10 Tips for Organizing Office Paperwork

office organizationIs a cluttered and disorganized office space getting in the way of your productivity?

Is the task of straightening up your desk daunting?

Organizing office paperwork can be intimidating, but getting the job done opens up the opportunity for much greater achievement and a far more pleasant office. An organized office us really worth it, so find the time to work through it, and apply these organizational tips to your own situation. Once you have clean, tidy and organized, make it a habit to keep your office neat. Of course it will be hard work, at least initially, but the final result will be satisfactory.

1. Set Apart Time to Organize Everything

Make time to tackle the job of organization. By doing it all at once, you will finish the project sooner, and be able to enjoy a clean workspace right away. Plan on having to take more time than you think you will. Be careful when working to not let yourself be distracted. Do take breaks at set times throughout the process, and reward yourself when you complete it.

2. Clean Off the Desk

Keep your desk area clean. Put away all papers. With everything filed, you will be able to find what you need more easily than if it were sitting in a stack on your desk. Organize drawers to have the most used items nearest to you. Keep important items, like the computer, printer, telephone and card file on the desk, but put all papers and other tools away. You will be more productive with less distraction and more space to spread out.

3. Thoroughly Organize Your Files

If you don’t have one already, set up an organized filing system. Label filing cabinets and files alphabetically. Sub-divide files as needed. Put every paper into a file that is accurately labeled and easy to remember. Use a color coding system, if it will help you. If files are exstensive, keep a list of the names handy.

4. Throw Away Anything Unneeded

Don’t keep clutter you do not need. Throw out scrap paper and old printed emails and memos that are no longer important. Toss junk mail as soon as it comes in. However, be careful not to throw away papers that are important. If you are unsure about something, set it by in a designated place to ask about.

5. Set Up a System for Dealing with Incoming Papers

Have trays to sort incoming papers. Create separate spaces for papers that need filing, ones that need immediate attention, and ones that need to be passed on to someone else. Empty these trays into the correct files regularly. Sort through incoming mail as soon as it arrives. This will save on time otherwise wasted in looking for things, sorting through unimportant documents, or working too close to deadlines.

6. Work on One Project at a Time

If a project is not actively in the works at the present, put the papers into the file. They will be easily retrievable when the time comes to use them. This will keep files from getting lost or disorganized, and it will keep you from being distracted. By having one project on your desk, you will be able to give it your full attention.

7. Clear Your Desk Daily

At the end of every work day, clear off your desk. You will be able to start every morning fresh. Important documents will not be lost or misfiled. You will stay on top of your organization, because you devote time to it every day.

8. File Papers Immediately

When papers come in, don’t let them stack up. Place them in the correct trays, and deal with them immediately. Put files into their folders and binders. You may have to let them pile up in a tray for a short time, but never let it get out of hand. Think about whether it takes more time to sort the papers into files now or later. Find out which is more efficient, and go with that process.

9. Store Boxed Files Annually

Files will accumulate. Every year, pack up the ones that are not used regularly and store them out of your work space. With more room to work in, you will save time by not having to deal with the clutter of unused, though organized, files.

10. Be Strict about Keeping to the System

Do not slack off on keeping everything organized, even when you are busy. Letting the system you have set up go for even one day could send you back to where you were when you started. Save that time and the discouragement that would come by taking the effort to put things in their place. Organizing your office will reward you!

guest authorJohn Brook is a writer who works at OfficeKitten.co.uk, a leading supplier of stationery online for businesses located in the UK.
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  1. Excellent tips. Have to admit that I almost “do” everything included in this list with the exception of the most important one, which is the last ๐Ÿ™‚ One day, I’ll just have to find a way to get the discipline of having to “manage” and control my complete lack of disorganization. Mind you, still have that “drawer” thing on my todo list, lol.
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    • Ha ha yes where are those drawer pictures? I think sticking to the system is always the challenge and hardest part. I’m guilty of losing the organization on my desk occasionally but I think that’s just life. It is a constant battle to keep on top of everything.

