Few things slow you down at work faster than a desk cluttered up with so much stuff that you can’t really find anything. Sure, you want the things you use most and are working on right now at your fingertips. But, it’s important that only the most vital things have valuable real estate on your desk. Think of your desk items as a set of your most well chosen words. You want them to be right on your lips just when you need them. Likewise, when your desk is clear and organized, you can get straight to what you need quickly, maximizing your workflow and keeping your office life low stress. Here are seven quick and easy steps to organize your desk now:
1. Prioritize files. Create a a set of Incoming and Outgoing hanging files and put three folders in each labeled “Critical”, “Medium”, and “Low”.
Keep these in a small standing hanging file holder on your desk and only keep files in them that need attention for the week. Everything else goes in a folder off your desk. Keep items that you no longer need hard copies of in the “low” folder and designate a day of the week to scan these and recycle the originals.
2. Prioritize office supplies. Designate a desk drawer for your most used office supplies: a couple of pens, staple machine, staple puller, letter opener, and a headset for your cell phone.
If you don’t have a free drawer or drawers at all, get a decorative box and put it beside your printer or on another surface near your desk.
3. Organize and keep project files handy. Bundle all the paperwork for each project or file you are working on and clip it together with a clip binder. Place them in a stack, turning every other clipped set to the side so that you can easily see each alternating set.
4. Increase your short-term, nearby storage. Invest in a rolling hanging file cart and keep these project file sets in them in hanging file folders.
5. Streamline writing essentials. Keep a notepad and pen that you jot down everything with until you can enter it into your calendar, document, email or whatever you need it for. Once you have made use of the information, throw that sheet away.
Having just one place you keep these kind of notes will keep post-it and paper clutter down.
6. Keep decorations to a minimum. Can it go on the wall? Hang it up. Does it have sentimental value? Put in a shadow box, on a wall shelf, or pin it on a framed cork board.
7. Digitize as much as possible. Download a desktop widget as your desk clock. Create a computer desktop shortcut to notepad or another quick note taking application to take brief notes as needed.
Make it as easy as possible to put things on your computer and retrieve them with shortcuts, rather than writing or printing them.
Once you have made some headway, reassess your desk-clearing system and tweek it as needed. Your goal should be to make keeping your desk clear one of the easiest things you do each day. Check out your local thrift store to see if you can scoop up some of the organization aides mentioned. Otherwise, Wal-Mart, Target, Ikea, and Container Store all have a tons of low-cost options for all the items suggested in this post. If you like online shopping, here are some links to get you started: