Daily Dispatch

Tidying Up

Hands-on Help for the Disorganized Desk

By | Nov.16.15 | Daily Dispatch, Law Practice Management, Organizing, Productivity

Disorganised Desk

Judging by the 50-plus weeks “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” has been on The New York Times best-seller list, Americans have a new fascination with getting organized. By my observation, lawyers as a class are not an organized lot. From the look of many law offices I have visited (the paperless juggernaut notwithstanding), the floor seems to be the file repository of choice. If your desk is as messy and disorganized as mine was (notice the past tense), there’s a solution.

You Need a Little Professional Help

Do you find yourself scrounging for office supplies in your desk? Are you continually purchasing your favorite items when you are sure you have enough … if you could just put your hands on them? (My favorite med mal defense lawyer cannot live without half-inch wide Post-it notes; my crutch of choice is a collection of multicolored vinyl-clad paper clips.)

Unlike journalist Erin Schulte, you probably won’t be able to entice Marie Kondo to come to your office to rearrange the contents of your desk drawers. Lucky for you, you have an accessible alternative, the National Association of Professional Organizers.

I have used two professional organizers in my office, one for my bookcase (which holds all manner of things besides books) and most recently for my desk. The NAPO website includes a public directory so you can locate a nearby organizer. Expect to pay $65 to $85 per hour with a two- to three-hour minimum.

An organizer’s motivation is not to sell you organizing tools. Like you, they are professionals who charge for their time. My first organizer did not leave anything behind. I would have gladly used her again, but she was on maternity leave when I needed her. The second organizer provided eight dollars’ worth of drawer dividers.

The first thing an organizer does is work with you to see what you can discard. Yes, I do need those eyeglass cloths; I use them on the computer screen. No, I don’t need the printouts that have been sitting in my “follow-up” box for five years. Then you can pretty much adjourn to the conference room to let the organizer work. Stay available in case a question arises.

When you return, you can expect to find your belongings in their own designated spaces with labels so you — or anyone else — can find everything. And I do mean everything. All those shopping trips when I couldn’t find things resulted in a desk with hundreds of pens, pencils and markers, about 1,000 colored paper clips, and … well, you get the idea. I don’t expect to visit the Office Depot website again in my lifetime.

At first, it’s a bit disorienting to reach for a thumb drive in your lap drawer only to realize it’s in the cabinet behind you marked “technology misc.” But you’ll get used to it. I promise. And you’ll be much happier and productive for the experience.

Theda “Teddy” Snyder mediates workers compensation cases throughout California. She is also available for legal freelance writing assignments. An attorney since 1977, she has practiced in a variety of settings and frequently speaks and writes about settlements and the business of law. She is a Fellow of the College of Law Practice Management and the author of four books published by the American Bar Association, including "Women Rainmakers' Best Marketing Tips, 3rd Edition." Based in Los Angeles, Teddy can be found at WCMediator.com and on Twitter @WCMediator.

Illustration ©iStockPhoto.com

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