Is Your Desk Affecting Your Productivity? Organize it in Five Easy Steps!

What’s on your desk? A computer? A lamp? Office supplies? Stacks of paper and unpaid bills? If your desk is cluttered, it may be costing you precious time by hampering your productivity. Organizing your desk in these 5 easy steps is something anyone can do.

Is your desk cluttered? Does sitting at it overwhelm you? Piles of paper, no matter how neatly stacked, represent work to be done; the larger the pile, the more likely your brain is to simply quit on you, which leads to our next question:

Does your mind tend to wander a lot when you’re working? Do ideas refuse to flow smoothly when you need them to? It’s not adult-onset attention deficit disorder; it’s just the clutter in your life. Your brain to wants to think about anything except the work in front of it.

And, finally, do you feel you should be able to do more in a day than you do? Are you depressed by the amount of work left undone at the end of the day? Worse still, are you bringing work home from the office, not to get ahead, but to catch up?

If the answer to any of these questions is ‘yes’, then the clutter on your desk may be lowering your productivity levels. A desk that you feel is cluttered is an obvious clue, of course, but sometimes we spend so much of our life with clutter that we don’t really recognize it when we see it. Look at the other factors and ask yourself if they apply to you.

For example, earlier we spoke of piles of paper. Paper can be stacked neatly on the edge of the desk, so tidy that you’d never think of it as clutter. But it is, and it can inhibit your productivity.

So what can you do about it? A few simple steps can dramatically increase the amount of work you can complete—and dramatically decrease the amount of time it takes to complete it.

 1. Empty your desk.

One of the best ways of getting clutter off your desk is to start by just emptying your desk. Don’t try to sort it at this point; just grab a couple of boxes and put everything into them. And don’t forget any filing drawers that the desk has! Put files into a separate box, but take them out as well. The desk must be completely cleared and emptied if you want to get rid of the clutter.

2. A quick clean.

Once the desk is cleared, give it a good wipe. Use Pledge or a similar spray if the desk is wood; otherwise, just use a damp rag. Cleaning the desk symbolises cleaning out the clutter; it annouces to your brain that you’re serious about getting rid of the junk and becoming a more orderly person.

3. Sorting through things.

Now we come to the part that everyone dreads. You must sort through the things you took off your desk in order to determine what absolutely has to go back on it.

But don’t panic just yet. We’re going to do an initial sort first. Take each item out of the box and ask yourself, “Does this absolutely have to go back on my desk, or can I envision it somewhere–anywhere–else?” If the answer to the first question is no–or even maybe–then don’t put it on the desk. Have an empty box on hand for these things. Do this with everything before you put it back. You should be able to dramatically decrease the sheer amount of ‘stuff’ on your desk.

Once this is done, take the box, or boxes, of stuff that didn’t have to go back on the desk, and set them to the side. We’ll deal with them in a moment.

 4. Organize your desk.

Look at the things on your desk. You should have only the things that absolutely must go back in it or on it; now the question is, how to put them back in such a way that they are easy to use and don’t clutter the desk? Office supply stores are full of different organizers to compliment your needs.

If you find you have large amounts of paper, you may wish to invest in stacking trays. These sit comfortably in a corner of your desk, and ‘piles’ of paper are actually sorted into the different trays, so you no longer have to rifle through an entire stack of paper to find your unpaid bills.

If, on the other hand, you have a lot of small items or office supplies, consider investing in a drawer tray with partitions, or in one of the many desktop organizers that allow you to separate staples from rubber bands easily.

5. Tying up loose ends.

Remember those boxes you set to the side earlier? Now is the time to go through them again. Decide what can be thrown out, what can be taken out of the office completely, and what has to stay in the office, but somewhere other than the desk.

This step includes sorting through those files you may have removed from your desk’s filing drawer, if it has one.They need to be sorted through, too. At the very least, glance through them to make sure you recognize each file, and know what to take out of or what to put into each one at a moment’s notice.

This final sort is the most time consuming part of getting your desk organized, but the good news is, it doesn’t have to be done all at once. You can take your time with this one, as long as the stuff that came off your desk doesn’t end up back on it.

Finally, once you have your desk organized, it’s important to keep it that way. Take five minutes at the end of each day to tidy it up, sort through any papers that need filing and remove anything that doesn’t have to stay on the desk.

Taking the time to clean your desk every day keeps it from getting cluttered to the point that an all-out clean sweep is required, and it ensures that you have a tidy desk when you come in to work the next morning.

Try it, and see if you don’t get more work done, and faster, than ever before.


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