From Clutter to Order "At least 60% of the papers piled on your desk no longer have any value or meaning. They've piled up because you were lazy. Instead of deciding what should be done with them, you've just put them in a pile."-Jeffrey J. Mayer ARE YOU A PILER? TAKE A LOOK AT YOUR DESK... WHAT DO YOU SEE? BETTER YET... WHAT CAN'T YOU SEE? A cluttered office creates a cluttered desk, which creates a cluttered to-do list and, eventually, cluttered thinking. Cluttered ministry priorities will follow. Many times a cluttered desk is allowed because of fear -- fear that if things are out of sight, they're out of mind. We hesitate to put things away because we're afraid we'll forget them or never find them again. If you're a piler, you recognize that as the piles grow, it becomes more difficult to separate the important from the unimportant. It's almost impossible to decide what to do first. The past few Leaders Edge Articles have dealt with effectiveness. This month I'm dealing with just one area of efficiency, recognizing that if it is practiced regularly, it will lead to better stewardship of time, which eventually leads to greater effectiveness. When you arrive at the office and have piles of paper on your desk: You don't know where to begin. You see a piece of paper while looking for something else within the pile and are distracted for several minutes. You see so many choices that seem to be important that you become paralyzed. You waste valuable time and energy on trivia, and when you're finished, the important work is still buried in a pile. The real issue is not whether your desk is clean or messy. The real issue is stewardship of time and money -- the quality of your work and the length of time to complete it. Creating Order Out Of Disorder Set a goal. Decide to change. Block out two hours of your time. Allow no interruptions. GET ORGANIZED! STEPS FOR DEVELOPING AN ORGANIZED, CLEAN DESK 1Look at each piece of paper on your desk and make an immediate decision to keep it or throw it. Throw it if you can. You have just transferred all those piles of files into just one stack of papers. 2Create a master list; choose a large piece of lined paper. Don't use small pieces of paper. Some people only move from piles of files to piles of little pieces of paper. Your master list will now become your inventory of unfinished work and ongoing projects. You have automatically created a new follow-up system, one based on a list instead of a pile. 3Prioritize your list. Place a "1" by all critical and strategic items that must be completed first. Then place a "2" on all of the next important items. Put a "3" on all the remaining items on your list. 4Develop a filing system that is simple and very near your desk. Here are some special files that will help clear your desk and give you immediate access to important information. TICKLER FILE: Get forty-five file folders. Number the first thirty-one of them 1 through 31, for the days of the month. Label the next twelve by the months of the year. Take the final two and label them 2001 and 2002. PROJECT/EVENT FILE: If you're responsible for a project or ministry event, create a sectioned folder for the event. Keep the promotion in one section, the correspondence with speakers and musicians in another section, the contracts for the hall or banquet facility in another section, etc. DICTATION FILE: If you're unable to answer a letter the same day you received it, make sure you place it in your correspondence (dictation) file so it won't get lost. You will always know where to find the letters that need answering. Set at least a weekly appointment with this file. READ FILE: When you receive a report, meeting minutes, or a magazine you desire to read but can't deal with immediately, place it in your read file. Whenever possible, keep your read file in your briefcase at all times. You will find yourself taking full advantage of any down time. STAFF FILES: You may desire a file for each staff person directly responsible to you. If one of your staff gives you a letter or report, it's important to them. Reviews and job descriptions of your people should always be at your fingertips. BOARD FILE: Let me encourage you to have at least a three-section folder for three separate Board files. One should be for regular Board minutes, action sheets and meeting information. A second section or file should be for materials that relate to the business of your Executive Committee, and the third section or file should be for items pertaining to the Board Chairperson only. The purpose of this system is to liberate you as a ministry leader to do your most creative work. An organized desk will free you up, not tie you down. It will empower you, not control you. An organized, efficient desk saves both time and money. Fewer things will slip through the cracks. You'll be able to stay on top of your unfinished work, locate your papers and files within seconds, and become more productive. You'll look forward to coming to work in the morning, and you'll probably get home earlier in the evening. You'll no doubt feel better about your role, and you'll for sure feel better about yourself.