This is a guest post by Matthew Snider. He is a writer, a personal development junkie and a regular blogger at Self Development Secrets. Matt, with his one-quarter Asian descent, did not start out as a writer, but he says, “the love for a subject is the most important aspect of writing. The readers want to read something written by someone who understands them.”
A clean and organized desk can help you feel energized and productive. Think of how you feel when your desk is cluttered and unorganized. It likely leaves you feeling uninspired, frustrated and depressed. Increasing productivity begins with a clear desk free of clutter. It doesn’t have to be a large piece of real estate either. It can just be little habits you need to break. You can maximize the amount of your workspace by making it organized.
How to Start
1. Clear the Desk
The very first thing you should do is to clear the space completely. Remove everything from your desk and place it on the floor or a nearby table. This will get messy before the process is over.
Whether you have a home office or a cubicle in a larger office with a dozen other employees, you can still benefit from a desk free of clutter. That should always start with a clean slate since it allows you to analyze each piece that will be reintroduced to the desk.
Don’t start organizing or tossing anything yet. That’s one of the next steps in the process. For now, remove every single item from the desk and leave yourself room to visualize the desk as it should be to keep you productive.
2. Clean the Desk Thoroughly
While you might have cleaners in the office, they usually don’t move papers and dust the desks. In some cases, you’re lucky if the cleaning crew vacuums the floor under your chair and desk.
You should clean your desk at least once a week. Wipe down the desk and spray some fabric refresher onto the cubicle walls to give them a fresh scent. In your home office, vacuum under the chair and desk frequently when you’re giving it a thorough cleaning.
3. Toss the Clutter
Once the desk is cleaned, tackle the clutter you removed from the desk. It’s not the time to place them on the desk yet. This phase is about removing clutter and tossing out the trash.
As you handle each item, ask yourself if you need it on your desk. All the unnecessary items should be thrown or removed from the area. Don’t bring back things that have no purpose.
Blueprint Your Desk
4. Create a Configuration
Take a piece of paper and draw a rough picture of your desk. Consider how you work. Do you spend a lot of time on the phone? Are you often spinning from the computer to the file cabinet? These small things can really waste your time.
As you think about how you spend your day, start to place items on paper before dragging everything back to the desk. It helps to visualize when you have a clean slate too. Sit in your chair and stare at your empty desk. Without the clutter, you can envision a cleaner, more organized workspace.
Imagine you’re working with a particular client or performing a certain task. Reach for items as you need them. Visualize the perfect configuration that works for you. This is a process that only you can perform since nobody knows how you work on a daily basis.
5. Think Vertically
If your monitor and keyboard take up space you need, consider lifting the monitor off the desk. This will give you more room under the screen as well as provide a configuration that will improve your posture while you’re at your desk.
Proper posture and ergonomics can help alleviate and prevent muscle strains as well as back injuries. Placing the keyboard on a sliding tray under the desk can help too. OSHA recommends an ergonomic workplace because it helps to avoid musculoskeletal disorders or MSDs.
- Musculoskeletal Disorders
- Trigger finger
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Muscles strains, low back injuries, and neck injuries
6. Incoming Papers
While computers were supposed to start a revolution of a paperless office, that’s not the case at all. You’ll need an inbox to take care of the items that will land on your desk each day. When you have an inbox, you know what is a priority as well as what can be shelved until later.
This should be part of your workflow. Along with an inbox, there should be other ways to file papers when they’re in the process of being worked on as well as when they’re finished.
Have a system for the flow of paper through your office and across your desk. A paper should have space as it moves through your process from start to finish. It should never be in a haphazard pile on the side of the desk mingling with other papers.
7. Eliminate as Much Paper as Possible
While you can’t eliminate all paper, especially paper from colleagues, you can stop yourself from producing more paper. If an item can be scanned, use a scanner to place it into a file on your computer.
There are also apps that can help you with productivity with your paper problem. If you find yourself with receipts that you have to keep for requisitions or tax purposes, using apps is an excellent way to keep track of them. The IRS (Internal Revenue Service) allows the use of scanned receipts when it comes time for tax season. You’ll never have to worry about lost receipts either.
8. Keep a Trash Can Close
For papers you don’t need, keep a recycle bin close to the desk. Along with a recycle bin, the trash can should be close to the desk too. Never leave items on the desk that can be tossed immediately. Trash should never hit the desk at all.
Reintroduce Items to the Desk
9. Unnecessary Clutter
When you have your blueprint and plan for how you want the desk organized, start adding things back to the surface. This should not include 9 pictures of your family and 7 of the dog.
