Clout for office clutter

Nov. 1, 2005
Your dental office speaks for and about you to every patient. Patients’ impressions of you are especially portrayed from your private office - primarily your desk.

Your dental office speaks for and about you to every patient. Patients’ impressions of you are especially portrayed from your private office - primarily your desk. Think about what kind of image the atmosphere in your private office is creating. Consciously or subconsciously, your patients receive signals about your ability, control, organization, and preciseness, just by looking at your desk. If it is cluttered with paper, pictures, and pounds of junk that make it resemble a landfill, it is not speaking well on your behalf. Your desk represents you.

Clutter will cost you respect and money. How much time are you losing because of a messy office? How much longer does it take you to locate the correct paper or thing? It has been estimated that there is a 20 percent efficiency loss - 400 hours of lost work time a year!

If you spend 20 hours cleaning up the mess and then keep it neat, in 10 years you will save 4,000 hours. Add the time lost to mental aggravation as well as emotional upheaval, and you will realize you cannot afford clutter. Let’s look at some tips to manage the piles and stacks on your desk:

Follow these 10 tips to control the office clutter. You’ll feel more organized, confident, and respected by your staff and patients. Climb over that pile of papers and I’ll see you at the top!

Albert L. Ousborne Jr., DDS, is a practicing dentist in Townson, Md. He has served as president of the American Academy of Dental Practice Administration, and lectures on creating a successful practice with professionalism. Reach him at (410) 828-1177.

10 tips to reduce clutter

1 Determine what to keep. Every day more papers land in your office. Develop a timely system that routes papers to proper locations.

2 Use bins and organizers.

3 Develop a system. I keep a three-tiered bin of trays in my office. The top is for outgoing papers. My administrative assistant collects them each morning and afternoon for routing or mailing. The middle is for anything incoming. Mail, papers, journals, newsletters, in-office memos, etc., are placed mornings and afternoons for my review. The lowest bin is for briefly storing information that I need more time to evaluate or will need soon. This bin must be reviewed weekly.

4 Tell the person opening the mail to sort out the junk. Review what can be discarded with your administrative assistant so it never needs your time.

5 Use folders or binders labeled as ADA, Staff Meetings, House of Delegates, C.E., and newsletters. As you review your papers, mark the ones that must be kept in a binder with an “F” for file.

6 Place all papers to be filed (marked with an “F”) in one desk or credenza drawer. Weekly, or when you are on vacation, it is your administrative assistant’s responsibility to punch the holes and file these papers in the appropriately titled, three-ring binder.

7 Glance through mail and papers quickly and decide to ­respond, junk, join, attend, buy, or contribute. If none of these apply, toss it! Every time you put something aside to read later, you’ve only added more to the pile as well as another item to your to-do list. Read and handle everything only once.

8 Respond when possible at the bottom of correspondence with a hand-written note. It is a quick, inexpensive, personalized way to respond.

9 Focus on one project at a time on your desk. More than one will create distractions. Finish and get it out of sight so you can focus on your next issue.

10 Stay uncluttered. Allow one hour a week for maintaining the system and staying organized.

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