  2. I believe the real organization starts in your mind.
    I have a colleague who sucks at managing projects and organizing tasks, and this reflects on the order he has on his desk, documents etc.
    I am not sure what’s the cause of what, maybe a lack of “habit” to organize stuff reflects into your mind’s organization with more abstract material, or maybe a special creative-yet-unorganized mind approach causes you to suck at organizing papers, can’t be the judge of that, but still, it’s quite amusing.

  3. In my opinion, its intimidating task to organize office paperwok but can be done initially.

  4. I love how many of your tips relate to the desk top. Nothing hampers productivity more for me than for my desk to be cluttered. #2 Clean off the desk: #5 Deal w/ incoming papers (VERY IMPORTANT!); #6 One project at a time (all you multi-taskers out there); #7 Clear desk daily; #8 File paper immediately.

    My desk has to be clean in order to be effective in anything I do. I know this, yet I struggle more with this than any other aspect of organization. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Stan Horst
    Publisher: BetterBenches.com
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    • I think there is something psychological about having a messy desk that hampers productivity, not just the physical aspect. I feel overwhelmed before I even start working with a messy desk.

  5. Great tips Melinda!
    Its funny how I never actually though about having trays for the incoming papers, although they take most of my desk space (and I never seem to find the paper I need whenever I need it :D)
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  6. Ahhh! I’m really having trouble throwing unneeded items. When i decide to throw them away, a thought in my mind says, “don’t you might still need them”. Eventually, I will not need them, then it will all be unorganized.. Thanks for the list.

  7. I really must carry out your advice. I always have the same problem with my paperwork and sometimes it happens the same with my computer files. Definitely the best organization comes when we decide to be strict and disciplined with our improvements.
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  8. I really like this write! I enjoy it so much! thanks for give me a good reading moment!
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  9. Allan Douglas says:

    Oh! This is you: Melinda. I just came across this site. Love this post, will read more or them. I especially like points 7 & 8. I don’t like to leave stuff piled up on my desk, it just means I’m that much farther behind when I start in the morning. And I like to deal with each paper once. If I don’t have the information/resources to accomplish what it requires of me, I file it appropraitely and set about getting what I need. But I try not to set things aside to be done later just because I don’t want to deal with it now. And I don’t start a To Be Filed pile. Deal with it – file it. I may waste a few seconds in opening and closing the drawer, but I never have to go digging through piles looking for something that should be in a file and isn’t. That wastes a lot more time.

    Great post Melinda, I’m glad I wandered in!

  10. Oops… I went back to read it again and see that this was a guest post. I got so excited about seeing a familiar face I missed that the first time. Still kudos to you for finding good guest posters! ๐Ÿ™‚

  11. If you could see my office right now, you would choke. I am in the middle of de-cluttering and tossing. Paperwork has become my enemy.

    This is a post I could have used five years ago. Thanks for a well thought-out list of tips. GREAT organizational info I’ve bookmarked. I would personally like to close my eyes and stuff everything into a great big Hefty bag, but of course that’s not possible. I’d lie awake wondering what I tossed out. ๐Ÿ™‚
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  12. I have not yet cleared blogged about clearing the crap from my workspace, but I am looking forward to it. It’s amazing to discover the emotions and beliefs we hold that gets us to keep all of the clutter in the first place. I’m discovering that clearing the clutter is a journey of self discovery.
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  13. I agree to Gabrielle when he said that the real organization starts in our mind……thanks Melinda for the advice

  14. waterpearls says:

    It is a very nice and interesting tutorial.Thanks for sharing tips for organizing office paperwork and I care for almost all points except point number 6 but I also now considering this point.

  15. Keeipn the table clean is important, but don’t forget that the stuff in the drawer should also kept in order. But make my mistake (dumping everything in the drawers to clear the table)!

  16. ” Throw Away Anything Unneeded” Sorry does not work. It will be the most wanted thing just a day after you threw it away:-)
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