Originally from Matt Baier’s Organizing Works Newsletter, November 2007 

Target Your Office

Does your desk ever get piled with so many things to do that you don’t feel like you can do ANY of them?  If so, you’re not alone.  Just looking at that pile can stress you out before you even start work!  Would you be willing to try something new in order to avoid this daily stress?   If so, you might want to try what I call Target Organizing.  Here’s how it works: 

Imagine your office as a large target with four rings and a bull’s eye.  Now don’t go painting actual rings in your office!  This is just a conceptual approach.  

The Fourth Ring.  The fourth ring is the largest and has the most room.  In your office it is furthest away from your desk.  It can even be outside your office.  Use this outermost ring for storage of items you won’t need regularly.  Boxes of old tax returns are a perfect example.  Sure, you have to hang on to them just in case, but there is no reason they have to crowd your precious space next to your work area.

The Third Ring.  The third ring is for items that you might need weekly, but not daily.  A good example of this is backup office supplies.  Sure, you will want a few paperclips at your fingertips, but keep a backup box of them in a closet or on shelves.  Reference books represent another good candidate for the third ring.

The Second Ring.  The second ring is for items you need to access fairly regularly, but using them may require you to get up from your chair.  A printer, a fax machine, a mailing area, or even file cabinets are all good examples of this. 

The First Ring.  The first ring is for items you need at your fingertips, constantly.  Telephone, computer, daily reference, files, trashcan, and a MINIMAL number of office supplies.  I emphasize minimal because the first ring is the smallest ring and it can get crowded very quickly.  If you can possibly store something in the second or third ring, DO IT.

The Bulls Eye.  So, what’s left for the Bulls Eye?  Nothing!  You should think of your bull’s eye like the eye of a hurricane:  CALM.  Perhaps you’re thinking “what a waste of space.”  On the contrary, a clear work surface is the most important organizing tool in the office.  That’s right, I said “tool” because a tool has a purpose.  The purpose of a work surface should be for processing work, not storage.  Be very critical of anything that is in your Bulls Eye area:  papers to file or delegate, office supplies, photos of loved ones, coffee cups, promotional knick knacks, even a desk calendar (it works better on the wall).  It’s less stressful and easier to think clearly when you begin your workday with a clear desk. 

Finally, make a daily practice of tossing as much junk mail and unnecessary clutter as possible.  In the target analogy, this stuff should be off the target entirely!  Of course, it is necessary to spread out your work during the day.  The goal is to have appropriately located homes to send everything AT NIGHT.

That way, you can begin your next day right ON TARGET.