Most likely, if you have a job that requires a computer, which seems to be most jobs no matter what the field anymore, you also have a computer desk. And, if you are like many creative individuals, this desk is piled so high with papers and other office supplies that when you go to grab that memo for your afternoon meeting everything else flutters to the floor. This is no way to keep your office – or your life. It is time to get organized.
Take everything off the desk
It’s a lot easier to start with a clean slate than to try to work around the existing mess. So take everything off of the desk’s top and put it in a box or bin, being careful with any breakable items of course. Then take everything out of the drawers, if your desk has them, and put it in a separate box or bin. If you stuff your box or bin too full, it will just add to the chaos.
See what can stay off the desk
According to many experts, it can reduce tension and anxiety if you begin each day with a nice, clean workspace. This can more easily be achieved if you keep as much stuff off of the top of the desk as possible. Take a trip to the office supply store and see what organizers you can get that can help you keep things under, over or beside the desk instead of on top of it.
Organize your wires and cords
A good way keep your cords from being a tangled mess is to plug everything into one or two power strips (but be careful not to overload them and cause a fire hazard). Then take the power strips and place them on the floor against the wall, out of the way, or attach them to the bottom of the desk. No, you don’t want to drill a hole directly into your power strip in order to attach it. Instead attach a bracket that will hold it there. To further condense the cord clutter, get a device such as a cable snake.
Get small items in check
If you have a sea of paper clips and sticky notes in your box or bin of desk remnants, get them organized before you put them back on top of the desk. For the paperclips, buy a holder with a magnet attached to it. That way they won’t go flying everywhere if the container gets bumped. Put the sticky notes in a plastic box or dispenser. Put other small items in a catch-all container, such as a metal pencil box, so that they are there when you need them but put away at the same time. If you use business cards frequently, buy a business card holder and place it near the front of the desk where clients can see it and will know to ask for one.
Put the books in order
If you have a pile of books that belong on your desk, you have two choices. Either buy a bookshelf and relegate the books to an area nearby or buy two bookends and place them on the back of the desk. Then stand the books between them. It’s much easier to find the book you’re looking for when you can just look at the spines instead of digging through a stack.
Stop unnecessary tree killing
The majority of your desk litter is probably paper: both printed documents and mail. The solution to this problem is a phrase you already know: reduce, reuse, recycle. Stop printing out electronic files that don’t need to be hard copies. If you need to print out a short list of items consider writing it on a dry erase board hung on the wall, or – and here’s where the reuse comes in – on a piece of scrap paper, such as one that is already printed on one side. Got any papers that you don’t need anymore? Don’t just leave them on the desk. Drop them in the recycling bin.
For those papers that are crucial, use a filing system that you can hang on the wall or the side of the desk. Label the folders inbox, outbox and urgent, or something similar, and then slip the papers into their appropriate category. That way they can be off your desk but still at the top of your mental checklist.
Ditch the blotter calendar
Sure, it can make you look important to have your schedule laid out front and center, but these things take up a lot of valuable desk space. Better to keep your calendar on the computer or use a wall calendar instead.
Organize your drawers
Instead of just throwing everything into your drawers haphazardly, you should try to approach the task in an organized fashion. First, think of the items you use most often, such as your calculator, stapler, pens and pencils, correction tape, etc. Put all of these things in the drawer that is most convenient for you to access so that you won’t have to hunt for them later.
Use the other drawers for your hanging files. (If you don’t have drawers in your desk, consider getting a filing cabinet). As long as it is properly labeled, pretty much anything can go in a folder. This includes extra office supplies and takeout menus. If you end up with a whole lot of folders, say more than a dozen, color code them by category when you apply the labels.
*If you have items that won’t fit in a file folder, such as phone directories, give them a drawer all their own and stack them inside neatly.
Put your items back
As you begin taking the supplies out of the box or bin, be sure to get rid of anything that you don’t need. This includes supplies that you don’t use, such as printer cartridges that are the wrong size; and things that are out of date, like last year’s annual meeting agenda. Also get rid of any old papers you’ve been hanging on to of which you still have an electronic copy of. If you find out that you do need the paper – which in all likelihood won’t happen – you can always print it out again.
Keeping your desk clean
Luckily this task is pretty simple. Before you leave work – or the room, if you work at home – go through the papers on the desk and recycle the ones you no longer need. Put the ones that you do need in your inbox or your outbox, leaving the item you need to work on first thing in the center of the desk or in the chair, whichever is a better way for it to get noticed. Also, put your office supplies back in their designated box or drawer.