Top 5 Tips for Staying Organized

Photo of a very messy, disorganized desk

As a real estate broker, staying organized can be tough. One of the primary reasons is due to the many different places we do business—in the home, at the firm, in our cars and on the go. It can be easy to have documents, tools and resources all over the place and never quite where you need them.

However, the more cluttered and less-organized your spaces are, the longer everything takes. Think about the last time you couldn’t find something, whether that was a file on your computer, an email, or even a 3-ring-hole-punch. How long did you search? Five minutes? Ten minutes? Now think of the number of times you do that in a given week. How many precious minutes of your time could you reclaim with a little organization? Here are a few key systems that make life so much easier:


Imagine a briefcase crossed with Batman’s utility belt…your ‘Office-On-The-Go’ can be a shoulder bag with everything you might need or even a rolling case that goes from place to place. The key is to have it stocked with the paper, files, electronics, chargers and cords, pens, highlighters and more that you might need to conduct business. In addition to that, put together a ‘Car Kit’ chock-full of everything else you might need in the field, including: Ziploc bags, zip ties, scissors, hammer, land tape measure, regular tape measure, level, sharpies, copies of my buyer and seller packages, hard copies of the most common types of forms, and more. In fact, I encouraged a broker to build her own Car Kit and within a couple of weeks, she actually got a listing because the seller was so impressed that she had a land tape measure in the back of her car. Having an Office-On-The-Go allows you to be as efficient in a Starbucks as you would be in your home office.

Physical and Tech Folders

During the flurry of a transaction, it is easy for paper and communication trails to get off-course and get lost. However, if you do just a little bit of organization each day, it can make tidying up the file at the end of the transaction super-easy. It’s nice to think that everything has the potential to be paperless, but that isn’t realistic for most of the brokers I know. Though, it is logical to have three working files for a client: a paper file, an email file and a computer file.

Everything related to the transaction goes in one of those three files. Have a wayward paper or notes that you scratched down while in the field? Paper folder! Did you use your phone to take photos or make notes? Either upload those to an online folder in the cloud or to your computer. Have some emails in your inbox from that client or from others about the transaction? Get those into a digital folder or print them out. This is 5-10 minute task can save you hours down the road.

One-Stop Handling

Do you find that you are moving papers from one place to another multiple times? Then you need to embrace the ‘One-Stop Handling’ principle. This requires three important practices:


This requires you to look at your systems for activities such as receipt and bill handling and determine what you can do to minimize the number of times something needs to be moved. For example, keep a section in your wallet for personal receipts and business receipts. When you get a receipt, put it in the correct section and make sure to insert them chronologically. When you reconcile your statement, your paper receipts are right there in order. When you sort the mail, make a spot for bills to be paid. Once those bills are paid, have a system for filing.

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Basically, create a conveyor belt for every type of paper that comes into your office with pre-organized stops along the way which helps the number of times you have to handle something (otherwise, that paper goes straight into the recycling). You won’t lose paperwork or bills because you have a system in place.

Everything Needs a Home

Do you have a pile somewhere in your office right now? Are there things that have moved from one side of the office to another like nomads? These are the types of challenges you may have if you have objects or papers that don’t have a home. I don’t spend extra minutes looking for staples or stamps. I know right where everything is. Consider this — if you have something without a home, chances are that it isn’t important enough to warrant one. And if it doesn’t warrant a home, why are you hanging onto it? You avoid clutter and save time when you are disciplined and when everything has a home.

Be Ruthless

Imagine yourself as the gatekeeper of your office. You have to decide what is important enough to pass through the gate. Don’t let in the junk mail and extra inserts in your bills. If you have 100 pens, then choose your favorites and give the rest away. Extra binders? Donate them! There are organizations that need your excess office supplies so get rid of the guilt and lighten the load.

Hour of Power Binder

Several times per week give yourself a quiet ‘Hour of Power’ to work on your business and handle some of those personal tasks that go by the wayside as work gets busy. For example, I have a binder with individual pockets—8 personal projects and 8 business projects. Having this binder that serves as a catch-all for those projects keeps me sane. If something comes in during the day that I need for a project I am working on for my Hour of Power, I just slide it in and move on, reassured that I will be able dedicate time to it later.

Don’t Just Clean… Purge

This is critical. If you are really ready for a revolution, take everything out of your office (or offices). Get a bunch of boxes and as you start removing things, categorize. For example, if you are cleaning out your office and find paperclips everywhere, consolidate into one box. Reading material you haven’t gotten to yet? Put it in one box. That way you can more-clearly see what you have, get rid of the excess, and what you need to allot space for when you put the office back together.

Being organized doesn’t happen by accident, but it is definitely easier to maintain organization once you have a system. Think about the minutes you could save each day just by implementing and maintaining a few systems of organization. Don’t accept a system that is not working for you just because that is how you always have done it. Reinvent and reap the benefits!

Denise Lones
Denise Lones, president of The Lones Group and author of the weekly syndicated Zebra Report, brings over two decades of experience in the real estate industry with expertise in branding, strategic marketing, business analysis, and broker/managing broker training. You can reach Denise at (360) 527-8904 or at

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