A project manager is stressed at the clutter of paperwork on his desk.I have to confess that I am a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde type of character when it comes to clutter.

At home I am prone to leaving things lying about in random places and I can never find my keys, my passport or anything else really. Clutter is a problem and I just can’t seem to find the solution for it.

However, at work I like to be clutter free and I manage it pretty well. This probably goes to show that you can deal with clutter if you really want to. So how will you stop clutter ruining your project?

Plan Ahead

Possibly the best way of avoiding clutter is by working out in advance how you are going to store everything and manage the bits of papers and reports which will no doubt be floating about during the project. Personally I like to start my new projects by doing a few different things. Firstly, I will clean out my email inbox and folders. If there is a short gap between one piece of work ending and the next one starting then this is the ideal opportunity to sort out your email. After this I will think about the folders I need to put in the system directories and how it will all be laid out. This can actually be a great way of visualizing how the project is going to work and how you are going to organize everything. The final step is to think about the real bits of paper which will be moving around the place. Every office I have worked in has had some sort of commitment to moving towards a paperless office but they all seem to be moved towards it pretty slowly. This means that some filing cabinet space and a few trays are usually needed.

Take the Time to Clear Up

Once the work begins in earnest it can be easy to get caught up in it and feel as though there is no time for anything else. The problem here is that if you let the clutter build up then it will become increasingly difficult to get it under control. It is rather like the lawn of your home I guess. If you keep it nice and trim then it will be a lot easier to maintain it. However, if you let it get out of control then the next time you mow it you could be in for a tough job. The key is, therefore, in stopping the clutter from building up in the first place. My biggest problem is with my email. I enjoy getting emails but not when I get more than I can possibly answer. If I leave them more than a few days on a busy project then I can end up losing the will to go on opening up my inbox. If you have a weak spot like this then you will have to make a special effort to avoid it becoming a problem in the long run.

Move Towards a Paperless Office

I know I said that everyone wants to do this and never does but that doesn’t make it a bad idea. If we could all move towards running a paperless office then we could avoid a lot of clutter and, hey, save the planet at the same time. I once worked in an office where someone (I never knew who it was) would stick notes onto the printer and the photocopier telling us all the damage we were doing to the planet by printing out extra sheets of paper. At the other extreme, I also sat beside someone who printed off every single email he ever received. In fact ,he did this without even reading them first, so he presumably ended up printing off a lot of emails which he had absolutely no need to see printed on a piece of paper. You could try coming up with a few different ideas which your team need to stick to, things like; only print off the emails you really need to, when you are done with something put it away or throw it away and so on. It is an initiative which needs the support and the buy in of the whole team so you need to ensure that they don’t look on it as something you are simply imposing on them. Let them add in their ideas and give them the responsibility of making sure that everyone in the team keeps it a clutter free project.