The start of a new year always seems to prompt at least a couple of weeks of good behaviour. Yeah, this is when so many people talk about losing 10 pounds, learning a new skill, getting organized. And so I found myself looking around at the mess in my home office over the holidays, thinking, “This has got to change.”

I started small, with a shelf of files and the desk drawer that is the equivalent of every kitchen’s junk drawer. Here is what going through them taught me to do differently this year:

    About 40 cards were shoved in a corner of the drawer in no apparent order. I spent some time sorting these out and filing them, noting that some had written reminders on the back of where I had met the person and if I had promised to follow up with something.
    To do:
    This year, I vow to deal with any business cards by first searching for the person on LinkedIn and asking for a connection. You could argue that once the connections are made online, I could throw the cards away, but for now let’s say I’ll keep them, entered in contact management software and/or physically filed. I will make sure to write on EVERY card where I met the person.
    I can’t tell you how many pens, shells of pens waiting for refills, stubs of pencils, bits of paper, calculators with no batteries, paper clips and labels were stuffed in that drawer. Clearly, I had long ago abandoned any semblance of order and at some point began just tossing things in there just because I didn’t have another place to put them.
    To do:

    This year, I am finding proper homes for more things and keeping them there. I am putting the pens that work in a mug on my desk, and throwing out more things.
    We never really believed in paperless offices, did we? And I sure don’t have one. Two areas in particular have been messing up my office.
    (1) When I interview someone for an article, I print out the notes and keep them until the article is published. This is helpful because sometimes I have had to refer to the notes during the approval process, to add more detail or clarify a point. But somehow the notes have been multiplying when I’m not looking.
    (2) I have active files in at least three places besides the actual filing cabinets. Sometimes the files there aren’t actually active any more and should be moved out of the way. And I almost always drop things behind or trip over one of these places.
    To do: 
    This year, I will return to the notes within a month or so and shred them if they contain any sensitive information, or recycle them if they don’t. And today I am picking up a few supplies I need to combine all three spots into one place for active files, getting rid of the one that trips me.

There’s more to be done, but this is a start.

How do you stay on top of clutter in your office, especially when you are busy meeting client deadlines?