Disorganization at Work: The Paper Problem

Patient Expert

I'm looking at my desk at work, trying to figure out what to do with this sea of paper that is covering every one of the three counters that make up my cube in the Office of the Registrar at UC Berkeley. I have a pretty large cube, and as usual the paper has expanded to fill the space allotted to it. Through the day, I'll scratch out a little space on a counter for eating or doing work. It's definitely not an ideal situation, and let's face it, it's of my own making.

One of my co-workers has an unbelievably organized desk. I'm not sure where everything goes. She doesn't have any more file drawers than I do, and she actually has fewer file folders than I do. I envy her, I really do. I wish I knew how she did it.

I look around, literally scratch my head, and say, "Huh." I'm stumped, not just by the state of the paperwork at this moment, but how I'm ever going to find a way to organize my paperwork that sticks.

What is it about ADHDers and paper piles ? My mom has ADHD, and her desk area looks exactly the same. She actually has piles on the floor. My mom's piles are generally neater than mine, but they're piles all the same, ones that aren't on their way to a file cabinet anytime soon. My husband claims he has ADHD, but his desk is way too neat. His ADHD street cred is suspect.

I've resisted organizing my paperwork for as long as I can remember. I did very well during my first position out of college, as a receptionist at Bain & Co, a consulting management firm. But then I got promoted to what's called Case Team Assistant, and I was assigned to the team whose client was Hughes Tool, an oil field drilling service company (of course, it couldn't be Maybelline or even Colgate Palmolive). I was expected to keep all the files on the company's competitors, well, filed. I really didn't have any experience with filing, so of course all the files ended up in a huge (seriously, about a foot and a half tall) pile on my desk.

Here's the funny thing - when someone (hesitantly) approached my desk and asked me for a particular piece of paper, I could almost instantly lay my hands on it. It wasn't that there was any method to my madness, but I must have just had a good memory for the location of the files.

It dawns on me that, oddly enough, I'm really good at organizing my emails. I have multiple subfolders in my inbox, and I actually use them efficiently. You could almost say that I'm really anal retentive about it. What the heck is the difference? Why can't I be this organized with things I can touch?

I decide that that's a question for another day and bring my mind back to this situation. The students are going to be back on campus in a few days. Since my job's so busy in the beginning of the term, other people in our unit help out, so having an organizational system that other people can understand and utilize is essential. And actually, I'm getting kind of tired of the mess.