Getting Organized: When Conventional Wisdom isn’t Wise


By Holly Uverity CPO®, Office Organizers

Conventional wisdom isn’t always wise; sometimes we believe things to be true simply because we’ve always believed them to be true whether they are or not.  When it comes to organizing, there are some widespread beliefs that I believe need a second look; what do you believe?

  • I have to use color to organize my files.

Not necessarily and probably not at all.  I often see in offices misunderstood attempts to use color to set up even a simple filing system.  If you don’t know why you’re using it, adding color to a system just adds to the clutter.  Color can be good but it’s absolutely not necessary.  If color has meaning to you, consciously pick a few colors that resonate with you but if it doesn’t, don’t use it and don’t feel bad about it.  No one says you have to color code your files.

  • I have to keep like things together.

Redefine the term “like things”.  As an example, many professionals believe that they have to keep their work files separate from their personal files so they’re following the adage of keeping like with like.  They’re using the wrong definition.  The like things you should keep together have to do with the work you need to do, not the type of file they are.   Keep Action files together and keep Reference files together.  It doesn’t matter what the action is; action is action and reference is reference.  Organize your files based on what work needs to be done and not what they are.

  • I can only touch something once.

Simply not true.  There are many instances in which you will touch the same piece of paper multiple times.  What you shouldn’t do is just move the paper to another part of your desk in anticipation of doing the work later.  Touching the paper more than once isn’t the issue, indecision is.  If you can make a decision and take action on a piece of paper the first time you touch it, then do it.  If you can’t because the work requires additional thought, resources, or information, then move the paper to a specific place where it can safely stay until you can take that next action.  Feel free to write directly on the paper what that next action is; it saves you from having to reread the document and remake the decision.

  • It’s better for me to just do it than show someone else how to do it.

This is almost never true.  Delegation is one of the most underutilized organizing tools you have and while it does take an initial investment of time, it always pays off.  If you delegate the results and not the process, you’ll find that one you have delegated to may find another, better way to do that task.  You’ll be developing a leader, creating a positive work environment, and more importantly, work can continue without you being there.  Invest the time to learn how to properly delegate.

  • If I haven’t used this in a year, it should go.

Who said?  I have always found this or any arbitrary time limit troublesome.  Time is the least important variable to use when deciding what goes and what stays in your life.  Instead of asking, “When was the last time I used this?”, ask, “If I let this go, can I get it again?  Does it have legal, historical or sentimental value?  Does someone else in the office have it?  Does it have a specific use?  Can someone else use it?  What’s the worst thing that will happen if it’s gone?”  The age of an item is less important than the use of an item.


Office Organizers is The Entrepreneur’s Organizer.  Founded in 1993, they work with business people to create solutions for their organizational challenges.  Contact them at 281.655.5022,, or


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