Clean up your office

These guidelines are shamelessly taken and compacted for you from The principal's Office Cleanout Guide

3 Boxes: Keep, Toss, Destroy

  • You will be provided moving boxes by the moving company.
  • These boxes are the KEEP kind.
  • In the corridor you will find containers TOSS (blue) and DESTROY (gray with ‘envelope’ opening).
  • The blue TOSS container is for paper that can go in regular recycling.
  • The gray DESTROY container is for confidential documents that can't just be recycled but need to be schredded. shredded. Make sure that NO confidential information ends up in the blue recycling bins!

Mandatory retention period

  • The University is legally obliged to keep certain documents for a number of years (depending on the type of document). For documents related to research (i.e. project plans, research results, raw data, evaluation rapports, lab journals, etc.), this retention period is 10 years. Nowadays, digital archiving is preferred as it takes up less space than physical documents.
  • Exams are also subject to a retention period. If you have any (old) exams and performance documents related to the exams, please contact the Education Office. Do not throw them away unless instructed to do so by the Education Office.
  • If you are in doubt about whether something needs to be kept, please contact Robin Hölscher

What can you discard yourself?

  • Newspaper clippings, copies of public books or other material collected from other sources outside Leiden University. This may go in the blue paper bin.
  • Documents containing information from/for/by our university, but not the final version. So for example draft plans, draft policies, presentations etc. This may go in the grey confidential paper bin (with envelope opening).
  • Confidential information concerning financial, business-sensitive and personal data that is also already in other applications (e.g. ROG reports or email lists etc.). This may also be placed in the grey confidential paper bin (with envelope opening).

When In Doubt, Keep It

The fastest way to get bogged down is by agonizing over every decision:
  • Should I keep this?
  • Do I need to do something with it?
  • Might I need it for reference?
  • Where should I keep it?

When in doubt, keep it. Don't file most paper - just throw them in your KEEP box. Why does that work: Filing in the traditional way - with manila folders and hanging folders and tabs and drawers - seems like the ideal to most people. But most people tend to produce miscellaneous "To File" piles, from which it's usualy very easy to find things. This is because the pile is naturally organized chronologically. Simply go digging in the pile when you need to find something, and you'll know when you're getting close, because you'll be cued by other items from a similar point in time. What if you just took your entire "To File" pile and threw it in a box? You can always file what's in the box into categorized folders later.

Saving Files for Future Reference

How much should you leave for future reference? Finished research material. Ask yourself:

  • Has this research been completed and fully published? (TOSS it)
  • Was there something special with this research? (KEEP it)

What About Piles of Unfinished Work?

Some of this work still needs to be done, and some is probably irrelevant at this point.

Take one stack at a time, grab a pad of sticky notes, and go through it item by item and decide:

  • Is this still relevant? If not, throw it in the Chronological File in case it comes up again. If it's still relevant, decide…
  • What is my very next action? Write this on a sticky note.
  • When might I take this action? Put it in the Future File for that date, or move it to the bottom of the pile if you plan to do it today.

This technique is called "Next Action Stickies" because the key move is figuring out what to do next. Don't try to do this work now. Just decide what you'll do next time you see it. When you've written your next step on a sticky note, it's much easier to spring into action.

Think Minimalist

Now that you will be moving office, it may be helpful to think about the extreme case: what if you had nothing in your office?

  • No furniture or decor
  • No office supplies or equipment
  • No paper, files, books, binders, or folders

If you were starting totally from scratch, what would you bring into your office so you could get your work done and have a pleasant workspace? Probably very little of what's currently there.

Happy Cleaning!