Organizing Your Office With Shelves and Files

Shelves and files are two of the most effective organizational tools available. Whipping yours into shape can help you better manage the onslaught of information and communication overload.

Ah shelves! What an invention. Do you ever consider what goes on a shelf? In a nutshell, your shelves are the home of:

1. Items you’re bound to use within the next two weeks,

2. items too large to fit into a filing cabinet or collections of like items,

3. projects in progress, and

4. items that represent supplies, and hence go in supply cabinets.

Items You’re Bound to Use Within the Next Two Weeks

These would include reference books and directories, phone books, manuals, instruction guides, and possibly magazines, especially large issue magazines that represent annual directories and theme issues.

Items Too Large to Fit into a Filing Cabinet or Collections of Like Items

Due to the difficulty of filing thick items such as books and magazines, any item of width is better housed on your shelves than within your file cabinets. Any oversized item that won’t fit in a file cabinet, and any item that is part of a continuing or building series, is best housed on your shelves.

If you receive a key industry publication and it makes sense for you to hang on to back issues, these also belong on your shelves. You could acquire magazine holders (pre-cut, self-assembled cardboard boxes or preassembled plastic molded boxes) that hold about 24 issues of a magazine. The box enables you to stay in control. It’s visual and you can label it. It makes it easy to grab one issue among the many you’re retaining, or to replace an issue.

Projects in Progress

If you’re working on a project and there are a variety of items involved, the magazine box storage system will work well. If you keep your shelves behind your seat at your desk, you can keep one shelf compartment clear to lay file folders flat upon it. This can serve as a way station and helps keep your desk clear.

It’s better to have stuff behind you than in your immediate work area. Since you face many demands during the day, and may have to draw upon several folders representing different projects or tasks, it makes sense to have a flat surface, even among your shelving units, that’s available to accommodate these active files.

You could employ stacking trays as well, except they then become semi- permanent collections of paper, rather than projects in progress.

Items That Represent Supplies, And Hence Can Go In Supply Cabinets

You don’t want to house supplies on your shelves because shelf space is valuable. Like most professionals, it isn’t difficult for you to quickly fill up shelves. Each time you receive a catalogue, a directory from the Chamber of Commerce, or a new software manual, the few inches of horizontal space you have are consumed.

Your inclination might be to buy more shelves, when it would be best not to. Usually, however, these are excuses for not managing your office: more shelves are seldom the answer to keeping your office in shape. Keep your office in shape within reasonable parameters. You have to use the desk, filing cabinet, shelves, and supply cabinet you already have. If you’re chronically in need of another filing cabinet, more shelves, or another supply cabinet, perhaps only then do you need to go buy one.

You want to keep supplies in a supply cabinet where you can store them in bulk, stack them horizontally or vertically, one item on top of another. Treat your shelves as sacred. Align them so that you can pull out key items at will. If it takes you longer than thirty seconds to find something, refine your system.

Advance Word on Whipping Your Files into Shape

Filing is a dynamic process. Items that you place in your file folder today may eventually find their way into your shelves, re-emerge in some other form, or be chucked. What’s on your shelves, in a metamorphisized form, may find its way into your files. If you have a big reference book, you may end up extracting a few pages, discarding or recycling the larger volume, and retaining the few key pages in a file folder. The relationship between your various storage areas is dynamic. Your job is to boil down the essence of what you retain. When something can be tossed, let it go.

Are you fearful about tossing something because you might need it tomorrow? If there are no discernible downside consequences to tossing something, toss it. Most of what you retain is replaceable. Office efficiency experts claim that 80% of most files is never used. Even if that’s only partially true, a significant chunk of what you’re retaining is still deadwood.

To the degree that you can, clear the deadwood out of your desk, files, and office; keep your office in shape. It enhances your capacity to handle other tasks and raises the probability that you’ll find the items you do need faster and easier.

Consider the cumulative time savings each time you look for something throughout the course of the day–probably 12 minutes each day. At fifty hours a year, you could create an extra week for yourself. People visiting your office receive the message that you’re someone who is able to stay in control, find things quickly, and stay on top of situations. Hence, you receive a multi-payoff for keeping your files and office in shape.

The paradox of engaging in these activities is that getting things in shape takes time. Don’t give up. The small time investment you make will repeatedly payoff in efficiency.

Post time: 04-10-2017