In Praise Of Post-it Notes: Finding The Office Organizational Approach Which Best Suits You
I cannot happily imagine my life without Post-it notes. I’ve two sizes of Post-it notes on my desk, and I use them frequently to write myself notes reminding me to send birthday emails, return phone calls, and pay my bills online. One of the advantages of using a Post-it note instead of recording this information on a piece of paper is I can throw away the Post-it note once I no longer need it.
I’ve known people who swear by the use of filing cabinets. Indeed, they act as if filing cabinets are the best invention since the printing press. Only once in my adult life have I owned and used a filing cabinet, and I found this approach didn’t work particularly well for me. I’d much rather store my information in folders which I can easily relocate to whatever part of my office they best belong in.
Which office-related item do you consider essential?
I mention this because I want to emphasize how important it is to find the organizational approach which works for you, and it’s possible this approach will differ from the “tried-and-true” wisdom of others. It’s even possible certain method suggested by organizational experts may not suit you. Similarly, what I suggest may be of little use to you depending on your organizational needs and inclinations.
For years I’ve experienced the rush of being tempted to buy more than I should while shopping at office supply stores such as Staples and Office Max. Even thinking about these stores makes me smile contentedly. If I were given $100 and told I must spend it immediately—and I couldn’t, alas, spend it on chocolate or food items from Trader Joes—I would likely visit Staples and have more fun than most children do at Disney World. Yet I don’t believe that buying the latest office supplies and storage options—such as a tray to hold your unsorted mail—is required to having a more organized office environment. Moreover, office supplies can be also purchased at Walmart, Target, and other locations.
The path to greater organization for many individuals involves storing information on their Smartphones, tablets, and computer. While I use my Smartphone and computer to help me organize to a certain degree, I prefer recording information on paper. Despite my strong preference for this “old school” approach, it’s prudent for anyone to explore how the technology you own can help you become better organized. This can mean anything from using the online program iCloud to store your documents (including pictures) to composing your to-do list on your Smartphone. If you use this approach, please remember you cannot see this list while you are speaking on the phone. If you happen to be making plans with a friend, and the information about these plans are stored exclusively on your phone, this could hinder your planning efforts.
Having a bulletin board—or more than one—helps me keep organized. On the two bulletin boards in my office I have business cards, a note reminding me of my next dentist appointment, and a travel voucher from United Airlines. If you don’t have enough room in your office for a bulletin board, it may be helpful to think of a place—whether on the wall, your refrigerator, or on your bathroom mirror—where you can place important reminders. It’s also possible you have limited need for visual prompts. This possibility is another reason I encourage everyone to discover which organizational approach works best for them.
Have you digitized any of your important documents?
While I don’t find filing cabinets helpful, I think plastic storage bins with separate compartments are useful. I’ve three of these in my office, and this makes it easy to store health insurance booklets, bank statements, and my rental insurance packet. Again, it’s possible you will keep more of this information in a digital format, and there is nothing inherently wrong with this approach. In fact, if your office space is limited—for example, if your “office” is squeezed into a corner of your living room—it may work best to digitize as much information as possible.
I’ve found it helps if I organize my information based on theme or content or both. For example, I have a folder where I store story ideas. I also have folders which store my sizeable quote collection. It’s not uncommon for me to write down information such as the name of a brewery in Scotland I hope to visit, and this information either gets placed in my long-term or travel-themed notes. Articles on publishing my writing are placed in another folder, and this folder is stored under my desk for easy access.
It’s of utmost important to determine which items you need ready access to in your office space. Items I must have within an arm’s reach are Post-it notes, my USB drive, scratch paper, pens, and scotch tape. Other items, such as the folders containing my quote collection, aren’t within arm’s reach, but are nonetheless easy to retrieve.
Depending on your individual preferences, it may help to have a designated place for your important papers, computer printer, and other items. The key items on my desk rarely move, and this approach works for me. However, I’ve also learned that having a plastic bin in which I place items to be moved to their final home later on works well. Even though this approach suits me, it may be too imprecise for certain individuals. If it is, then you must determine what alternative approach would work.
Your office-related organizational needs may be fewer or greater than mine. I cannot know what you are working with and what you are aiming for. As a writer—and as a person who prefers hard copies to digital—I manage a great deal of what I call “paper mass.” This doesn’t have to be stressful, however, and I’m learning more about how to streamline this process.
Deciding how to best organize your office is an ongoing task. It’s essential to keep an open mind about how you can improve your system. Even an approach which works splendidly today may not work in a year or five years because your organizational needs will have changed. It’s even possible you’ll need to rethink your entire office organizational system because you are in a creative rut. This could involve buying a different desk or moving your current desk to a different part of the room to discovering that you want to digitize everything except the love letters from your significant other. I regularly reassess my approach to organizing the information I acquire, and occasionally I discover a better method worth trying.
With the right attitude and, if you need them, a few supplies from Office Max, better organizing your office can be a worthwhile and enjoyable task. From experience I know that making your office a place where you can be productive and creative is enormously rewarding. It’s almost as satisfying as writing a delicious turn of phrase, but that’s another matter altogether.