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5S Outside The Factory: Learning To Organize Your Life

There’s the famous saying that goes a little something like: “If you want to have a happy life, you’re best to leave your work at work.” While that may remain true for most right-minded individuals, the reality of the situation at hand is that it’s not always possible. Some people work irregular hours, forcing them to conflict personal time with their hectic work life. Others may find themselves in a different situation entirely: working from home to best combat the harsh reality of two full-time working parents. Regardless of what the situation at hand may be, it helps to have access to a workplace that feels comfortable and inviting. By inserting yourself an environment that feels homey, you’re inherently easing the natural tension that comes with the territory of a typical workplace.

The idea of creating a “natural” workplace seems to be a rather vague goal; after all, what exactly goes into making a workplace feel “natural” anyways? A good place to start is by keeping your office tidy and organized. As a company that manufactures a variety of dry erase boards that can help you better organize your workplace, we like to think we have a pretty good idea as to what works when it comes to the ins and outs of organizing your office. That’s why we’ve put together a list of six tips for cleaning your workspace using the 6S methods our customers live by.

Seiri (Sorting)

The first step of any cleaning initiative should involve eliminating clutter from the designated area. The same can be said for the manufacturing industry as well; if your shop floor has a collection of unused machinery or unused shelf space, you’d want to get rid of it, wouldn’t you? So go ahead and pick up the stack of papers that have been sitting in the corner of your desk for the past six months, they are only adding to the problem.

Seiton (Set In Order)

According to a study conducted by a Boston marketing firm, the average American wastes up to 55 minutes a day on items they own but cannot find. This finding translates into what can arguably be seen as one of the most crucial elements of the 6S method within the context of the manufacturing industry: assigning an order to items on the shop floor. When done properly in a factory setting, every item should have a designated area for storage, providing order and accessibility to a workstation or item. The same technique should also be applied to your office! Items like document trays or even Magnatag’s FileView® organizer serve as an exceptional tool for providing a sense of purpose to your workplace. In another suggestion, recommends zoning your workplace into two separate categories: one for computer work, with the other being used for paper-related tasks.

Seiso (Shine)

The third S in the process, Seiso, involves cleaning everything in its entirety. Factories will commonly practice this method by taking before and after images of their shop floor, searching for opportunities where improvement can be made. Some managers even like to use the cleaning process as an inspection of their own work, ensuring that their shop floor meets company standards. You’re more than welcome to take before and after photos of your own office, but we think a solid round of dusting will do just fine for the office space. However, we do recommend you get in the habit of cleaning your office at least once a month. It should go without saying that the more frequently you clean your office, the less messy it will be.

 Seiketsu (Standardize)

It’s one thing to have a routine schedule for your maintenance efforts, but guaranteeing that objectives are actually completed is an entirely different beast to tackle. That’s where seiketsu comes into the 5S process. Factories will often implement some sort of visual mapping into their manufacturing process in an effort to streamline workflow and educate those that may be unfamiliar with the day-to-day proceedings of the factory. Often times this may come in the form of a floor map, inventory tracker, or schedule system. As helpful as visual aids can be for the manufacturer in your life, standardization can be applied within the office space as well! Rather than having a floor map of your office space, you should look towards the likes of signs and calendars to help with your organizational journey. Marking important dates on your calendar—like your weekly seiso cleaning session—can be used as a motivational tool to help expedite the cleaning process.

 Shitsuke (Sustain)

The final S in the 5S process can be interpreted as a culmination of sorting, ordering, cleaning and standardizing, as it revolves around the notion of self-discipline. In the manufacturing industry in particular, managers will often treat this final stage as a form of assimilating the newfound practices into the company culture. When attempting to sustain an office setting, you need to get into the routine of organizing your work zone regularly. This involves: ridding your workspace of waste, organizing your supplies, cleaning off your desk, tracking your progress, and perhaps implementing some form of reinforcement for the program itself. You want to create a place for everything; that means every item has a designated area, and a method for reinforcing where it belongs. For instance, once you’ve completed your weekly cleaning and you’ve removed an item from it’s original location, with the help of a item-designated ticket designed to take its place, you’ll be aware of what—if anything—is missing or lost, and take action accordingly. The purpose of this exercise is to remind yourself of where items belong, and reinforce your organization habits. Here’s a bonus tip for sustaining an organized office: create an inventory checklist for your office that you keep nearby; after you’ve finished cleaning and completed the 5S process, check off items that need replenishment.

There’s an old myth that claims it takes 28 days to build a habit, and while that may not be entirely accuratethis piece of advice still reflects the fundamental value in habitual learning. No one can pinpoint exactly how many days it takes to develop a habit; there are too many factors at play to accurately math it out. However, the point remains the same: The more you practice something, the more natural it will become over time. Incorporate the 5S method into your daily routine, and you’ll live a better life. It’s just that simple.


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