OrganizeYour Work Space for How You Work

by Emily Barnes

A well-organized office is one that not only looks good but is functional too. It is organized to match how you work, live, and travel – not how someone else does. The basic rule of thumb for placing things in a space is to put frequently used items close to you and infrequently used ones farther away with the remaining things situated somewhere in the middle. However, that rule falls short of telling you how to consider job duties while organizing your work space – so some of us use the “put-it-anywhere” approach. But, people who organize their space according to the work they do, how they want or need to do it, and where they do it, report being better organized and, generally speaking, feeling more in control of their work than the “put-it-anywhere” population.

To help you organize your space so that it better suits your job functions, here’s a brief introduction to the concept. Listed in this table are a few typical job duties:

Job Duties

Desk

Car

Airplane

Hotel

Home

E-mails

*

Web research

*

*

Calls

*

*

*

Reading, analyzing

*

*

Writing

*

*

*

 

 

The asterisks indicate where these duties are performed. While most of the work is performed at the desk, some of it occurs elsewhere. Using the above example, let’s start organizing.

  1. E-mail & Web Research. Arrange the computer monitor so that your head is not tilted too far up or down for viewing, and put the mouse pad directly to the left or right of the keyboard to avoid awkward twisting of your wrist and forearm. Make sure you do not have to lean too far left or right to reach speakers, pen/pencils, sharpener, printer, any docking stations, or disk drives. Easy access to these tools will help you move smoothly from one task to the next. Create file folder categories to hold your emails or research. Mirror these steps at work and home.
  2. Calls. At your desk, first adjust the chair so that your back rests comfortably against the back of the chair, and your feet are flat on the floor while your arms are at a right angle to your desk surface. Position the chair towards a pleasant view – decide what that view will be and make sure that it suits your personality. Do you need a picture, flowers, a plant or something else to enliven the view? Sit in your chair and situate the phone close enough to you so that your body does not have to twist into another position to use it. Keep the basic tools required for calls in a drawer or stationed closest to the telephone: pens, pencils, writing tablets, paper calendar or electronic organizer, and files.Keep two notepads in the car (one is your back-up) and make sure you can reach one as required. Since you know you will be making calls while in the car, put these things in a box or case: headset, pen, pad and copy of your phone/address book.For hotel calls, put a separate copy of your contact list in a permanent travel folder that accompanies you on every trip. Include a notepad along with current work that might arise during the trip and a portable office kit (sized 5×7; includes clips, stapler, scissors, tape, rubber bands, ruler). What else belongs in the folder? Consider, realistically, the kind of work you are likely to do while traveling and think through the material you will need to support your doing that work. It’s a good idea to create a checklist to reference before traveling so as to make sure you include the necessary items for your trip.
  3. Reading, Analyzing. Organize this work around the concept of mobility since you will be reading mostly at home or while traveling. But first, answer some questions. On a scale of 1-5, how important is the reading material? What’s the deadline for reading? Your answers will help you decide what you will read, take home, or take on the next trip. Separate the reading you want to accomplish in the next few days and put it in a special travel case to carry home with you. When preparing for your next trip, transfer the desired reading material into your travel folder.
  4. Writing. Before you begin writing, clear your desk of all papers and clutter unrelated to the writing project that requires attention. Put these unrelated materials in labeled file folders then mark their To-Do dates in your calendar before storing the folders in a file cabinet. Make sure paper, reference materials, and other supplements you need for that project are handy before you begin writing. Since you might also be working on a particular project while on an airplane or at home, keep the materials for that project organized together in folders, a binder, or a travel case for easy carrying between your office, home and travel destinations.

Whether at home, the office, or traveling, you can perform your job with the least amount of shuffling. The key is to focus on what you do and how you do it, then practice doing it better. Here are three steps to organizing space to answer the needs of a job:

  1. List your primary job duties
  2. Determine which of those job duties you usually perform while
    1. At your desk where you work
    2. In your car
    3. On an airplane, train — or boat!
    4. At a hotel
    5. At home
    6. Anywhere else
  3. Create a plan to accommodate the work you intend to perform in each place.

 

© Emily Barnes 2004