Nine tips for organizing your desk

We all strive to be more effective at work and one surefire way to boost your productivity is to simply keep your desk tidy.

Whether you work from home, in a small studio or a large office, the place where you sit or stand every day is very important. If your desk is too cluttered or disorganized, it’s easy to get distracted or frustrated. Nine simple steps will help you organize your workspace and stay distraction free.

1. Understand why you’re doing this

In a recent Washington Post article, Andrea Hancock, owner of professional productivity firm Dexterous Organizing, recommends being clear about why you want a more organized desk. Whether clutter makes you anxious or you struggle to find things, write down the reason so you have a reminder that keeping your workspace in order is worthwhile.

2. Start with a clear-out

Give yourself a clean slate by getting everything off your desk and onto the floor. You can leave large permanent items like a computer monitor or printer. Now go through everything on the floor and throw out anything that you don’t need. Get a wastebasket and keep it around — trash should never sit on your desk.

3. Prioritize what stays

Productivity consultant Matt Perman believes a desk is like a cockpit: the things you need most should be accessible instantly and easily. So look at that pile on the floor and really think about the items you use every day. How often do you actually need a stapler? If it’s daily, return it to the desk. Otherwise put it in a nearby drawer or shelf.

4. Make a scribbling space

Though most of us work using computers, it’s still important to have a physical scribbling space. This is especially true if you’re a designer or illustrator and like to sketch your ideas. But whatever your job, making a permanent place for a pad and pen on your desk will save you a scramble when you next need to take a quick note.

5. Get a tray for your paperwork

Even digital diehards can still end up with a pile of paper messing up an analogue space. A simple two-tier paper tray with one layer for active documents and another for completed work will help. Always add an action for each active document to a separate to-do list. This will save you shuffling through the pile when deciding which task to deal with next.

6. File early and often

Nobody enjoys filing but the documents in the completed work tier of your paper tray must be archived. Set aside a regular time on your calendar and treat it as a mindless break from your regular duties. Do it often — motivation comes much easier when it’s 15 minutes tackling a small pile and not an hour climbing Mount Archive.

7. Forget paper, start scanning

Why bother with hole punchers, binders and filing cabinets? With a scanner, you can turn your physical documents into 1s and 0s and throw away the paper. Store all your scans on Hightail and you can even access the files from anywhere on your mobile. Oh, and if you’re buying a new machine, a wireless printer/scanner combo can free up more desk space.

8. Don’t stack business cards

Unless you’re still rocking a Rolodex, it’s time to throw away all those business cards stacked on your desk. There are lots of smart mobile apps that will use photos of cards to add the details to your phone’s contacts book. Or better yet, send the person a quick email saying “nice to have met you”. If they reply, they’ll always be a simple mailbox search away.

9. Update your decorations

A completely minimal space only works for some people. Most of us like to have photos of loved ones or fun toys adorning our desks. But instead of returning the same objects after your clear-out, refresh your workspace by changing the photo of your kids for a more recent one or give a different toy a chance to stare at you every day for eight hours.

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These tips will help you transform your desk into an ordered space so you can get things done more efficiently. If you’re interested in more ways to boost productivity, a good collaboration solution can help enhance teamwork at your business.

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