Cubicals. A place where in the past five years I’ve probably spent half my time. My first cube was when I worked for a big insurance company in downtown Pittsburgh shortly after college graduation. My first big-time, “real” job post-grad (on floor 13 to boot, yikes). All I know is I had a mini boom box and would listen to local radio all day, and every piece of paper I’d file into one folder and never look at again. All I needed was on my computer, and that’s it. Shortly after, I moved to the PR and advertising agency world (and I discovered Pandora) and realized my technique was going to hurt me if I didn’t figure out how to organize. You take a LOT of notes and handle way too many projects for one folder.
I’ve had a few more cubes since then, and a small office, and now I’m back in cube land. Now that I’ve been back at my agency for more than 7 months, my paper stack has grown exorbitantly. So last week, I decided to evaluate the situation, and get organized (after I made my cube its own entity on Foursquare, that is).
STEP 1: Assess. First, carve out a chunk of time to actually organize. I’d set an hour of your week to do this. Put it on your calendar. When that time starts, look at what you have. If you have papers pertaining to 2004, GET RID OF THEM. If there’s an old mug in the corner collecting mold, PITCH IT…or at least throw it in the dishwasher. Look around and see what you use on a daily basis, and what you haven’t touched/question why it’s in your workspace.
STEP 2: Group, separate and condense. Mostly, the paper beast is what causes our cube clutter. Take a look at all the paper and decide what should go together. Do you have one folder you jam all client 1 information in? And client 2? Get a little more particular and group and separate into projects. So client 1/project a, client 1/project b, client 2/project a, and so on. If you have papers pertaining to certain projects that are no longer relevant, put them in their own pile, and move to step 3…
STEP 3: Purge. Yep, this is when you can take those useless papers and throw them in the recycle bin. Or better yet, create a scrap paper file and use them to write random notes on. When I’m on the phone, or just in a conversation with a coworker, I scribble things down (I honestly can’t remember things two minutes after you tell me), and have a little scrap notebook I use to do so. I have a small organizer on my desk where I throw scrap paper I can reuse. Reduce, reuse, recycle, people!
STEP 4: File. Now that you have what you need, make detailed folders and divide by client, then by client project, and put them in your drawers. Yes, your drawers. You do NOT need every single folder on your desk, even if you use organizers. You will look like Michelle in Tommy Boy. Remember her method? Anyways, the only folders I have atop my desk are for current/urgent projects only. That way, they are right in front of me, in addition to my to-do list. And, if you organize and separate correctly, you can easily find what you’re looking for with one open of a drawer:
Bonus step: Get awesome sticky notes, that make to-dos more fun!
What are your tips for organizing the ultimate cube or office?