Joe Jonovic (email@example.com), 37, president and CEO, Inventory Management Solutions, a $33 million electronics-distribution company based in Mission Viejo, California
For years, Jonovic couldn't clean up his act. Clutter controlled his office. He was constantly in reaction mode and ran his business in whatever order his stack of papers — literally eight inches high — was shuffled in on any given day.
"I'm supposed to be a role model, but I was scrambling from pile to pile," he says. "It was embarrassing."
Jonovic hired Debbie Gilster, principal of Organize & Computerize, in Laguna Niguel, California. "Joe was overwhelmed when he first called me," says the expert. "Today, he has hanging folders in his office safe!" (His safe?) Many people don't get that tackling your mess means tackling indecision, Gilster says. First, treat your clutter problem like a serious project. (The average messy exec wastes six weeks a year looking for stuff.) Set aside an eight-hour time block for cleanup, and set sensible goals. Some clutter is okay, as long as it doesn't bother you. Once you can see your desk, maintain order by making decisions. With paper, you've got to file it, act on it, or toss it. Whenever you have downtime, process 10 items from your inbox. At a minimum, book a solid hour and clean your inbox once a week. Don't hesitate to schedule meetings with yourself.
Gilster's coaching has helped Jonovic get it together. "I'm more productive now, because I'm in control," he says. "But I'll never be perfectly organized." (Except for his safe, of course.)
A version of this article appeared in the April 2001 issue of Fast Company magazine.