If you spend most of your working time in front of a desk, you should take care of its proper organization. It will not only make you feel better, but also your work will become more productive. Why is desk organization so important? The ergonomics of the workplace makes you lose less energy while working, and causes less problems connected with focusing, as nothing distracts you from what you need to do on an organized desk. (In the same way, you can complete more tasks.) It is not about having a spotlessly clean desk without any signs of usage, but about the space organization which can save you time and energy that might otherwise be spent on finding all of the things you need and going through hundreds of papers. A messy workspace not only takes your precious minutes away, which could be used more usefully, but also spoils your mood. If you have to look long for a necessary tool, you can became nervous and lose your focus. Therefore, the mounting pile of documents overwhelms you and makes you reluctant to do any further work. That is why you should try to control the space around you before reigns over you. Workplace organization can and needs to be learned, but in fact it is not that difficult. Here are some simple principles of desk organization, which you should definitely try:
1. Your desk should be in the right place
Sometimes you do not have control over the setting of your desk, and most often you just accept what its previous owner left you. This is a big mistake. Sometimes just a simple rearrangement of furniture can improve the quality of your work. The optimal setting of a desk is sideways to so called “traffic routes”. On the one hand, there is no need to change your position when you want to see what is happening in the room, but on the other hand, your smoking colleagues do not pass directly in front of your face when going out for a cigarette, and thus do not catch your eyes. Your desk setting should reflect the nature and specifics of your work. If you work primarily with clients, set the desk so you can immediately notice anyone entering the room and, if necessary, quickly stand up to say hello and take your visitor’s coat. If your job requires more creative focus – you should think about the symbolic separation from co-workers. This border is quite often the computer, and if there is a possibility you can think about a wall raiser for a desk, or potted plant, these items may give you some comfort and help you to forget about the presence of other people in the room. Sometimes it is enough to set a desk in the back of a room or sideways to colleagues. Do not place your back towards them as it may be poorly received by them. We are also constructed in such way that every rustle behind you would cause involuntary turning of the head.
If you are working from home remember that your desk should be far away from the TV and other things which could distract you.
A suitable angle of light is also a very important factor influencing the quality of work. Do not sit with your back towards the window, because then you will simply cover any daylight. If you are working on a computer – daylight will reflect off of the monitor. The best setting for the desk is so that the light comes from the left side of the right handed person or from the right side of the left handed a person. If you sit facing the window, make sure that you are not dazzled by sun- you should ask about installing blinds or curtains, and if this is not possible, simply move the desk, or slightly change the angle of its position.
2. Incoming and finished cases; archives
To control the flood of papers, organize a place on the desk (next to the desk or inside it) to place the three categories of documents, and in any case do not mix them.
For things that you still need to do, you can use a tray for documents or a box attached to the side of the desk. The second method is especially good because it does not take up valuable space on the desk, and what is more, you do not see the pile of papers, which reminds you how many things you need to do. You can put there all of the things you have yet to do or that you have not already finished. You can prioritize them by putting colorful post-it notes – red for the most urgent things, green for those that can wait a while, and yellow for things not requiring too much effort. It will help to organize the sequence of your tasks and efficiently plan your working time. Start every day with checking the box in order not to miss anything. If something is not current – discard it or put it into the archive.
There should be a separate place for documents which you have to pass on to someone, or that you need to take with you on a business meeting. If several papers concern one topic or project – bundle them with a paper clip, use a staple, or put them in one folder. As a result, you will always pass the whole set of documents, regardless of the situation (when you are in a hurry or talking on the phone).
For accomplished tasks, to which you will not need to come back in the near future, create a folder or binder, which can be hidden inside the desk or cabinet. A multi-colored cardboard box with dividers does the job.
“Archival” cases must be described in detail in such a way that you could find the right papers without reading through their content. Some people simply sign the briefcases, while others use sticky notes or prepare labels in advance – there are many possibilities.
3. Keep all of the necessary things close to you
Pens, stapler, clips for paper – if you use them several times a day, you should not hide them inside the drawers. Do not leave it on the desk because the mess will overrule you. Get a small organizer for the desk on which all aids will be waiting in a perfect order. It should be stable, so it would not fall, and small enough not to occupy one third of the desk surface. The popular cups are not the best idea, as you probably have already noticed when trying to find a paper clip between pens. A good organizer should have divisions of different depths which are meant for storing various things. Place it in such a way that it will be easy for you to grab them during a phone call. Do not place any additional things on your way which you might knock over. Do not use too many accessories – leave only things you really need. Nobody uses dozens of pens and highlighters at once. Choose only a couple of them and put the rest inside the chosen drawer. Do not collect pens which are not working – in an urgent situation you will reach for it and become irritated. If something is not working – throw it away. Get used to controlling the state of things around you. Change out old pens for those which still can write, get new paper clips, re-load the ink in stamps. You can do it every Monday before your brain has switched to work mode after weekend.
