Organize for In-house Success: How to Tame the Avalanche of Paper Flowing Through Your Office

A few years ago I hired professional organizer and owner of Organize for Success Emily Parks to advise me on how to get my in-house office in order. Emily is well known in our area for helping managers and business owners become more efficient in juggling all aspects of business minutia that if left unchecked and disorganized could negatively impact their success in completing major assignments.

Once Emily guided me onto a path of better organization and efficiency, I hired her to work with each member of my in-house team. Emily developed a customized solution that made it easier for them to be successful in reaching their day-to-day project goals. Emily’s practical tips were extremely beneficial. I truly believe she is one of the key reasons why my in-house team is supercharged and highly productive.

In this new six-part Q&A series titled “Organize for In-house Success,” I’ll pull the curtains back on my in-house department (exposing the good, the bad and the ugly) and share some of the obstacles we overcame with Emily’s advice. I hope you’ll find her insightful tips beneficial too.

EdHey Emily! Unfortunately, a ton of paper and emails can be generated while managing various aspects of ongoing print, Web and broadcast projects. For example, I purchase supplies for many of the projects produced by my team. I’m required by our accounting department to submit receipts and invoices at the end of the month during our expense reporting process.

I’m a hands-on creative director with very little free time. I can be meeting with my video editor in his studio in the morning, reviewing concepts with my Web designer over lunch, developing concepts with my print designer and copywriter in the late afternoon, and reviewing photography and print invoices in the evening. The amount of paper and emails generated in submissions and reviews can be unavoidable, overwhelming and a little tough to keep track of during the month.

Do you have any suggestions on how I could tame the avalanche of paper and general information that flows in and out of my office?

emily parksThat challenge faces many of today’s workers, Ed. According to a study by the Delphi Group, 15% of all paper handled in businesses is lost, and 30% of all employees’ time is spent trying to find lost documents; further, those performing ineffective searches and wasting time looking for information can cost companies up to 10% in salary expense. Since I’m confident there are other ways you could spend the time currently invested in searching for documents and information, it’s important to take steps upfront to ensure you can quickly find what you need when you need it fast.

The first step is to make sure that everything in your space is assigned a home. Then as items come in, only touch them once by placing them in their home at a set processing time or immediately when you receive them. With this approach, you’ll always know where to put things away when you are done using them as well as when new items arrive. Likewise, you’ll be able to quickly locate what you need when you need it.

Still, while it is important for all documents and information to have a home, it is equally important to limit the containers available to house what you have. By this, I mean that you should have no more than needed with regards to paper and electronic file folders, storage containers or bins, email folders and file holders. Yes, you want to make sure you have enough options for everything to have its appropriate place, however, this is a balancing act to make sure there aren’t too many. For example, when processing the emails you’ve received, if you have too many retention folders, it can be difficult to determine which folder should be the home for each email; then, if you have trouble determining which folder to store that message, how will you easily know from which folder to later retrieve it?

As you are assigning homes to everything in your space, remember to group like with like, which means combine related items into the same space or same storage solution. While “like with like” might relate to how those documents and pieces of information are to be used, it can also relate to similarities, such as all different types of paper being housed together. Therefore, when you are searching for something, it will be easier to find as you can head towards anything that might be related to what you’re seeking.

Thanks Emily!

In-house managers and teams, how much time do you invest in any given day, week or year searching for that specific piece of paper or email you know is “somewhere” in your workspace? Which of these tidbits from Emily can you incorporate in your day-to-day processes right now to eliminate some of that wasted time?

Additional Resource
Need some new strategies and techniques for managing your in-house team? Get ready to tackle your team’s in-house issues with these exceptional presentations from the 2013 InHOWse Managers Conference, which includes nearly 14 hours of professional advice!

About Emily Parks
Emily Parks, owner of Organize for Success, is a member of the National Association of Professional Organizers & the Institute for Challenging Disorganization as well as a graduate of the Institute for Professional Organizers. With a background in automotive marketing and college sports operations, Emily provides confidential, one-on-one consulting (in-person or via Skype) and team training, helping you increase efficiency, boost productivity, accomplish more in less time, quickly locate what you need when you need it and maximize your physical space for optimal output.