Prior to December 2013, I was working in a very spacious office: there were two separate sit down desks, a meeting area with 4 chairs and round table, and floor to ceiling windows that drenched my office with the afternoon sun. You would think, then, that with all this space and natural light my productivity levels would be at an all-time high – but they weren’t and here’s why.
The problem was that while having that much space was certainly a luxury, I simply had too much stuff lying around. Documents lay unorganized on all three desks and it became difficult to track the incoming and outgoing projects. The ensuing result was chaos and disorganization, and as the resident Black Belt of Lean Manufacturing, I knew this was not sustainable.
Fortunately our office underwent a renovation in December and, I, along with many other staff members, ended up switching offices. I am now situated upstairs in a much smaller office than before, yet despite the downsizing, I’m more productive than ever.
Here’s how I did it: I established three key areas in my office. The first is my stand-up desk where I complete any actions that require a computer – emails, phone calls, online meetings, and documents that require immediate reading, editing or writing. As many of you can understand or have experienced yourself, I receive hundreds of emails each day and could easily spend my entire day on email. So in order to filter them all I use a triage system where I categorize emails into urgent, need to be addressed soon, and need to be read at some point. I do this at several points in the day to prevent an overflowing email inbox.
The second space is my sit down desk, where I keep notes, to-do lists, and documents that need to be reviewed, consolidated or planned. This is also where I keep an “Incoming” folder for people to deposit any documents they need me to take a look at. The “Outgoing” folder is located in my third space – the meeting area. This area is devoid of all documents and is where I tackle priority items, including contracts and documents that need my immediate attention.
I’ve had this system in place for almost three months now and the organization that has followed is invaluable. An additional perk has been the stand-up desk, which has been a priceless tool for maintaining my health as well as for helping prevent “the 3pm slump.” I encourage you to find a system that works for your own office space, or if you have already, keep at it! The process is worth it in the end (and the empty email inbox certainly doesn’t hurt!).