We tend to have a busy day every day. People stop around to say something for many tasks, projects, meetings, etc. These busy days provoke us to actively search for places and processes where we can improve our productivity and efficiency. Yet, no matter how much we search, many people miss one thing – our office space.
We tend to trough something on our desk, forgetting that this is important at the moment. Unfortunately, something can turn into the next brick in our little chaos in time. And no matter whether we do it not intentionally, we tend to do it often. Remember when you needed something and while searching for it on your desk or the working table, you realized that many things do not belong there. And after a long search, you find what you need, recognizing that the five minutes you thought to invest in searching has turned into thirty minutes. According to research conducted in 2021, more than sixty-two percent of people suffer from not organized office space.
We have all been in such situations in our lives. A straightforward thing that can be done is to reorganize the space we use and remove all unnecessary stuff in our office to ensure that our productivity and efficiency will jump into the sky. Does this sound simple? Yes, but many people still do not do it and exist in their minor daily chaos.
Arranging your workplace and space for success is not such a simple task. However, it is a systematic approach toward chaos. If we have created and implemented a system, we can win the war against chaos and turn it into a productive and efficient process that helps us and others.
Using the principles of 5S, I have created a more straightforward system for myself that has worked for the last ten years and allows me not to lose important information and, at the same time, win the war against chaos in the office. This system is based on the wisdom of a production manager at Coca-Cola Hellenic – a company I used to work for more than five years. The system has five simple steps to help you organize your life and space at work and home. The five steps I go through are simple but, at the same time, powerful elements with their meaning and weight. Here they are
EVALUATE AND TAKE A SNAPSHOT
The first step to go through is the one where you identify the level of the problem. We people are more visual beings than anything else. What we do not see is something that we think less of. That is why the first step is visual. We have to build a clear picture of what the situation looks like. The snapshot in this step can be as simple as a picture with your phone. Just go through the space and shoot the picture to have the basis you will start working on. Next, picture the whole place to see clearly how messy it is and where you will need to focus. This first step is like a preliminary evaluation of what the situation looks like now. It would help if you had this to start the change. Without a good ground, your change initiative will fail. Do not hesitate to shoot as many pictures of the environment as you think you can use. They are your guide through the change that will come.
IDENTIFY AND PIN WHAT YOU MAY NOT NEED
We create such chaos at our workplace, and personal life is easily explainable with the thought, “I may need this in the future.” But his view and attitude are here only to create chaos for us. After you have pictured the current situation, it is important to start changing it. And the change comes with identifying what you need to stay and what you think will be a good idea to keep. Do not think so much about what it means to keep or let go of something. Just sort the items in the space in these two clusters – things I will need and things I may or never will need. Then, put all the things around you in these two categories. That is as simple as it looks and sounds, but you will see how important this simple step is during the next steps.
IDENTIFY THE AREA FOR PINS YOU THINK ARE NOT CRUCIAL
The following simple step is dividing the important from unimportant or defined as “not so sure I need them” things. That will focus the attention on what looks like a usable and valuable thing that has to be kept and will help create a shorter list of things to be evaluated. The things that are not a priority and do not have a tangible impact on the work and preferences and the moment all go in that second place where their value has to be evaluated. This step helps the sorting process and, at the same time, helps redefine priorities in the day-to-day activities at work. Completing that step is a predefinition for the next one
DEFINE EVALUATION CRITERIA
Often, people judge something based on sentiment or the thinking that “I may need it sometime in the future.” This thinking style creates a mess in the place where we work and live. One of my grandpas was the same person. He stored every tool he could find, whether he needed it or not. After he passed away, we started cleaning his workshop and found things that were never used but, at the same time, broken within time. When we cleaned the place, we found that more than eighty percent of the place can be used again to store other things that we did not have in our family house. It is the same with everyone. But what everyone needs to understand is that no matter how long the list of things is, to evaluate the value, you need clear criteria. The list of criteria depends on the situation’s specifics and the type of things we consider. Some essential criteria can be defined as:
- Frequency of usage
- Age of the things you are storing (this one is pretty actual for technic or e-mails)
- Who is this thing valuable for
- What is the type/range of value (personal, professional, group value, etc.)
And many more.
The criteria defined help easily define the actual status of everything in the place – books, documents, sheets of paper, technological products, prizes won in the past, e-mails, etc. If correct, such a list is that more things can be evaluated, and their status can be redefined easily.
DECIDE WHAT TO DO
The hardest part of cleaning the place is deciding what to do after setting the evaluation criteria. This step is more complicated than the previous one because it hides fear and sentiment simultaneously.
Take the e-mail, for example – Many people have long read e-mails kept there or some that are flagged as red, but when you need them, they show up as a list of other red flags in the inbox. We keep e-mails no matter the meaning for us, “just in case we may need the information sometime soon.” That causes stress when starting to search the information, and even filtering or creating rules where this information to be stored cannot help reacting quickly when a piece of information is needed. I have had a colleague who held every e-mail she received in the last nine years. The list of e-mails was huge. When she started searching through them for particular information needed for the work, it felt like ages passing.
The same goes with the sheets of paper people store on their desks, trays, or the office cabinets installed behind their backs.
Overcoming fear or sentiment about the things stored to be evaluated is crucial for sorting the workplace and your life. The logical approach with a clear set of criteria must be used to identify what from the list of things we doubt we need needs to stay and what has to be removed. Completing this last step without compromising anything is the most impactful component of the process and leads to actual results.
Many people live in minor chaos created by themselves and growing with their responsibilities, changing priorities and work or personal life history. Sorting the environment and deciding what we need and what to let go of is crucial to surviving in a world where time is not enough for everything. The more time a person invests in sorting and prioritizing their life, the less time they will invest in meaningless results and the great results they will achieve. Getting out of the comfort zone and challenging the status quo is crucial in changing lives for the better and positive.