How to Organize Your Desk

Want to know how to organize your desk and demolish the mountain of papers? Are you tired of a messy desk and looking for some desk organizing tips. Organizing your desk can make you more productive.

Do you get stressed because you can't find the hastily written post-it notes bearing that important number?

Do you think that shifting your attention from one task to another keeps you alert and productive?

Surveys of office workers have found that people spend between 15-45 minutes a day looking for documents.

how to organize your desk

This translates to 2-6 weeks of lost productivity each year!

If your desk resembles a disaster area or it has been months since you have seen the surface of your desk, then these tips on how to organize your desk can boost productivity and reduce stress.

Consequences of a messy desk

Do you have reports to write, books to read, new mail and proposals look at?

Everyday, information from a number of sources bombards your desk - and if you are too busy to deal with it this information piles up.

Tackling paper piles

It is a daunting prospect to tackle piles of paper and reports.

These reports, periodicals, and bits of paper have probably been kept for future reading, or because you weren't sure what to do with them.

Your goal here is simply to sort the paper clutter.

Aim to be disciplined and not get bogged down reading the material as you sort.

I like to use the Pomodoro technique to do this, which I write about at time management techniques.

You desktop can start to look like a disaster area!

The problem here is not so much a messy desk but rather a disorganized desk.

New material gets put on top of old material and soon the memo with that important number gets lost amongst the paper.

We all know of people who work with piles of paper on their desk, chair, and/or floor, and, when asked for a specific piece of paper, go to the right pile and find the relevant information.

But did you know that a disorganized or messy desk is a distraction from your priorities - those that you have developed with the Pareto principle?

With a disorganized desk it is too easy to peck at jobs and jump from one task to the next - rather than focusing on your priorities.

Similarly, a disorganized desk leads to procrastination. When you are struggling with one task and see an easier task within arm's reach, it is easy to procrastinate.

Surveys suggest that people spend about 15-45 minutes a day searching for documents.

That equates to about 2-6 weeks a year of lost productivity.

A disorganized desk adds to this!

How to organize your desk in a few easy steps

How to organize your desk is a question that makes or breaks your productivity.

Here are some easy steps you can take to organize your desk.

  1. Schedule your time. In your time management planner schedule a time to clean your desk.

    If you have been procrastinating about this then schedule time and devote 30 minutes to the task - see overcoming procrastination.

  2. Clear your desk. Start by getting everything off your desk.

    Your goal is to clear your desk of everything and then put only what is necessary back on your desk.

    Typical things that come back onto my desk are my computer, phone, a clock, an intray, and a lamp. I try to treat my desktop and the drawers as valuable real estate.

    Only the things I am working on now (or likely to work on in the next week) are in my drawers or desktop.

  3. Organize your paper and files. Now that everything is off the desk, you are likely to have paperwork, reports, and projects sitting on the floor.

    These need to be organized in such a way that you have files that reflect the different responsibilities that you have.

    I talk more about an efficient filing system to organize files.

    Use your trash can liberally, throwing out old papers and reports that you may not need. You should now have number of different piles (typically between 5-10 piles that reflect your different responsibilities).

  4. Organizing Beyond Your Desk

    Organizing starts with small steps. These organizing tips extend to other areas of your life.

    Home office organization

    Organized home

    Organize garage space

  5. Daily/weekly files. Use a drawer in your desk (or a step file sorter on your desk) and in it place your files that you use on a daily or weekly basis.

    These files need to be within arms' reach.

    Confidential or personal files are also useful here - if your desk has a lock.

  6. Prioritize your items. Think about the office supplies that you use on a daily basis when deciding how to organize your desk. These may include pens, scissors, staplers, and so forth. Place these in a drawer within arms' reach.
  7. Develop an organizing system. On a daily basis we are bombarded by information, reports, paper and phone calls.

    Use a centralized organizing system, connected with your daily/weekly files and your time management planner that allows you to schedule your tasks and get things done.

    For example, a report is either put into a file on my desk (if relevant for the present), filed in archives or a library file system, thrown in the trash can, or scheduled into my time management planner for a future event, or outbounded (signed off or delegated).

    This way I manage the paper flow daily.

  8. Make filing a habit. Do you want to know how to organize your desk and maintain it?

    If so, then at the end of each day, make it a rule to re-file things.

    Whether it is a standing file on your desktop for current projects or a clearly marked file of 'things to do', or 'things to read.'

    Make sure that you purge your files regularly.

  9. Use your diary or planner. I think a planner that has two pages to a day is best.

    Rather than jotting down tasks, ideas and phone numbers on bits of paper, put them in your planner where you can find them. This keeps all your notes and ideas in the same place.

  10. Set aside a time each day to do your paperwork. I recommend a slow part of the day when your energy is low (high energy should be reserved for things that move you significantly towards your goals).

When deciding how to organize your desk, consider the things on your desk. These may include a phone, computer, and an in-tray of work that is required to be done that day.

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Consultant-Human Resources Not rated yet
I am new to my organization. I have never cluttered my desk. Every time I complete a project, I cull the file. I clear my e-mails (leaving my in-box …

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I cannot stand to have a messy desk either at work or at home. As a matter of fact, when someone moves something on my desk I always move it back to where …

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