It is always good to have something near you to write your thoughts on or to take notes on while talking on the phone with clients or colleagues. It can be a notebook, yellow post-it notes, or just a few sheets of paper (with printed text on the other side). Be moderate about it – a notebook should be small or there should be only a few sheets of paper. Do not let the papers build on a lovely pile.
If you are right-handed – keep things you need on the right sight of the desk. As your right hand is better coordinated you will be able to reach the organizer without taking your eyes of the document or the screen. If you are left-handed – put the organizer and other important accessories on the left side.
Think also about the number of decorations on your desk. There may put you in a nice mood, but they are also distracting you and taking up space. Mascots, frames with photographs, lucky figures – limit them as much as possible, or do not place them on the desk at all. A good idea of many workplaces is keeping personal things only in a social room where you can have a gallery of children’s drawings or pictures of them. This can make a good reason to take a break from work, during lunch break as well, as they can integrate work-colleagues.
4. Have all the important information always in your sight
“Emergency” numbers, clients, or your company’s data – if you use them often, make them visible. The popular pin or magnet boards are a good solution, but you can also use picture frames (instead of a photograph, you can put papers with notes inside), or just stick papers to the wall. It is also a good spot for the calendar (without pictures but with a month or three months on it), where you can note all of the important deadlines. By using it, you will always be prepared for giving a quick answer for numerous questions. People who are giving information about sold products by phone calls quite often put notes just in front of their eyes with the most important parameters and products’ prices. It usually works. To make this method efficient – information should be written clearly and not too many in one place. If they are on different subjects you need to group them – for example, put the company’s data in the upper part, service workers numbers on the right, and phone numbers of companies you are currently working with on the left. Get rid of any information that is not current or that you no longer need. Do not use the board as a social place. If you use 80% of space on children’s pictures or Christmas cards, it will be hard for you to find important information quickly. You can also seem like a person who treats work like a necessary evil, and therefore you are not engaging in your tasks. Of course, you can place your personal things on your board as these can make you feel better – just be careful so that they do not dominate it.
You can put information you are afraid you might forget about on the board – for example, a phone call to make in two hours. Discard these reminders just after finishing the task they were meant to remind you about.
5. Organize your things by the frequency of their usage
The more often you use something, the closer you should put it. In the nearer drawer, you should put all the things you use the most – pens, stamps or business leaflets. Use the rest of your drawers as if they were attached to certain categories. In the less available places put things almost never needed. Get rid of things you no longer use. Remember that your desk is not a storage museum or the storeroom for found things. Take home the birthday card given to you by your colleagues and put it on the fireplace, and just throw away the glove you found two years ago in the corridor.
You should treat similarly the inside of your drawers. The most needed things should be near the outer part and the less needed ones – further in the back. Of course you need to keep things organized in order to easily find things. Any open segregation containers can be helpful. You can also consider a drawer mat (available in stores with kitchen accessories) which would stop things from moving.
6. Keep supplies inside the desk.
In order not to run around looking for paper clips or a working pen, it is advisable to store some spare materials in your desk. It is not about keeping things for the upcoming year, but about having the smallest amount of things which will help you to work without break. Two or three pens or pencils, a pack of paper clips, a pack of staples, and one or two spare notebooks – that is the set that would be enough. If you have a printer near your desk, you can use additional sheets of paper and a toner (which quite often finishes when we really need to print something fast). Store them in the least used drawer, as you will not need these every day. Remember about reloading your supplies after using something.
7. Clean your desk every day after finishing your work
Place all the things on your desk in their places before going home. Do not collect dirty coffee mugs or any other used dishes. It does not only look disgusting, but also it can destroy some important documents or wet the keyboard, adding to yourself some additional work and troubles. Do not believe in the existence of the so called “creative mess” – any mess is always distracting and taking up time. Even the most unrealistic artists keep their workplaces clean before starting to work. By cleaning your desk just after finishing your work, you will be able to start the next day without searching for things in the pile of papers which usually is demotivating. You can easily learn cleaning and keeping things in certain places. It is as equally important of a habit as washing your hands before eating. If you will learn to control these actions, it will become your habit, and you will do it without thinking. Observe your well-organized colleagues and do not be afraid to ask about their methods of keeping their desks clean. You will be able to learn some new solutions which you might not think about otherwise.