just make sure no liquid finds its way below decks.

Lastly, clean the desk or area your computer is on. Wrap and label cables and get them out of sight.

Now that the housing is cleaned up, let’s get to the interior of your system. I’ll just give broad advice, and you can adapt the general ideas accordingly depending on whether you use a Mac or a PC.

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First you need to decide which files can stay and which can go. Downloads you still haven’t referenced, large video files you’ll never watch again, rough drafts of reports long submitted...highlight all the ones you don’t even have to think about getting rid of and drag them en masse to the trash can. Don’t get into the micro details right now--just put any you’re not sure of into a Pending folder you can sort through over time. You should be left with only those files that are active and that you’re sure you want to keep.

Like any organizational project, you have to occasionally use a tool to simplify the process. In this case: folders. Set up folders labeled with the same general categories you use in your paper filing system--Home, Finances, Work, etc. You can also set up subfolders within these categories, but beware of going too deep with these. Now reassign the remaining files on your screen into the proper folders and organize them into a row from your pull-down menu.

If you automatically save to your desktop, folders will now allow you to save directly into the correct one. How fabulous is that? When labeling, make sure you’re concise but detailed so you can access the file you want efficiently.

Files you don’t want to get rid of but also don’t need to access often (if at all) can go into an Archives folder.

With your screen looking a little more Zen, snazz it up with a new wallpaper, and now let’s make sure your operating system is in tip-top shape.

  • Get rid of apps you don’t want from your applications folder by using an uninstaller to capture the app plus all the associated files that can hang around and hog space.

  • Update your antivirus software and run a full scan.

  • Set your computer to use automatic updating to make sure your software is the latest and greatest. (Software obtained through these channels is trustworthy.)

  • Clear internet data. As you surf around on the internet, you drag along bits and pieces that eventually slow down your system.

  • If you’re trying to protect your privacy, you have to delete both text-based cookies and flash cookies. Different browsers use different methods. You can research them here.

  • Back up to the cloud or any external system that works for you.

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Sitting down with your cup of morning coffee to a sparkly clean and organized computer is a fabulous way to kick off your day. Set aside 15 minutes at the end of your work week to clean up folders, delete items, and make sure your screen is fresh-faced for the next week. Your Monday morning will thank you.

Happy Organizing!

If My Hot Mess of an Office Could Talk, What’s the First Thing It Would Tell Me?

“You’re not on top of things.”

That’s the message a disorganized office sends to your boss, your colleagues, or your family if you work at home. A messy office screams “constant overwhelm!”--probably not the foot you most want to put forward professionally.

OandRBlog-4-10-14-IM1.png

In one of the stranger twists on the modern workplace, as technology improves many of us feel less productive. In some ways, all the tools we now have at our fingertips lessen our ability to accomplish things. How often do you say (or hear) that there are too many meetings or too many emails to get the basic elements of your job handled day by day? To say nothing of the Internet lurking in the background to snatch you away from focused time with Facebook, Flappy Birds, or Kevin Spacey’s twitter feed.

If you follow this blog regularly, you already know some of my tips and tricks from previous posts: declutter, purge, clean, label, etc. So let’s just assume those crucial basics are all part of whipping your office into shape. Now let’s go deeper than that and talk about other lesser known measures that will improve your personal organizational style--and send an alternate message to the world at large.

Plot your master calendar

There’s nothing like seeing deadlines written or typed in to a calendar to make them more real than dates that drift aimlessly around in your head. Whether you keep a digital calendar or an old-school paper version, get used to listing all important dates and deadlines as far out as you can go. You’ll feel more committed to the outcome--and things won’t fall through the cracks.

Find your sweet spot

Some people are most productive in the wee hours when the office is empty or the house hasn’t yet started humming; others don’t really get their creative juices flowing until their three o’clock cup of coffee. Get a leg up on your productivity by determining your sweet spot and how you can best harness it for your work day.

Exercise the “two-minute rule”

Productivity consultant David Allen, author of Getting Things Done, encourages us to relieve stress and make progress by identifying what can be done in two minutes and simply doing it. Whether it’s a phone call, a brief return email, filing some stray papers, or making an appointment for your dog at the vet, small tasks that can be done quickly and efficiently reduce our mental and physical clutter.

Keep notes

Keep track of calls, notes from phone conversations, and any other important “small stuff” in your work day in a spiral-bound notebook. No more random Post-it notes in random locations that never turn up when you need them! When you have these things captured together in the same place, it makes it super easy to backtrack and pull up info quickly. Or, if you’re only wired for digital, you can always use the “Notes” section on your smartphone or Evernote, which will sync notes, projects, photos, and files across all your devices.

Nurture your flexibility

The world changes fast these days; faster than it ever did before. One way to keep on top of things is to learn how to flow with change--and to have a sense of what Plan B might be if a client flames out or you have to scramble to do a presentation for a sick coworker. Instead of using your mental juice to be upset, judgmental, or resentful, channel your energy into embracing the change; it’s much easier to shift gears and move forward that way.

