In honor of today (March12th) being “National Organize Your Home Office Day” (yes, they really do have a day for just about anything you can think of!) I thought this would be a good opportunity to share some tips on two home office areas that seems to get a lot of people locked up. I have found that people will often Google “organizing your home office” and find a plethora of information – solid, helpful information that walks them through the step by step process of clearing, sorting, filing and ultimately organizing their space. Which is great. For about 3 weeks. And then they find themselves back at square one. It looked wonderful and clean and organized but what they didn’t learn was how to use the space in a way that was consistent with how they live. The ability of the space to function for them – the systems to make it user friendly were missing. So here are a few tips for two home office areas that typically throw people for a loop … filing systems and pending items.
FILES – yes, in fact I did just hear you say “ugh”. For a lot of people who don’t have administrative assistants living in their homes with them, filing systems are the bane of their existence. About a decade ago Lanna Nakone, M.A. identified four basic brain types (the Maintainer, the Harmonizer, the Innovator and the Prioritizer) and guess what … unless you are a Maintainer, traditional organizing systems are not going to work for you! ! Filing systems are the perfect example of this for the majority of people – they’re no fun to set up, they’re no fun to use and they’re no fun to maintain.
So here’s my advice … take a few minutes to really think about what you hate about filing. Is it the institutional folders you’re using? Is it that you hate putting papers into folders? Is it that the system itself is too regimented and makes you feel like you’re suffocating? Filing systems are a great place to think outside the box – as long as they work for you and your brain, they work.
PENDING ITEMS – People are typically pretty good at figuring out a system for their Action Items. This is not to say that they have mastered time management and getting these Action Items done, but at least anything that is an Action Item is on their radar. It’s usually the Pending Items that get neglected and ignored. Unfortunately a very common dynamic is that Pending Items are not managed properly and by the time they become Action Items they are a little bigger and a little messier than they need to be because proper attention has not been paid to them.
So what exactly is a Pending Item? It is something that is on hold for a period of time – either waiting for you or someone else to turn it into an Action Item. Some items would include a bill that needs to be paid but you have a question about a charge, a school related field trip, getting a referral for a future doctor appointment, a party that is coming up next month. You probably have many more Pending Items than you realize and unless you have a system to handle them, they can become very draining and time-consuming.
On Sunday night as I am getting ready for the week I move all items that are Pending for the upcoming week into the appropriate slot when they will become Action Items. On Wednesday morning I grab all of the papers in the Wednesday slot. Ta-da … my Pending Items just automatically became Action Items! No more losing permission slips, no more bills paid late, no more forgetting to mail out birthday cards.
Don’t forget … Being “organized” is all about your systems and routines working for you and how you live, rather than you working to make them fit into your life!