Stan, an executive director for a non-profit organization, was an attendee at my Ask the Organizer presentation that I did for EOK (Entrepreneurs of Knoxville.) That particular audience asked questions primarily about desk organization in small offices. Stan was an active participant explaining that he had a rather large desk but it continued to stay piled up. I quizzed him on his desk set up and discovered that he was missing some key components. We decided after the presentation that Stan would be a good candidate for a desk rescue. Be sure to read through the end to watch a 1 minute video of Stan describing the results of his desk rescue.
Stan’s obstacles to a clean desk
Stan had no real system in place for collecting actionable papers. In fact, like most people, Stan did not differentiate between papers that were actionable and papers that were simply reference.
Stan had an incomplete process for capturing contact and lead information. Non-profit organizations are dependent on donors for funding. This obstacle was preventing more than just a clean desk; it was preventing a steady flow of donations.
There was inadequate storage for small frequently used items due to the style of his desk. It was a modern style with no drawers, just an “L” shaped flat surface.
Stan’s desk contained a set of hard-to-use stacking trays that had no specific purpose.
What was working for Stan?
He had two filing cabinets within easy reach of his desk chair.
He had a large “L” shaped surface
Stan has staff members available to handle data entry and other routine tasks.
Stan and I rescued his desk in a half day session. We used a decision process that I call the F.L.O.A.T. system to find a home for every piece of paper piled on and around Stan’s desk. Use the key below the photo to see where in the desk area that we put these important components.
1. Action File box – We used a functional cardboard hanging file holder for the action files. Stan will replace this with a nicer box later. Stan needed several action files including some specific fundraising project file folders
2. Three-tiered desk top shelf for his In-Box, Out-Box, and To File
3. Filing cabinet containing active and current year files
4. Filing cabinet containing reference material
5. Calendar – Stan uses a large desk-top paper calendar and his smart phone calendar. This has been working for him and he is diligent about keeping them in sync.
6. To do list – Stan is using his smart phone to capture tasks
7. A legal pad for capturing phone call and voice mail details.
8. A tray for capturing contact information such as business cards and phone numbers that need to be put in a contact management system. There was a large backlog of this information. This is a project that Stan delegated to a staff member.
One month and five minutes later
I made a follow-up visit to Stan one month later. I noticed that there were a few papers on his desk. He told me that he had left early the day before and hadn’t straighten up. He had just come into the office. I explained that work is usually messy and that the true measure of our success is how long it takes him to recover.
We set a timer and Stan proceeded to clear the clutter on his desk. The after picture was made five minutes later. Notice that Stan made a couple of improvements on his own.
1. Mesh Action File – Stan had replaced the temporary cardboard file box with a nice sleek mesh one. He passed the original on to a staff member.
2. Small Item Carousel – He added a small rotating container to his desk to hold all the small office supplies that previously had no home.
Watch this short video of Stan describing the results of his desk rescue one month later.