Your New Best Friends

As we wind up January and you see your New Year’s resolutions disappearing in the rear view mirror, take one more stab at starting the year off right with an all-out office clean out.

Are you embarrassed when a customer gets a look into your office at the plant? Do “messy office jokes” keep showing up on the break room bulletin board? Have you been spending more time looking for things than doing things? Then face it head on and tackle it.

‘I’m too busy to clean it up’

Great defense, but it’s not true. If someone held a stopwatch on your daily activities, you would probably be shocked by the amount of time you spend searching for things or shuffling stacks of paper from one side of your desk to a drawer to a file box for ‘later sorting.’ Those of us who live in messy offices try to laugh it off by saying a clean desk is a sign of a demented mind. But it’s no laughing matter if it’s getting between you and productivity.

‘But I know where everything is!’

Congratulations! You are now the indispensable person. But you do realize what that means, right? You can never…

  • go out for lunch
  • not be first in and last out of the building
  • take a vacation
  • get sick
  • have to handle a personal emergency

That’s what being indispensable is — always on duty and ready to perform. It’s exhausting. And sure, you can walk right over to a teetering pile of paper on your file cabinet and reach in for just the piece of paper someone has asked you for saying, ‘It’s right here in the Trudeau strata… [the first one!]’ It gives a sense of control and power. But it’s not good management.

‘I don’t even know where to start’

There are lots of ways to tackle a messy office. Go in, turn right, and start there. Or, pick a particular thing that is troublesome (like that file cabinet full of ancient stuff) and assign it a date and time for examination. Set yourself to do one drawer a day. Amazing things will turn up, but are any of them relevant to the work you are doing today? When was the last time you saw them or even thought of them? Grab those new best friends of yours, the biggest and toughest trash bags you can find, and start filling them.

Suddenly, as you move through your office, you’ll discover there really is a place for all that paper that’s taken up residence on every flat (or semi-flat) surface in the room. Make new folders (don’t be fancy, just write a label on them and put them in the drawer in some kind of order.) Then once you’ve finished all the drawers, you can move on to the piles and have some hope of organizing current stuff into folders.

‘Hey! I forgot my carpet is green!’

What a great feeling when you clear an area and catch a vision for how you can organize the rest of the office! You’re not cleaning so you have a showcase in which to sit with your feet up; you’re producing an office that works for you, and for your staff.

  • Plan a convenient place for important things like equipment warranty documents, leases and loan papers.
  • Organize staff files and job descriptions for easy access.
  • Put up a white board or bulletin board for maintenance checklists, staff schedules, and other things you need to be able to grab quickly and see often.
  • Clean it all up and then bring in other staff members to see the organization you’ve made. They may need to find things when you are out.
  • Have extra files and supplies on hand, so you can put things away as they come in, rather than face an ocean of stuff that takes hours each time.
  • Celebrate by treating yourself in some small way!

‘Now I can relax.’

No, you can’t. You’ve just begun, but you’ve made such a huge stride toward better organization and productivity, you’ll be eager to continue your sweep right into the plant. Distribute some of those ‘best friends’ of yours to other staff members and tell them to clean up anything that is just accumulating dust. If there’s a question about something, they can let you make the decision.

There are bent hangers behind the dry cleaning machine, wadded up poly that has died in the back corner of the supplies area, a stack of customer receipt books you don’t use anymore because you keep it on the computer. Hand them over to your ‘new best friend’ and have a fresh start all over the plant.

You are in the cleaning business. Your attitude toward your own office and your plant says a lot to customers about how they can expect you to treat their precious garments and home textiles. Make organization a habit you can’t live without.

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