Organizing the Office Using the Zone Plan

It is the beginning of a new year and January is Get Organized Month. I would love for my whole house to be magically clean and organized. However, the reality is that I am the one that has to make that magic happen and it would be crazy to think that I could do it all at once. That is why for years I have been maintaining my home using a Zone Plan. This plan has me touching everything in my home at least once a year. ( 

The first zone I work on each year is my office. In the past year files have gotten overfull, project bins are hanging around even after projects are completed. New items have come into my office and it is now feeling a bit crowded. Now is the time to follow the program and work my plan on the office.

1. What is bothering me in this zone?

  • Clutter and unfiled papers
  • Projects not in bins
  • Files too full
  • Too much laying around and screaming “DO ME”
2. How do I want my office to look and feel?
  • Look clean and uncluttered
  • Look and feel welcoming
  • Have empty spaces to allow for growth
  • Feel productive
3. What do I need to do to make this vison come true?
  • Sort and label all loose papers
  • Clear out all desk drawers and desk surface
  • Purge files and put into a project bin all I will need for taxes
  • Shred and archive papers
  • Declutter and organize bookshelves and the storage credenza
  • Set up bins for current projects and purge old projects
  • Deep clean room
4. Schedule times to do each task
  • Pull out calendar and see what times are available for work
  • Schedule reasonable times for each task and dates/times to work
  • Write on calendar the dates and times 
By the end of the month, I will call whatever has been accomplished “good enough” and move on to the next zone. The office is now ready for regular maintenance until the next year. I always reward myself by buying a fresh flower for my desk.

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

Organizing the Office Zone

For years I have been maintaining my home using a Zone Plan. This plan has me touching everything in my home at least once a year. When I work in my designated zone each month, I declutter and get rid of anything I no longer need or love.

The first zone I work on each year is my office. After a year, files are way too stuffed. Project bins are still hanging around even if the project has been completed. Some new items have been added and not enough stuff has gone away. So now is the time to look open-eyed at the office and work my plan.

  1. What is bothering me in this zone?
  • Clutter
  • Too much on the desk top
  • Files too full
  • Too much  paper lying around screaming  “do me”
     2. How do I want my office to look and feel?
  • Uncluttered
  • Clean
  • Welcoming
  • I want to feel productive and happy
  • I want empty space to allow for growth
     3. What do I need to do to meet this vision?
  • Clear our all desk drawers and the desk top
  • Purge files and remove what is now archival to another place
  • Clean out bins of completed projects and ready the bins for new material
  • Clear all surfaces – leave out only what I need and love
  • Declutter and organize bookshelves and the storage credenza
  • Deep clean room
      4. Schedule times to do each task.
  • Pull out calendar and see what times are available to work on zone
  • Write on calendar what tasks I plan to do on available dates – not only date but also time of day
By the end of the month, I will say “good enough”. Daily and weekly maintenance are scheduled but I won’t have to visit this zone again until next January. I reward myself with fresh flowers on my desk and make my plan for the next month in a new zone!

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

Office Zone

Every year I make a plan for touching everything in my home. This helps me remember what I have and helps  me to purge items I no longer need or love.

I always start the year in my office.

After a year, my office begins to feel overfull and not well organized. Files are stuffed and new things have come into the office by way of gifts or books.

My vision for my office is to have an area where I work that is attractive and welcoming. I want to feel in control and happy when in my office. I want space to work on a project without the distractions of unfinished work yelling at me.

Now is the logical time to organize and clear out files, drawers, bookshelves and project bins to allow for new projects and growth. I will take the entire month of January to get this space back in line with my vision.

I look around and decide what is bugging me. I see things like too much clutter on my desktop and items rather randomly stacked in my credenza. My couch has become an easy place to drop items.

I start with my desktop and the drawers in my desk. Then I move to the file cabinet that abuts my desk. Files are pulled and taken to the closet in the guest bedroom. Tax papers are pulled together.

Next I will work on the bookcase that is right behind me and the credenza where action files and project bins are stored. I know that some projects are completed but paperwork still lingers. I need to empty these bins for new projects I am working on or plan to work. I will then clean the meeting area of my office and find a better routine for items that get dumped there.

Finally I will work on some files and notebooks that are stored in my laundry room but are part of my office management.

By the end of the month, I will call whatever has been accomplished “good enough” and move on to the next zone. I will schedule regular daily maintenance chores (clear the desk and couch) and weekly maintenance (check action folders and clean room). The office will not need a real zone maintenance until next January. I always celebrate by buying fresh flowers for my office.

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer


The Zone Plan – Organizing Your Office

When a new year starts I develop a plan to organize or work on the maintenance of my home. I divide my home into 10 zones. Each month, except for July and December, I work on organizing one of those zones. I give myself July and December to work on other projects and to catch up if I have fallen behind.

January is set aside for my office zone. My plan is to revisit my vision for my office and see if I am still on track. I touch everything in my office and make decisions about what stays in the office, what stays but is stored outside of my office zone, and what I going to be tossed, donated, recycled, or shredded.

