Are you a “piler,” one of those people with ceiling-high piles of paper on his or her desk? Do you routinely reassure yourself that, in spite of the mess, you know exactly where everything is? Are you embarrassed when your boss, co-workers, or customers see your workspace? If so, this article is for you, because no matter how well you think you understand the chaos around you, the fact is that office clutter can slow your sales significantly.
In a cluttered office, papers tend to get misplaced. They are usually not lost for good; in fact, they are usually not even lost for very long. When you’ve got a customer on the phone waiting for you to look up the information he or she needs, though, even five minutes of searching can seem like an eternity. Do yourself and your customers a favor and file any customer-related information within an hour of the time it lands on your desk.
Slow Response Times
When your boss, colleagues, clients, or prospects ask for information, they don’t want it when you happen to come across it. They want it now. If you can’t produce it, you are wasting their time as well as your own. Once again, a good filing system can help you avoid these difficulties.
Has this ever happened to you? Just before lunch, you receive a message to call Prospect X. You put it on your desk and plan to get to it after you return from your break, but by the time you get back, the matter has slipped your mind and the memo has been covered with interoffice mail and other materials your co-workers have placed on your desk. It may be weeks before you come across that memo again, and by then it may be too late to make a sale.
There are two ways to prevent this type of problem from occurring. First, set up an inbox and ask everyone delivering new papers to you to place them in the box. Second, review your box at least once a day. Each time you touch a piece of paper, take one of four actions: Do it, dump it, delegate it, or defer it. By the end of each day, your inbox should be empty.
Lack of Preparation
It’s hard to prepare for a meeting or presentation if the data you need is strewn all around your office and desk. Taking the time to stop and find papers slows your productivity and cuts into your sales time. Showing up unprepared can damage your career.
If you bring prospects or clients into your workspace they’re likely to think that you have a problem getting organized. A bad first impression may not necessarily cost you the sale, but it does make your work harder and take up more of your time.
If your office is a jumble of cluttered papers, set aside an hour or two each day to go through each of them and either throw it away, delegate it to the person whose job it is to follow up on such issues, or assign it to a specific place in your office. As new papers come in, organize them the same way. In no time at all, you’ll have a clear desk and will no longer have to waste time shuffling through piles for information you need immediately.