Office Organization Tips?
September 24, 2009 8:26 AM   Subscribe

For those of you who are managers or administrators: what are your pro tips on office organization?

I have a new job and a new, totally clean and empty office. The job is going to require a lot of staying on top of things: staff, programs, frequent meetings, ongoing and long-term projects, and shorter-term event production.

What are your best tips on setting up a useful office environment that aids you in tracking everything? I know about 43 Folders and Getting Things Done, and already live by Outlook for calendar, tasks, and meeting reminders. So I'm really interested in hearing not what's a cool idea and something to try, but things that really work, on a practical level: like your arrangement of bulletin boards and file folders, what's on your desk vs. what's in drawers, your daily and weekly routines and habits and how your office setup makes them run more smoothly.
posted by Miko to Work & Money (9 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
For those tasks that I assign to others but nevertheless want to ensure get done, I keep a folder within reach on my desk, and print out a copy of the email that I send to the assignee (or copy of it, whatever the assignment format). Once a week or so I go through the folder and check to see if those tasks have been resolved. I find it incredibly helpful. The tasks aren't really appropriate for my to-do list since they are delegated, but this way I can make sure nothing slips through the cracks.
posted by miss tea at 8:31 AM on September 24, 2009 [3 favorites]

I completely clear my desk every night. Leave NOTHING out. If there are things that didn't get done, stick them in a folder titled "start with this tomorrow" and stick it in the top drawer of your desk. You'll be amazed at how energizing it is to come in to a clear desk-- ready for anything. (My #1 pet peeve is people who claim they can't keep their desks clear because they are too important too busy. You're not busy, you're just disorganized.)
posted by nax at 8:40 AM on September 24, 2009 [3 favorites]

I would die without my dual monitor setup. In the mornings, I drag emails that I need to respond to from one monitor to the other in order to make sure I take the time to answer them after busy opening times are done.

One monitor is a wide-screen, rotated to make it tall rather than wide. This is where all my documents and emails get written. The other is for programs I keep up at all times - Thunderbird, Firefox, and circulation software.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:59 AM on September 24, 2009 [3 favorites]

White boards are engineered to be erased immediately. I am almost the only person on my floor with a clean whiteboard. Ninety-five percent of the whiteboards on this floor look like an absolute pig sty. It doesn't make you look busy. It makes you look like a pig.
posted by bukvich at 10:19 AM on September 24, 2009

Everything goes into outlook. Pages of notes from meetings get scanned and added as a document to the outlook appointment (with text recognition so I can search afterwards if needed). Back it up twice a day. Every task that is assigned goes in there, as do any random notes.

Don't ever tell yourself you'll just remember it later. Write it down. Also, only let a piece of paper go through your hands once; decide where it goes and put it there. Or scan it and throw it out.
posted by variella at 1:46 PM on September 24, 2009

The GTD advice that really helped me is --
1 set of drawers
never more than 3/4 full (just add a drawer)
file folders and label maker in easy reach

I have a running computer file for each person I have regular meetings with (e.g., staff). At the end of every meeting, I start my agenda for our next meeting with anything I want to follow up with them on at the next meeting. Then, on my handheld, I have a file with their name on it, and as things come up I need to remember to talk to them about, I add it there. (You could probably avoid this, but I always think of things on the bus.)
posted by salvia at 3:35 PM on September 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

In the job I had where this mattered most, I had routines, just like at home, kept on Excel, just like at home. (I dislike calling them "routines" or "chores." I prefer the term "anchors" because that is what they are for me.)

So there was a sheet for weekly, and one for daily. I can't remember what they even included; maybe stuff like "check links immediately after posting week's stories" on the weekly Excel sheet, and then that would get checked off. I also had folders for Last Week, This Week, Nest Week, and Story Ideas.

Also, in any job, every afternoon or evening I come up with a short list of stuff to do in the morning. I'm not a morning person, and the list helps me focus until lunch. After lunch, I'm fine.
posted by jgirl at 6:07 PM on September 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

ToDoList with a GTD philosophy applied to it. Everything is a task with a date & a person assigned. Nothing gets lost.
posted by MesoFilter at 9:03 PM on September 24, 2009

1. Nthing dual monitors. 3 monitors is even better! BIG ones.

2. Go as paperless as possible. My system is a Fujitsu ScanSnap that scans directly to EverNote (as a PDF, which premium EverNote then does optical character recognition on). Then I use tags in EverNote to organize my documents.

3. In general, don't treat digital information like it's paper. Use some sort of tag-based system to file digital documents in more than one "place."

4. If you do have paper that you need to file, I've found that having a label maker handy makes me much more likely to file things (versus piling them up in my "to file later" pile).

5. Use the recurring task feature in Outlook for your daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, yearly, etc. routines. It's soooooooooooooo much easier knowing that those things will just magically appear on your to-do list without you worrying about them. When I used to handle all my previous employer's taxes and OSHA paperwork this was a huge stress reliever as I knew I didn't have to worry about forgetting a deadline.

6. Make sure you are using your office real estate effectively. In general, you want the stuff you use all the time to be within arms reach, and anything you don't use often or are just storing for possible future reference away and out of sight. (What NOT to do: My predecessor at my current job inexplicably had binders of credit card receipts and statements up to 5 years old on the shelf right above her desk. I relocated those to the filing cabinet and filled the shelf with reference books I use regularly instead.)

@nax: Thanks for the great idea for a new habit I should implement!
posted by Jacqueline at 5:49 PM on September 25, 2009

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