While many of us continue to struggle with managing our overload in electronic information and our overflowing email in-boxes, there lies in a deep corner of your office in a drawer hidden away, a tangled mess of cords, software & manuals. In this electronic mecca of gadgets, where one upgrade after another has created a mound of unforgotten and deceased peripheral attachments, we have a new cause for clutter – the electronic graveyard.
Rather than having your IT person sort through your rats nest (unless you don’t mind the billable hours to do so) I would suggest that you get on top of this pile by following a few pointers:
- Take any user manuals, installation CDs, warranty information and additional cords & peripherals out of its shipping package.
- Cluster items using a large zip-up bag.
- Using clear bags will help you see what is inside and to easily locate what you are looking.
- Include original sales receipt / date the contents of each bag with date of purchase for warranty purposes.
- Label cords & adapters so you know which device they belong to.
Here’s an added bit of ‘fun’. If cord management is another cause for headaches, try these creative ideas to sort things out.
Recycle your bread ties by using them to label electronic cords (or you can purchase new items like these ‘Kableflags’).
Paper towel rolls can help to keep cords in order to avoid the snakes-nest approach to cord management.
culprit of stress in 2010 according to new numbers from StatisticsCanada.
A pressure-cooker to begin with, the workplace is made even more stressful by being disorganized.
“Canadians are in a constant time crunch and experience feelings of stress, failure and frustration,” says Clare Kumar, a Toronto-based professional organizer. “Today’s office workers must take stock of both their work habits and their environment, and take necessary action to alleviate the tremendous pressure disorganization has on their productivity and work-life balance.”
“By having the right tools in place, Canadian office workers can save at least 15 minutes per day which works out to a week and a half per year,” adds Linda Chu, a professional organizer in Vancouver. “This has a dramatic effect on the health of businesses and their workers.”
Professional organizers say desks in disarray causes a drop of 20 per cent in worker efficiency; costing the economy billions of dollars in lost productivity. Studies show the average worker spends at least 400 hours per year searching for paper documents. “This places tremendous stress on the bottom line for many businesses that need to return to profitability, especially coming out of the economic downturn.”
Chu recommends several steps to become more efficient and productive in the workplace.
- Categorize. Sort through possessions and group them into similar categories of information and tasks. Identify what things are, instead of getting sidetracked by thinking of solutions.
- Limit. If space is a premium you may have to choose between what is important – your space or your stuff. Limit your collections by regularly reviewing and letting go of information.
- Evaluate. Focusing on what matters most is the key to prioritizing. Continually evaluate information and tasks as they relate to achieving goals to increase your efficiency and productivity.
- Allocate. Find a method to store information and possessions to be able to find what you need, when you need it.
- Remove. Items that are no longer of value or no longer needed can be removed from the workspace. Focusing on what is important will get you on track to be more efficient.
The Government of Canada has identified key Literacy and Essential Workplace Skills. These skills are used in nearly every job, throughout daily life and at varying levels of complexity. Having a common foundation of skills will enable people to successfully participate in the Canadian labour market, enhancing communication and workplace productivity. Essential skills give people the ability to evolve with their jobs and to adapt to workplace change.
The nine Essential Skills include:
- Document use
- Oral communication
- Working with others
- Computer use
- Continuous learning
To help you kick start your continuous learning efforts, Out of Chaos will be offering the upcoming workshop basics:
Get Organized: de-clutter & focus and what matters most!
November 1, 2011 – 7:00 to 8:30pm
For the pilers, filers and stuffers who are running out of space. For those that are overburdened and stressed with too many email, voice mail, paper, and interruptions. This workshop will give you take-away tips on how to get yourself organized by addressing:
- How to begin diving into the piles when you “just don’t know where to start”
- How to prioritize and focus your time on what’s important when everything appears urgent
- Decision making using the “Decide in Five” model to help you focus on what matters most
Class held at the new Healistic Planet Wellness Studio in Kitsilano, 1860 West 1st Avenue, Vancouver, BC
By Jennifer Myers
The Globe and Mail, December 26, 2009
Heading into the new year may be just the time to look at order and disorder in the workplace.
Your desk is a mess. You can’t dig out your to-do list from the overflowing pile, never mind tick off any items on it. You have dozens of e-mails waiting to be read. And you keep getting distracted every time a co-worker stops to chat, your in-box signals another message has arrived or the phone rings.
Workers everywhere can identify with that. And it’s only getting worse.
Downsizing and layoffs have resulted in fewer workers but no reduction in the workload. Those who have kept their jobs are functioning in a state of semi-chaos, scrambling to bring order to their work lives. And far from helping us stay on top of things, technology has only made things worse, says Linda Chu, founder of Out of Chaos, a professional organizing firm in Vancouver. Business has moved to a 24/7 economy and workers are now always on. We try to multi-task and it’s not working, she says.
Disorganization in the workplace can range from merely annoying to nearly paralyzing, and it costs companies both time and money in lost productivity.
“Things pile up, people feel mentally defeated and exhausted, and the task of organizing seems impossible,” Ms. Chu says.
Heading into a new year may be just the time to look at order and disorder in the workplace.
You know you need help when
1 . You spend more than 15 minutes each day searching for misplaced items.
