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Laptop on modern wooden desk

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
  • Tendonitis
  • 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

plant 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.

Lifetime Organization

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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Thanh Pham

Founder of Asian Efficiency where we help people become more productive at work and in life. I've been featured on Forbes, Fast Company, and The Globe & Mail as a productivity thought leader. At AE I'm responsible for leading teams and executing our vision to assist people all over the world live their best life possible.

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  1. Keeping your workspace organized is essential for productivity and can help you stay on track with tasks at work. It’s important to create a system for storing all of your items in order to ensure everything has its place. Additionally, keep the clutter down by only keeping what is necessary and disposing of anything that isn’t needed. Finally, make sure to set aside time each day to organize your desk and perhaps even do a full deep clean every couple of months.

  2. Very good tips! Thank you so much for sharing them. If you work in an office, it's important to keep your workplace organized. A tidy desk can help you be more productive and efficient. It can also prevent you from losing important documents. Plus, it just feels good to be surrounded by a clean and organized space.

  3. Very good advices, I would also like to add some more.
    Properly organized workplace – good productivity. Use wall stickers so you don't forget about important events. You can also digitize some documents for quick access from anywhere you have Internet access.

  4. Thanks for sharing great article, fantastically you shared, keep sharing! Actually you are right i find it difficult to stay organized at work when i first start, but didn’t gave up. i just Keep practicing the suggestions on this list, and eventually, i’ll get into a routine and start to see results.

  5. It really helped when you said that a clean and organized workplace can lead to a more productive workday. My partner has a very messy home office, and he doesn't have the time to clean it. I think I should look for office janitorial services that can sweep and vacuum the floors every week, so he can focus on working for our family.

  6. According to my mind your content about cleaning desk will be very effective. It has seems to me that its a one kind of manual which I want. My expection will be full fill from your blog. thanks a lot to present such kind of advice.

  7. Got a few nice tips. I like the part where you mention about having a plant in your desk. I always keep a plant in my desk. It helps me to concentrate more.

  8. I love to organize my desk. I was looking for a clear guideline to organize my desk properly. But none of the suggested tricks work perfectly for me. The tips you shared is very informative. Thanks for a clear guideline.

  9. I have always hated clutter on my desk, it just makes it look messy and makes finding things difficult. I haven’t really gotten to personalising my desk yet but having a plant sounds nice. I will try to get nice, colourful, healthy plant right away :)

  10. As I’ve been working at the office since 5 years, I noticed that not all my colleagues are like me, for example, they keep their desk to messy every time we go home and the management noticed that so their solution is to create an email for everyone to clean the desk, however, didn’t get that effective that’s why they hired some office cleaning services here in Dubai, to be assigned in our Dubai office.

  11. As I work from home, I have built up a little supply area around my desk that includes all of the supplies and tools I will need during the day including a trashcan! Although we don’t read about papers from typewriters anymore when we get frustrated, Post-it notes, calendar pages, and other paperwork can so quickly add to an unnecessarily cluttered work area.

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