You’ve heard the old, tired saying "It’s all in your head." When it comes to organizing, you might be surprised to know that keeping your home office in tip-top shape is really all in your head.
Organizing and Changing What’s in Your Head
I spent last weekend with a group of inspiring businesswomen. During one of our conversations, we talked about how organizing is really more a matter of modifying behavior, and less about products. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love products. There are so many creative products available on the market, and many I recommend over and over.
However, products are only part of the answer to a struggle with getting organized. Changing behavior, or what’s inside your head, is key to getting and staying organized.
Let’s say you’ve tried organizing your office before. You cleaned it up, cleared the decks and created a pristine filing system. Six months later, you suddenly realize that your office is right back where it started. Frustrating, right? Let’s try another way.
Start with Your Head
When you’ve tried to get organized in the past, what didn’t work? Let’s say you cleaned out your filing cabinet, labeled every file and edited out the extra papers. When was the next time you looked at those files? Did you set up a system to use that filing cabinet, or did you largely ignore it and pile papers on top of it like you did before?
If you first thought of your personal work style and level of patience when setting up that filing system, you are much more likely to keep it up. If you’re not a card-carrying member of the "I Love To File Club" (and really, who is), make your filing system as simple as possible. Line up your files on the left, consolidate your subjects and simplify as much as possible. Then, sort through your papers and get everything in place. Next, put a date on your calendar each week (or month) to put papers in that filing system. Ten to twenty minutes at a time should do it. Keep that date with yourself, and you’ll find your filing cabinet will be as good as the day you installed it.
Organizing is Great, Except When it Isn’t
Now, if you’re like many (including some of my clients) who find that a new filing system isn’t working after a month, what can you do? Change it!
There are no hard and fast rules about what your filing system has to look like. If you want to file in apple crates, be my guest. If you’d like to file in a dozen buckets, again, be my guest. The point is, can you find what you are looking for, and will you actually use this system? If the answer is "Yes", then try it out. If you find your organizing efforts don’t seem to be working after a while, change what doesn’t work. And remember, what needs changing might be YOU.
The Key is Doing, Not Buying
You’ll notice I’ve written very little about products. That’s because the particular filing cabinet, folders or buckets you use are of little consequence. The important part is that date you make with yourself to use your filing system. Develop easy-to-follow rules and protocols. Once you pay a bill, file it away. When you receive a new product catalog, put it in it’s home so you can find it later. (Remember, organizing is about finding what you need in five minutes or less.)
As you set up systems in your office, you will probably find things you hadn’t thought of. Setting up a well thought-out system ahead of time increases the likelihood that you can add or subtract anything relatively painlessly. Then, use what you put into place.
Organizing, shmorganizing, it’s really about what’s going on in your head. So, get moving and change your thoughts, behaviors and actions. You might be surprised that your desk looks great six months after you put in the hard work!