When I am working on a project, I like to have my desk clear of everything but the current project. However, I am always working on multiple projects. I would go crazy if I didn’t have each of my projects filed away in project bins. These project bins promote productivity for me and help me maintain my sanity.
Imagine that you’re working on a project. You are on a deadline and people are waiting for you to finish. There are stacks of papers scattered across your desk and on surfaces around you. Some of these papers belong to the current project but others do not. Your stress level is off the charts.
I have seen this multiple times with clients. Their projects may be work related or home based. It doesn’t matter. It papers are stacked everywhere they eventually get mixed up. People are afraid to file papers away because they are afraid that they won’t find them again. But now as they look through their stacks of paper, that one critical piece is nowhere to be seen.
We can only work on one project at a time. If other projects are floating around, they distract us. The use of project bins will clear your desk and your mind and promote productivity.
How to set up your project bins:
- Identify your current projects. Some examples might be writing a book, planning a wedding, refurbishing your home, landscape ideas, or any work-related project
- Sort all papers into piles according to the project
- Cull out any duplicates or old drafts
- If helpful, subdivide the projects with folders in the bin– i.e., rehearsal dinner, flowers, catering
- Find the appropriate size bin
- Put the papers into the bin and label the bin
How to make the bins work:
- Schedule times on your calendar to work on each current project
- Clear your desk before starting
- Take out of the bin only the section you are working on
- When your time to work is up, gather the papers and return them to the bin
The advantage of working with the bins is the paper you are working on is just as you left it when you finished your last session. The papers are stacked back in their own bin and won’t get shuffled. This time saved promotes productivity.
How to select a project bin:
The size and type of the project bin depends on the space where it is stored and the size of the project. I prefer clear stackable bins. Some of my projects fit easily into a file folder. This allows me to put multiple smaller size projects into one bin simply labeled projects. These projects are all current and scheduled on my calendar, so this works for me.
Large projects like planning a wedding or writing a book require a larger bin to themselves. For the project bins to promote productivity, you must adapt your bins for your needs.
Where to store project bins:
Project bins need to be easily assessable. Mine are just a step away in a credenza. At other times I have stored my project bins on a bookshelf or a cupboard in my office. If the bins are not close at hand, you are less likely to put your projects away in the bins each time you finish working with them.
When a project is finished, clear out the project bin to make room for a new project. I usually have a couple of empty project bins stored with my supplies. If you are keeping a final copy of your project, store it with archival papers. Do not take up prime real estate in your office for a project that is complete.
When setting up your project bins for the first time break down the tasks and work at your own pace. But stick with it. You will be so glad that you did. Spending this time now will save you time and frustration.
If you recognize that you are struggling with setting up project bins or want some help or accountability in developing and working your organizational office plan or other projects, join Diane Quintana and me in our Clear Space for You virtual support group.
Jonda S. Beattie, Professional Organizer owner of Time Space Organization, and co-owner of Release, Repurpose, Reorganize. She is based in the Metro-Atlanta area. As presenter, author of four books as well as a retired special education teacher she uses her listening skills, problem solving skills, knowledge of different learning techniques, ADHD specialty, and paper management skills to help clients.
I really, really love this idea!! Working from home takes a lot of organization so I will definitely be implementing this for myself (and for me teenagers!!). Thanks for the tips!
This is a great idea! I, too, feel that I have several projects going at once and this would be a great way to keep them organized. I think scheduling the time on the calendar is an important step to make sure you are prioritizing your time efficiently. Great tips throughout and I will definitely be applying this strategy!
Ahh. I love a good project bin! I’ve used them with many clients because they are easy to access. I also use project folders and binders. Folders work well when the projects don’t have an extensive amount of material. If the folder needs sub-divisions, I use stick on tabs to distinguish the sections. For larger projects, three-ring binders work well. It just depends on preferences. For some, having to file into a binder (even if it’s in a pocket) or punch holes, is too laborious. So if that’s the case, I won’t recommend that type of system. I’ve also used magazine boxes, which stand vertically and don’t take as much counter space. They also can be easily labeled and accessed.
I have project bins for every one of my small business clients. It keeps my paperwork organized and allows me to pull the client information directly when I need to do their work. The act of pulling the paper from the bin refocuses my mind to the next task at hand. Thank you for sharing.
I love this idea – I tend to use 3-ring binders, which are ok but do require the extra step of hole-punching (and sometimes I get lazy and just stuff papers into a pocket folder inside). I think I’ll be exploring some bins the next time I’m starting something new!
What I love about this approach is that it is easy to put a project “away” when my work for the day is completed. So much better than having a giant stack of papers on my desk. These also work so well in situations where materials are stored in on location, but typically processed elsewhere. For example, I like working at my kitchen island because I enjoy the view. I could just bring my project box over, do my work, and then easily clear off when it is time to cook or eat.
Although I’m an inveterate user of files and don’t have anything out except the project I’m working on that minute (with everything else in folders in the desktop file box, file drawer, or tickler file), I can definitely see the appeal of this for clients who need paper to feel both *seen* and more immediately tactile. And as Seana notes above, swooshing project papers together into one snappy and accessible bin could be just the ticket for ensuring a client tidies up and moves on productivity!
Wow, what an exciting concept. I love the idea of sweeping my whole desk clear when I’m done working on something! This would also be a handy way to visually see what you’re working on. I’ll bet it increases the likelihood of finishing each project, because if it’s in its own labeled bin you won’t be able to let it slip your mind!