While I am not a stickler for a neat desk (anyone who works with me will tell you that my desk is not the epitomy of neatness), a certain amount of organization is necessary in our field. We generally have so many daily, weekly, and monthly tasks, not to mention special projects going on, that we must know where everything is located in order to make the best use of our time.
When planning how best to organize your files and folders, always think about what tasks you perform and how often you perform them. Keep the items you need frequently close at hand, and keep those items not needed frequently in the further away drawers and file cabinets. Saving time looking for and/or retrieving needed materials is time you can spend on performing the task at hand.
On my desk, I have a folder riser where I keep folders for my daily tasks and any special project that I am currently working on. For instance, two of my daily duties are running background checks and processing donations. As I receive items for these tasks, I put them in the appropriate folder so I can process all of them at the same time once a day. My time is better managed doing all of the same tasks at once rather than starting and stopping other projects all day to process them as they come in. I set task reminders in Outlook to remind me of my recurring tasks.
Items I work with frequently but not necessarily daily go in my desk file drawer, so they are close to hand but not out on my desk and in my way as I work. These include forms for various tasks and files for vendors that I deal with frequently.
Items that I deal with once a month or less are kept in my file cabinets at the back of my office. Since I have to get up to pull files from these cabinets, nothing I work with frequently is kept there. This is also where I keep files for finished tasks, such as my current fiscal year donation files. At the end of each year, those files are boxed up and sent to archives to make room for the coming year’s files.
Of course, any file that can be kept electronically, is kept so. I keep as many files as possible on my network drive so I can access them from any computer connected to the network. That way, even if I’m working at someone else’s desk for some reason, I still have access to many of my files, minimizing trips back and forth to my desk.
Every administrative assistant has her own way of organizing their workspace. What’s important is to find the way that best suits you and your own work style. Just remember, though, don’t spend so much time keeping organized that you take time away from your actual duties.