Recommended Ritual: Put Important Things in Important Places

An organized workplace

Your work environment significantly impacts your productivity. Some aspects of your environment are out of your control—your coworkers’ attitudes, for example, and sometimes the thermostat—but there are many things you can do to make your work more efficient and productive. One of those things is today’s recommended ritual: putting important things in important places.

This sounds obvious and intuitive, but it tends to elude many individuals. Part of the problem is determining what is important to your productivity. Legal documents may be very important to other things, but they are not important enough to most people’s day-to-day work to warrant important placement on your desk. A stapler, on the other hand, could be essential to hour-to-hour tasks and be placed several steps away from your workstation.

Putting important things in important places, for the purposes of productivity, does not mean preserving vital pieces of information in unassailable file cabinets. Instead it means being aware of the things you need to complete your average work and putting them as close at hand as you can manage.

To start with, you need to do a little tracking. For several days (perhaps even a week), be aware of how many times you have to get up from your desk to get something, or how many times you have to dig through a drawer to find the right color of pen. You may not need to write everything down, but take special notice of what’s going on. Each of these actions may not be much of a problem, but when you stack them all together, you may be spending a lot of time getting ready to do work instead of actually getting things done.

Once you’ve spent some time taking notice of the tools and items you need most throughout the day, place them as close to your usual working area as their importance warrants. Get your red pen out of the junk drawer and put it in the pencil holder next to your keyboard. Put your reference book within arm’s reach, instead of shoved in the bookcase across the room. Move your phone so you can answer it without turning away from the task at hand.

Most of us will have dozens of minor inefficiencies that can be tweaked to give us just a few more minutes to get things done. Keeping important things in important places also saves you the frustration of trying to remember just where you left that all-important tool you never found a place for on your desk. You’ll spend less time looking for and retrieving the tools you needs, and you’ll have more time to spend actually using those tools.

What are your most important tools, and where do you keep them?

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