This past year I have moved, so my office is in a new location and has different dimensions. The vision for the area has also changed. The room is larger now, so I now have room for meetings in my office. The room has less built in storage, so I must decide what I need to store in this zone and what I will store elsewhere and what I no longer need to keep. I continue to want the room to be open and inviting both to me and to my guests.

I start with clearing out all of my files in my desk and filing cabinet. Some papers are moved to archival storage, some are tossed or shredded, some are set aside for tax preparation, and some return to the file folder. It is important that my files have plenty of room for the papers that will gather this year.

Next, I clear out my remaining drawers in my desk. Extra supplies are donated or stroked elsewhere. Tattered or broken work tools are tossed.

I continue around the office, clearing out the bookcase, the storage cabinet, and updating my vision board. My project bins are updated. I schedule daily and weekly maintenance to make certain that paper is not accumulating on my desk or on other surfaces and that I am keeping my action files working properly.

By the end of the month, I reward myself with a fresh flower on my desk. I feel ready to tackle another year.

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

Project Bins

It seems I am always working on multiple projects. Currently I am working on three presentations, updating my web page, and updating my social media. I also continuously snag ideas for future blogs, future workshops, future newsletters, and future presentations. My business plan is also an ongoing project.

I also belong to several organizations where I am actively working on projects.

A couple of years ago, after continual frustration with the stacks of paper that were sitting around on and beside my desk due to these multiple active projects, I came across the idea of project bins.

I currently have two project bins. One bin is for projects concerning my business, Time Space Organization. The other bin is for any committee work. When I was writing my book, From Vision to Victory, I had a third project bin dedicated just to the writing process.

Each project is in a labeled folder or notebook. When I am working on that project, I grab my bin and pull out what I need. When my project time is finished, I slide everything back into that folder or notebook and drop it back into the bin. The bins sit behind closed doors in the cabinet that faces my desk. I do not have to look at the project material except when I have it out for work. I find that this keeps my mind clear for whatever I am working on currently. These bins have greatly reduced my stress because the projects are not always in my face yelling at me.

This month I am organizing in my office zone and I will review these bins. I will get rid of any material that is no longer relevant and just generally tidy up the folders. I am very pleased with this simple way of organizing all of my projects and keeping them hidden away until I need them.

Jonda S. Beattie
Professional Organizer

Office Zone Organization

It’s a new year for organizing. I always like to start my home organization projects in my office. This month I will touch everything in my office and make decisions about what stays in this office, what goes away, what stays but is stored elsewhere in  my home.

Over the past year, my office has gotten overcrowded and cluttered. I have materials I have brought in from conferences and workshops, new organizing books, files for new clients and contacts, business receipts, and more. Now is the logical time to organize and clear out areas to make room for new growth and to give me room to breathe and flourish.

First, I check in with my vision of my office. Over this past year, I have lightened up the feeling. My walls are now a pale yellow. A blue Pete the Cat picture hangs on my wall. I want my office to feel light and welcoming.

I look at where papers tend to stack up. My project bins are overflowing. I need to assess what is still valid, let some projects go, file some as complete, and organize what is current. My business paperwork for last year should now get bundled and set aside for tax purposes. My client files are updated, with non-active files put in an archival location. My contact files are also updated.

I update my vision board and clear the clutter from my shelves. If I don’t love looking at something, or if I no longer need something – out it goes.

By the end of the month, I will reward myself with fresh flowers on my desk. The office is now ready for just regular maintenance for another year.

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

Quick! Where does it go?

Sit back and look at your desk top. If it looks like mine right now, it would make a good “before” picture.
Daily it is a struggle to conquer the mess on the desk. Yes, I know and I preach that every task should be put away before the next one begins. And often I do just that but sometimes ……..
I have action files and that does make clearing my desk much easier when it does look like this.
Everyone’s action files or desktop files may have different headings.
Mine are:

  • Read
  • File
  • Do
  • Pay
  • Pending/waiting for
  • Communicate

I also have my calendar, project bins, a trash can, and a shred box in the office.
So here is what I recommend. Set the timer for 15 minutes and put every thing on your desk in the correct spot.
Now what might be on a desk and where might it go? Always think what will be the first action with that item.

note scribbled on post-it note from last phone call – File
client info about rescheduling a session- calendar then File
notice of a committee meeting – calendar then Project bin
info on upcoming workshop I might want to attend – calendar then Pending
invite to a party – calendar then Pending
ideas for newsletter – File
phone message from auto shop – Communicate
notes from potential clients – Pending
ideas for an article – Do
solicitation for a new credit card – Shred
credit card bill – Pay
article pulled from magazine – Read
CD from workshop – Read (yeah I know, but that’s where I would put it)

Now the desk is clear. I don’t need to worry about forgetting items because all crucial items were first posted in my calendar.

What is on your desk? Quick! Where does it go?

Jonda S. Beattie
Professional Organizer

Zoning Your Office

Zoning your office can increase your efficiency. Organizing your office so that you have needed items at your fingertips can minimize the stress and frustration of not knowing where to locate that needed item immediately when you need it.
I recommend dividing your “office” into 4 zones. Some of the actual zones may not be in the same area as where you do your day in and day out work.

