It doesn't have to be your official New Year's resolution, but creating a more organized work space is a must for starting 2010 off on the right foot.
Whether you work from a home office or out of a cubicle or office in a shared commercial space, thoughtful filing, appointment setting and supplies can all help you achieve more focus and efficiency while working.
Read these three tips below for creating a workspace that contributes to your success and does not slow you down.
1. Downsize supplies
The first thing all the magazine articles on office organization tell you to do is go out and buy products to help you organize. It's easy to think that cute file folders and storage boxes will solve your problem - but they won't - they'll only hide the mess.
Here's some advice that will be easy on your wallet and point you in the right direction: downsize on supplies. That's right. Force yourself to think about what you use every day. Dump out all the desk drawers and wipe the bookshelves clean. Sort through each item asking yourself when you last used it. If you haven't touched that reference book in years, it's gone. Put it in the basement or give it away.
The goal is to have everything you NEED within reach, and nothing distracting or downright useless cluttering your space. When you finish, if you still want to go out and buy those cute file folders and storage boxes that all the magazines recommend, at least you'll have room on your shelves for them.
2. Digital filing systems
It happens to us all. We get caught up in the rush of the workday and don't find time to file important documents properly. It's crucial to success as a freelancer to have a digital filing system that allows for quick and easy access to any project, invoice or version of a document.
First make a computer folder for each one of your clients, employers or projects. Then create sub-folders for various projects under each major client. Finally, make a system for naming the individual files. Consider writing a two letter abbreviation for the client's name first in the file name, or writing the date first. For example, if your client was Starbucks, "SB_CreativeBrief.doc" or "SB_122509_CreativeBrief.doc." Be consistent and each folder will be easy to browse through and each new file created throughout the year will be easy to name.
For invoices, I'd suggest creating two general folders for all of your invoices, one for outstanding (unpaid) invoices and one for paid invoices. Then be sure to use a client code in each invoice file name, to distinguish each invoice from one another and also generate a series of numbers to put the invoices in chronological order, for example "SB_0010.doc, "SB_0011.doc," etc.
When you are finished creating folders, you should be able to drag every document on your desktop away neatly. Now when the phone rings and it's accounts payable from a client asking you to resend an invoice, it should take you less than 30 seconds to find it.
3. Calendar system
Make a commitment to use a certain type of calendar or appointment setting system and stick to it. If you have space, the desk blotter calendars that you can have in front of you at all times and scribble on are wonderful. You can also get a date book or wall calendar, or use a software solution that links up with e-mail programs or a cell phone.
The goal is to use a system that works for you. I have seen busy executives set alarms in their online calendars to ring for important phone calls, and then they're away from their computers or so busy that they miss the alarm and the call altogether. It may not be that technologically impressive, but when I can highlight deadlines on the huge blotter desk calendar, I can see the deadlines and the whole month at a glance. Find a calendar system that works for you and put it within sight and reach of your desk.