We all know the headaches caused by a messy desk. Your desk becomes a storage facility, not a workspace. You lose productivity because you waste time looking for things. You leave a negative impression with clients, co-workers and your boss. Your mind becomes as unfocused as the mess on your desk. Most of all, a messy desk creates stress on a daily basis because you have to sift through the mess before you can begin your work.
If you’re notorious for the piles of paper, ancient files and dozens of sticky notes that call your desk home, fear not. There is a simple cure for the messy desk. It will take some effort and maintenance on your part, but the daily rewards of a clean desk will far outweigh that exertion.
Commit to cleaning your desk – but not now. Cleaning it right this minute would mean something else gets pushed back or avoided, and that would be poor time management. Schedule it on a day when you know you’ll have the time and supplies (garbage bags, cleaning supplies, shredder, boxes, etc.) to clean your desk properly.
Remove everything but the essentials. Other than things like your phone, computer, desk calendar and stapler, clear everything from your desktop. This will allow you to see how much space you’ve been wasting, and it will make it easier to cut the cord with things you don’t really need. Once you’ve done this with your desktop, move to the drawers and shelves.
Clean. Just like you’d much rather walk into the serenity and aromas of a clean house, you’re sure to find a desk free of dust, coffee stains, crumbs and stray paper clips to be very welcoming. You may even find it therapeutic.
Purge, and purge again. This is kind of like “rinse and repeat.” Toss everything that you obviously don’t need. Then go through everything that’s left and toss more stuff. Get rid of any duplicates or dated materials to really put a dent in those piles of paper and other clutter. This is a time to be cold and ruthless.
Organize. Your sales proposals shouldn’t be in a file with your health benefits paperwork. Before you put a single sheet of paper back on or in your desk, make sure it’s organized by category and time sensitivity.
Prioritize and give everything a home. Your health benefits paperwork can go in the back of your bottom drawer. The sales proposal that you’re presenting on Monday should be easily accessible. Keep what you use most and what’s most urgent within easy reach. This is the time to determine your storage needs – tray towers, hanging file folders, file boxes and more. And don’t forget to take advantage of wall space, even if you have a cubicle!
Maintain on a regular but reasonable basis. Expecting to spend time organizing your desk everyday would be like expecting the kids to clean their rooms every day. It’s not going to happen and you just set yourself up for failure. Try to put things in a proper home when you’re done using them. Spend 10-15 minutes per week throwing out trash. Clean your desk a few times per year. You’ll be amazed at how easy it is to maintain a productive, clutter-free, stress-free desk.