Clean up before you leave

This is so simple I can hardly believe I’m recommending it, but it’s one of those “so obvious you could miss it” kind of tips: arriving at an organized desk every morning gives you the sense that you’re ready for the day and what’s ahead. Even if all you do is put away files, neatly stack your in-box, and wash out your coffee cup before taking off at the end of the day, the energy of a fresh start awaits you in the morning. Use the last few minutes of your day to give yourself that gift.

OandRBlog-4-10-14-IM2.jpeg

Like management consultant Peter Drucker said, “Plans are only good intentions unless they immediately degenerate into hard work.” How great would it be if your hard work in “organizing” your office started broadcasting something different every day, like “Wow, you’re really together,” or “I can’t believe how much you can get done these days!” Give your workspace and your personal work habits a tune up, and let the compliments roll in.

Happy Organizing!

How Do I Relocate My Office and Keep My Business Thriving at the Same Time?

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Thousands of companies in the U.S. move every year. This may be due to growth, down-sizing, or the need for a more efficient space. Moving often takes longer than we think it will--definitely longer than we want it to--and it’s important to account for the unexpected and unforeseen.

Relocating an office is more complicated and time-consuming than moving a home; you’re managing employees, evaluating current systems, creating new ones, and trying to keep your business going at the same time. A minimal disruption to workflow and revenue is key in a commercial move.

At Organization & Relocation, we’ve coordinated large commercial moves where there was, literally, no downtime. Business doesn’t stop because you are relocating! We even attend construction meetings when an office is being built and act as liaison to keep business interruption at a minimum. Our goal is that the company continues to function smoothly even as systems are shut down, packed up, and relocated. In the words of Karl W. Kunz, CFO of Freewave Technologies, “O&R was instrumental to the success of our move. With the help of their leadership and execution, we were able to move into our new facility ahead of schedule and on budget. In our case, our production remained on time to our customers and I was able to spend most of my time managing my business.”

It’s never too early to prepare for a move; even if you’re planning a year or just months down the road, it’s important to establish your relocation budget. What do you need to hire out? Should you enlist the services of a design firm? Establish an employee moving committee? You definitely need to book the movers (the good ones are always in high demand), start creating your checklist, and think about how to delegate some of the more complex tasks. Taking inventory of current office furniture and determining additional furniture needs is a lengthy task when items have to be approved, ordered, and delivered. Things like transferring phone and data systems and making sure IT is functioning also take time and coordination. Imagine showing up your first day and there is no power or data for your computers--bye bye daily revenue, hello frustrated clients! You want those systems to be up and running the minute your employees arrive at their new digs.

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A comprehensive checklist is our constant companion during a commercial relocation. Once we’ve established the requirements and parameters of a move, we work with our clients to prioritize them, develop a checklist with realistic timelines, and delegate the required tasks. It is important to involve the employees and give them ownership of the move and new workspace. Monitoring the checklist before and throughout the duration of the relocation ensures the milestones are hit along the way.

Communication can sometimes get lost in the shuffle of a commercial relocation. Employee updates are critical during the lead-up to and execution of a move. No employee likes to feel left out of a company-wide initiative, no matter his or her place in the food chain. Regular meetings with department heads followed by company-wide email briefs to keep everyone in the loop--even if there isn’t much to report--are always appreciated. Clear instructions for responsibilities during the move and expectations for the new space will help the process move along smoothly.

The really fun part of relocating is determining the look and function of the office. Your checklist will ensure that specific areas are established during set up, but some things will naturally shift as the flow starts to become apparent during the unpacking. At Organization & Relocation, we’re always on the lookout for ways to streamline, downscale, and maximize efficiency.

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Setting up from scratch provides lots of possibilities for improvement. For example, relocation is a fabulous opportunity to make sure the office starts out clean. Seize the moment, and wipe down office furniture, electronics, wall hangings, and kitchen or break-room items. When you see them in your new space minus dust, coffee rings, and mysterious science-experiment buildup, you’ll be amazed at how such a small investment can yield such a huge return!

After your move is complete and you’re settled in, you may notice how maintaining a high organizational level actually increases company morale, especially if common areas like the kitchen or break room are kept clean, clutter-free, and pleasing to the eye.  According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employed individuals ages 25-54 spend an average of 8.8 hours a day working or in work-related activities. Since most of us spend the majority of our week at work, why not make it an environment that reduces stress and promotes productivity? The Wall Street Journal reports that the average U.S. executive wastes six weeks annually searching for important documents lost in clutter. Lost time is lost money in your pocket, so keeping an organized office-wide system in place helps out in every way--including your bottom line.

A commercial relocation is a time to celebrate leaving the old and welcoming in the fresh and new. With some lead time, a checklist, and a solid plan, you can make this relocation look like a piece of proverbial cake. The fact that your business continues to function at the same time? Let’s call that part the icing.

Happy Organizing!