Organizational Ideas & Business Filing Systems for your Office

There are many organizational ideas out there and just as many gurus and experts to go along with them. There are even hypno-therapists who can help you reduce your clutter!

But if you’re like many entrepreneurs – particularly ones who are building a business in a spare bedroom at home – you’re not so worried about the look of your home office (since no client will come knocking at your door) as you are about getting work done efficiently.

Bad news: it only gets worse. The more successful you are, the more paper you seem to go through. Whether it’s trade journals, employee reviews, or leasing agreements for a bigger warehouse: paper seems to bring a blessing (often something to help you grow your business) and a curse (now you need a place to put it).

Here are a few ideas to help you. We’ve put these in a suggested order to work through but if they don’t all apply to you, you can certainly choose the one or two that are most helpful to you right now.

1. Proximity sorting: Ergonomic scientists have studied the best place to keep things and ordered them in a series of expanding circles that radiate out from you. I’m not going to get that technical. Instead, I recommend three areas to help you organize: Arm’s length/10 feet/Beyond.

a.Keep at arm’s length the things that you use on a regular basis. Maybe that’s your planner, your computer, a telephone, and a pen. For me, it also includes a big coffee mug! For a writer I know, there’s a dictionary and thesaurus less than 4 feet from his fingertips; he doesn’t even have to get out of his chair.

b.From arm’s length to about 10 feet from you should be the stuff you’re likely to use on a regular basis, but not daily, perhaps weekly. Filing cabinets, industry reference manuals, and a photocopier are often the most common items in this area.

c.Beyond that are the things that get referenced rarely, like monthly to yearly. When I was first starting out in my spare bedroom, I kept a filing box of historical files and tax returns (basically the stuff I wouldn’t look at ever again) in a basement closet. Once I moved my business to a real office, those things didn’t get any closer to me!

2.Dump, Defer, Do, Delegate: The 4 D’s of organizing your paperwork. You can:

a.Dump it in the garbage if you don’t need it.

b.Defer it until it needs to be acted on later. For example, I do this with bills that don’t need to be paid until later or when someone prepays a project that doesn’t need to be delivered for a few months.

c.Do it right away: deal with the item on the paper before throwing out the paper.

d.Delegate the work. If you’re by yourself, this might not be an option but as you grow, delegating will become a skill you’ll need to develop further.

3.Urgent/Important: This is a well-known business organizational model that suggests how you sort the papers you need to deal with today. This is what I’d recommend you do with papers in your “Do” pile from the previous step. Separate the work into 4 categories.

Urgent ImportantUrgent Not ImportantNot urgent ImportantNot urgent Not important

The work that is urgent and important should be done first. The work that is urgent and not important should be evaluated, dealt with, and you should try to avoid having to do it again since it is not productive work. The work that is not urgent but important is a great place to try and have most of your work fall; you’ll love what you do even more! Work that is not urgent or not important can usually be discarded without impacting your business.

These three simple organizational ideas will help you to have a business that functions efficiently. A business that functions efficiently takes less time and energy to run, leaving you with more time to build your business further!