Organize a disorganized boss? Maybe …

Your boss has a “hands-on” work style that demands all files stay nearby. So how do you help a boss whose office is drowning in paper?

One reader writes on the Admin Pro Forum that, although she has seven years’ experience as an administrative professional, she’s not sure how to wrangle all the papers that fill her boss’s desk, drawers and filing boxes. “She’s always multitasking, and there is never enough uninterrupted time to sit down with her to get organized,” she says.

Tips for organizing a paper-strewn office:

√ Schedule yourself on your boss’s calendar for 15 to 30 minutes every other evening. Set the timer as you begin each organizing session.

“Resolve yourself to meeting your goal in small increments,” advises fellow admin LaTonya.

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√  Attack one quadrant of the desk, or one drawer, at a time.

√  Form several organizing piles, suggests admin Sally, and label them “Action Needed,” “To File,” “Toss” and “Refer.” Now process each piece of paper, determining with your boss which pile each paper belongs in.

“You’ll find that at least one-third of the papers are to be thrown out,” she says.

√  Organize “Action Needed” papers in colored folders, recommends admin Lisa S. “Red is for high-priority items that need feedback, comments or signature; yellow for reading and low-priority items, such as FYIs,” she says.

Once your boss has taken action on an item, she’ll return the folder to you to move it forward.

Tip: Before you rustle a single paper, meet with your boss to ask whether she wants help organizing her filing system.

Believe it or not, says one admin reader, some people have a hard time keeping track of their work once it’s organized.

 “I worked with an engineer and tried three times to organize his blueprints and documents by projects. It never lasted more than a week. He would just mix all the projects together, because that was his ‘system,’” says Nirma.