If you have too much clutter on your desk, nothing brings you joy because you can’t see it on a daily basis. It starts to blend into the chaotic background.
Have one or two pictures, a plant and one item that makes you smile.
10. Organized System of Work
As you bring items back to the desk, make sure they are in line with your daily workflow. Utilize the extra space under the monitor for the inbox to save prime desk real estate for other things like supplies that you need.
As items are brought to your desk, it’s likely that your workflow goes from left to right, which is the same way we read. Place items to the left when they arrive in your space. This allows you to have them available in a way that makes sense for your workflow.
11. Keep Supplies Close
If you’re able to keep supplies close, ensure that you have everything you need nearby. You don’t want to have file folders, paper, and pens in another room or across the office when you need them. It interrupts your work, and that will keep you from working efficiently.
Sometimes your office will have the supplies you need, but they may not have your favorite pen or the file folders that you need for your desk drawers. You can purchase your items and keep them on the desk for easy access.
Each drawer should have like items stored in them. For example, have all supplies like papers and file folders in one drawer towards the bottom since you won’t need them daily. As you move up the drawers, have items you use more frequently like labelers or tools like a stapler.
12. Eliminate Distractions
One of the hardest things about staying efficient and productive is the distractions from other people. While you can’t stop people from interrupting, you can make it easier to get yourself back on track. It’s important to simplify your personal items and leave room on your desk for space.
With the clutter gone, it’s easier to deal with the distractions from other people. You’ll have fewer distractions coming from the clutter and disorganization that can make your mind feel as messy as your desk.
13. Lighting Your Space
You might be surprised to learn that you don’t have the right kind of lighting in your office to work efficiently. Overhead lighting can be harsh, which causes eye strain and stress. The best kind of lighting is natural light from windows. That’s tough to get in an office, but if you buy a lamp for your desk, you can use an imitation light that mimics the rays of the sun.
Sunlight helps to maintain your natural biological clock and the circadian rhythm that impacts how you sleep at night as well as energy throughout the day.
14. Plants in the Office
While we touched on plants briefly as an item that you should have on your desk, this is a more in-depth discussion about plants. They are one of the best things you can have at your desk. If you can’t fit one onto your desk after configuring it to maximize efficiency, consider getting one that sits on the floor.
Ask your boss to bring in more plants if you don’t want to spend money on a large potted plant for your cubicle. There have been numerous studies to suggest that plants have a serious impact on the productivity and happiness of employees.
15. Toss Trash Immediately
Once you’re happy with the configuration of your desk, you will need to take steps to maintain the standard. Toss trash right away since you have your trash can so close to the desk.
Never leave trash sitting since it becomes distracting clutter that will cause you to lose your rhythm at work. It’ll clog the workplace with unnecessary distractions and leave you frustrated too.
16. Don’t Eat at Your Desk
The worse thing you can do is eat at your desk while working. You may think you’re too busy to take twenty minutes for lunch, but you’re making things worse on yourself. When you don’t take frequent breaks, you’re doing more harm than good. Studies have shown that people who work in increments of ninety minutes then take ten-minute breaks are more productive in the long run than those who work all day without a break. It causes burnout.
Along with leading to burnout later, eating at your desk creates clutter and trash that needs to be cleaned. Crumbs fall into the keyboard, and the entire practice isn’t sanitary.
17. Clean at the End of the Day
At the end of each day, you might be tempted to run out as soon as the clock hits 5 p.m., but you should take ten minutes at the end of the day to clean out the clutter that developed.
It’s a good idea to keep things organized as you work through the day, but that’s not always realistic. At the end of the day, your desk might look like a whirlwind hit it. To make sure you start the next day fresh, organize your desk before leaving for the night. In the morning, you’ll appreciate a clear desk that will allow you to pick up where you left off the previous day.
Keeping your desk and workplace organized will lead to a more productive work day with a happier person at the end. While it can be time-consuming to clear off the desk and create a more productive workflow, it’s worth the time when you can work efficiently and not just be more productive, but more confident at work. This will lead to a way better lifestyle, not just at work but at home too. Along with more productivity, you’ll be happier and less stressed when the desk is uncluttered. You won’t spend twenty minutes searching for a piece of paper on your desk either. You’ll know exactly where it is when your boss or a coworker stops by to find out the progress of your work.
This is a guest post by Matthew Snider. He is a writer, a personal development junkie and a regular blogger at Self Development Secrets. Matt, with his one quarter Asian descent, did not start out as a writer, but he says, “the love for a subject is the most important aspect of writing. The readers want to read something written by someone who understands them.”
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