Cluttered desks trigger many of the calls that I receive from prospective clients. I was hired by a company to help Holly, their Accounts Payable Specialist accomplish a miracle; she wanted a clean desk. Holly’s inbox received a stack of paper on average of one foot in height each day. She made numerous large stacks all over her desk as she processed the paper. Her desk looked messy and she felt like she was working in chaos.
We met for a consultation and she described the steps that she used to process the payables. As Holly described her work, I asked questions so that I could visualize her work flow process. One of my favorite questions is “What is your next action?” This question helps my clients break down their work into steps. We focused on her next actions and within a very short time we had identified three repetitive actions.
- She entered the payables into the accounting system.
- She scanned the documents into a digital file management program.
- She shredded the documents because it was no longer necessary to keep the hard copies.
She was missing a key component
I realized as we talked that Holly was missing one of the eight key components to keeping a desk clutter free. She was missing permanent action files. This is the most common mistake that I see when helping clients organize their desks.
All that she needed to have a clean desk was an in-box, two desk top action files and a shred box. We added one desk top file to hold hanging files related to the data entry. We added a second desk top file for holding files relating to the scanning of the documents. The shred box was already in place under the desk. She could process the payables in the inbox without making piles all over her desk. We accomplished her miracle of a clean desk in a half day work session.
Action files can help you track your sales process
Permanent Action Files can also be used to guide you through your sales process. A custom closet designer that I know uses a set of hanging action file folders to hold her manilla client files as they move through the process of initial consultation, design, production, installation and follow-up. She can quickly scan these files to see where her customer is in the process and to determine the next action to move the job forward.
Once the closet is installed and the client has paid the final balance the physical client file moves to a filing cabinet organized alphabetically by client’s last name. The clients contact information is added to a database for future follow-up.
Think about the work that you do. Can you identify repetitive actions in your workflow process? If the answer is yes, then try setting up Permanent Action Files to help you keep a clutter free desk and a clear focus. I go into details about this important set of files in the post 10 Powerful Ways to Defend Yourself Against Paper Clutter.