Zone 1: This is the zone that is right at your finger tips. You should be able to reach items in this zone without leaving your desk. In this zone you place the items you use everyday. Depending on what you do, a partial list could include:

  • computer
  • printer
  • phone
  • timer
  • pens/pencils
  • business cards
  • stapler
  • action files
  • current client files

Zone 2: This zone is close and accessibly. In this zone you place items you use weekly or at least often. A partial list might include:

  • reference books
  • 3 hole punch
  • extra paper for computer
  • label maker
  • extra file folders
  • manuals
  • file cabinet

Zone 3: This zone can be farther away and even in another room. In this zone you place items rarely needed. The list might include:

  • extra office supplies
  • extra business cards/marketing material
  • reference files
  • older client files
  • inspirational files
  • items needed for presentations or booths
  • rarely used references
  • last year’s financing papers

Zone 4: This zone definitely should not be taking up any prime real estate. In this zone you place purely archival information. This list would mainly be old tax papers and very old client records. This could be in a basement or attic. Just make certain to clearly label the boxes.

Share with me how you zone your office for efficiency.

Jonda S. Beattie
Professional Organizer

Action files

In several previous blogs I have referred to Action Files – also known as desktop files. These files serve the purpose of keeping your desktop clear.
Almost every piece of paper that ends up on your desk needs an action. It is up to you to determine that action and either carry out the action (if it takes less than 2 min.) or place the paper in an easily found place so that the action can be done at a later date.
Let’s look at how that works. Pick up the first piece of paper in your stack on your desk or counter. 1. Identify the paper – bill 2. Identify the action – pay it 3. Identify where you are now going to place the paper – in the “To Pay” folder.
Repeat with the next piece of paper. 1. Identify the paper – copy of your recent car insurance 2. Identify the action – file 3. Identify where you are now going to place the paper – “To File” folder. Repeat with another paper. 1. Identify the paper – flyer from the High Museum 2. Identify the action – decide if you want to go to that exhibit 3. Identify where you are going to place the paper – “Pending” folder.
Slips of paper with addresses, phone numbers, or email addresses can go into the “To Contact” file. Short articles or items you have printed can go into the “To Read” file. Notes to yourself reminding you to go to the library, pick up dry-cleaning, or clean out the gutter can go in the “To Do” file.
It is important to decide what the first action will be. That car insurance paper might first have gone into the “To Read” folder and after being read into the “To File” folder.
Ads, catalogs, and magazines you don’t intend to read should go directly into the trash and not even get laid down. Magazines and catalogs you want to read will go into a basket or bin near where you sit to read. Some items will need to be shredded and these can go into a basket or have a file of their own.
Let’s talk about that “Pending” file where I put the flyer from the High Museum. I had not yet made up my mind on that exhibit. I wanted to look it up and call a friend to see if they could go with me. I put the date I plan to do this in my calendar and then dropped the information into my file. I use this file for items that I have not yet decided on and I also use it for events I have decided on but the event has not yet happened. I’ll drop theater tickets in here after putting the date of the program on my calendar. I’ll place invitations in here after I have accepted the invitation and put the date in my calendar. I keep the invitation so that I can refresh my memory on the exact time, place, and what I need to bring.
Now once everything is neatly filed – don’t forget what is in those files. Here is where your calendar is your friend. Every “to do”, every “pending” should have an entry on the calendar committing to when you are going to do or make a decision on an event or task. All other folders should be looked into on a regular basis – so once a week, have on your calendar – check the “To____” folder.
Remember though, if you can do the task in under two minutes – just do it instead of filing it.
If you want more assistance with filing, email me and register for my workshop From Paper Piles to Files on January 29 at Eagle Eye Bookshop in Decatur.

Jonda S. Beattie
Professional Organizer

A Clean Desk

A clean desk cues you that work is going to get done. There are no distractions to take away your focus. The clean area on your desk commands your attention.
Keeping your desk clean is a constant battle. Think of your desk top as prime real estate. Whatever is on that desk should be something you use daily.
Keep your office supplies close by. Drawers and pencil caddies are convenient ways to keep often-used items handy.
Keep files, paper, and other resources that you use on a daily basis within arms reach. If your desk has drawers, the items can go there. Otherwise, have a bookcase or shelves within reach.
Organize your current projects into folders, files, or binders. Take time to label each project. These can be stored on a nearby shelf or in a tub or container near your desk. Pull out only one project at a time and then restore it to it’s home before pulling out the next project. This keeps your desk clear of all but the current project but makes it easy to find your next project when you are ready for it.
Keep your desk clear of excess personal items. It is good to have one picture or a flower to make you smile, but not so many things that it begins to eat into your working space.
You should also pay attention to the floor space under or around your desk. This is an easy place to dump clutter. These distractions will only hinder your from your goal of keeping a clean desk.
With your desk area clean you will have more time and energy to devote to more important tasks.

Jonda S. Beattie
Professional Organizer