Have you ever noticed that when your workplace or home is full of clutter: paper notes all over your desk, documents that haven't been filed, items all over table tops, piles on the floor, things that don't have a home and are just making everything look messy…. You get more stressed out?
A disorganised office or home can leave you feeling out of control, frustrated and add to your stress levels. It also makes your day super unproductive. Do you regularly ask "where is it?" or are trying to look for things and can't find them? Do others constantly ask you where they can find something? Have you re-done something simply because you couldn't find it the first time? Or maybe even bought a new one of something? A disorganised office or home can create a lot of inefficiencies. Furthermore it can look very unprofessional and we all want to make the best impact on people around us whether they are our colleagues or friends visiting our home.
The Japanese realised this decades ago in their factories and developed a concept called 5S which has been used by some of the biggest and best companies globally to improve their quality, safety and productivity, and also the work environment for employees.
So what is this tool all about? Here are the 5S steps:
Step 1 – SORT
This is about Sorting through what is needed (really needed) from what is not needed in an area (your office or home e.g the wardrobe). This can be quite challenging but you need to ask yourself the following questions:
- What is the purpose of the area? What does it need to do?
- Do I need these items?
- How often do I use them?
- When did I last use them?
- Are they still relevant?
You should then sort things into three groups: "not needed at all" and you will get rid of, "needed occasionally" – you should move this stuff into labelled cupboards away from the area, and "needed often" – keep in the immediate area.
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Step 2 – SET
This step means to decide where the items you will keep should be placed/ stored or positioned within the area. This is about having a place for everything and everything in its place. Items that you use regularly should be placed near to where you use them so that you reduce unnecessary movement. Items used less regularly can be stored a little further away. Importantly, you should have clearly marked locations for things such as labelled drawers or cupboards so that the things are very easy and visual to find.
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Step 3 – SHINE
Now it's time to clean up – this is about ensuring that the area is thoroughly cleaned. So time to pull out the cleaning gloves and products and make your area shine! Don't forget hidden spots. As a practical point, it is sometimes easier and more practical to do this step before step 2.
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Step 4 – STANDARDISE
This is a really important step but often gets forgotten. Once you have put in all the hard work in steps 1-3 you must create a Standard for how the area will continue to look. This is about documenting or making it clear what the expected level of cleanliness and organisation that needs to be maintained, how often cleaning or organising is required, who is responsible, where the standard locations for things are and so on. A good visual standard will ensure that everyone is aware of the expected condition and your workplace or home will stay organised. If you don't put this standard in place, you can be sure that within a very short time your area will be back to square one.
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Step 5 – SUSTAIN
This is probably the hardest bit but most certainly a standard will help you to sustain a well-organised and professional looking workplace or home. Regularly monitoring the condition of the area and comparing it to the standard will help you to keep it looking good. A good idea is to set yourself a standard frequency of checking your area and maintaining its condition.
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Now it's time to get organised! Have fun and enjoy the feeling of control and freedom a well-organised environment brings :-).
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