2. The pile of papers in your inbox is always more than eight inches high.
3. Your book shelves are used for storing items other than books.
4. You have more than 100 old e-mails stored in your computer’s inbox.
5. You are constantly asking people to resend their contact information to you.
Source: Professional Organizers in Canada website
Calculating the cost of chaos
Your messy desk or jammed e-mail box may not seem like a big deal, but it could be costing you, big time. Find out the real cost of chaos with Tennessee-based DME Consulting & Training’s “cost of disorganization” calculator (http://www.thegosystem.com/cod_start.asp)
Enter your company name, number of employees and average hourly wage to learn the amount of time lost each day to disorganization.
Three common saboteurs to workplace organization, and how to beat them
PROBLEM: For many, the desktop has become a storage place. Next to the family photos, you might also find yesterday’s lunch leftovers and an Aspirin bottle, not to mention overflowing piles of paper. People are still more comfortable reading physical documents, so they print every e-mail, memo and report that comes their way. Without the time or a system to deal with the material, it, too, ends up in disarrayed piles.
SOLUTION: Make it a habit to always put things away. Toss the garbage and return useful items to drawers when you’re done. Create a system for dealing with paper by segmenting it into three categories: active files; archival materials, research or information on projects you might need; and reference materials, contact info, or items you may need for a future project. The only folder that should stay on your desk is the active file you need to get the job done today.
PROBLEM: Besides the distraction of checking e-mail messages either immediately or shortly after they arrive, many people also neglect the delete button. These days it’s not uncommon to see 1,000 e-mails stored in an inbox, Ms. Chu says. “It’s a fear of out of sight, out of mind.” But the sheer volume of messages makes it overwhelming and mentally exhausting each time we go online.
SOLUTION: Check e-mail on a schedule and stick with it. For some, that could be three times a day, for others it could mean every couple of hours. “Then get rid of the crud,” Ms. Chu says. Use the functions available on your e-mail program to manage your mail. For example, set up folders and move mail you really need to keep into the appropriate location. Create a rule that sends subscriptions, such as newsletters or news alerts, directly to a folder. The key is to process as much mail as you can as it comes in.
PROBLEM: With the constant barrage of interruptions by managers and co-workers, the obsession to check e-mail and voice mail and the Web, and an overwhelming list of tasks to complete made only more onerous by belt-tightening and staff reductions, we’ve lost our ability to focus, Ms. Chu says. As a result, workers often reel from one task to the next without making any real progress.
SOLUTION: Develop a priority action plan each day. A to-do list is a useful way to declutter the mind and determine which items are a high priority. That means when a phone call, an e-mail or a co-worker interrupts, you can decide if the interruption is important enough to trump what you’re currently doing or can wait until you finish the task at hand.
With the downturn in the economy many are finding themselves doing the work of two or more people. Take for instance a recent Vancouver-based client of mine who was in the position of hiring for a short-term entry level position in their company. The vacancy created a flurry of over 100 applicant resumes applying for the position.
Out of Chaos was originally called in to assist this busy manager with managing her tasks and creating a prioritized action plan. It was very clear early in our process that activities relating to hiring personnel were not this manager’s expertise.
In consultation with Sandra Reder, Managing Partner of Vertical Bridge Corporate Consulting, the following steps in the hiring process can easily bog down the best of managers, especially if they are not in your area of expertise:
- Placing the advertisement on various job boards, website and possibly in print media
- Receiving resumes (these days it can be anywhere from 75 to 150 resumes for one position)
- Screening resumes to the job description and short-listing the suitable candidates
- Pre-qualifying calls to the short-listed candidates to see how they communicate, as well as to confirm some basic details about them
- Possibly doing a more in-depth pre-screen on the phone to find out more about their past work experience before bringing them in for face-to-face interviews
“Overall this can take one person well over 20 hours of their time (this is based on 75 resumes if there’s more, then time will obviously go up).”
What is your time worth? Consider the value of outsourcing hiring related activities to the experts and free yourself up to focus on your core business.
What is the ultimate fail-safe product that will keep all your papers from conspiring into those endless piles?
Is there a magical secret process to keeping your desktop clear, preventing the mail from littering your kitchen counter, or remembering where you placed those season hockey tickets?
The secret to organizing is not a secret at all. It is truly about finding a solution that is customized to each individual’s needs. Although the dilemmas may be the same, the solutions may be as different as each person.
The big move is coming. They say moving is one of the top five stress-inducers, right up there with the job interview, the pink slip, divorce or critical illness. But the move doesn’t have to be a ticking stress-bomb.
Out of Chaos’ team of organizers helps both residents and business owners coordinate the move to make the process painless. Contact us.
Changing homes? Moving offices? Organizing before and during the move will make the transition go a lot easier. Here are some tips to help the move go as smoothly as possible.
One of my favourite products is the File Jacket. Most people walk right by these products, often found right next to their cousins, the file folder.
How many times each day do you spend writing yourself notes on pieces of paper and post-it notes, to remind yourself about a task that you must do? This action would be ideal if only you did not continue to miss doing or finding things.
The Tickler File — or some may know it as a BF or Bring Forward File is a handy tool that I recommend to almost all clients. It is a system that you can use to manage all those loose pieces of paper that do not belong to a specific project file. Usually these papers and tasks are specific to an upcoming event and must be deferred and ‘brought forward’ on a specific date. This system in essence, ‘tickles’ your memory.