Brrrring!! Where is my Phone?!?
Is your office desk buried under mounds of clutter? Do you have trouble finding your phone when it rings?? Are you STILL looking for that half slice of pizza you were eating for lunch 3 days ago?? OK, that’s just nasty! Reorganizing your desk can give you peace of mind, allow you to find things you’re looking for more quickly, and make a good impression on the people who see your work area, such as your boss, customers, and other employees. You will be more productive and will benefit from having a tidy and attractive workspace, as you can better focus on your work without so many visual distractions. Even if your desk looks like the above, all hope isn’t lost! Here are a few tips:
Step 1: Clear it Out! Pull everything (except perhaps very large items, such as computers or printers) off and out of your desk.
Step 2. Scrub It! Now you can clean your desk! Get out the Pledge and glass cleaner and wipe down your desk and drawers, including all the nooks and crannies (what WAS that gunk in the back of the drawer?). Amazing the things you find back there, isn’t it!
Step 3. Sort It! Sort through your things and group similar items together, i.e. office equipment (pencils/pens, paper clips, rubber bands, post-it notes, white out, staplers) accessories, filing materials, paperwork, knick knacks (framed pictures, work awards, etc.)
Step 4. Keep or Toss? Keep a recycle bin and garbage can nearby to get rid of things – especially paperwork – you don’t need. Here are some questions you can ask yourself to help determine what to keep and what to TOSS. Is the item an unnecessary duplicate? If the answer is “Yes,” toss it! Is the item current and relevant to my work? If the answer is “No,” toss it! How often will I need to use or refer to this item? If “Never,” toss it! Does this item add anything to other information on hand? If “No,” toss it! Don’t forget to recycle!
Step 5. Strategize! Now it is time to define a place for everything. In doing this, follow two principles: the Frequency-of-Use Rule and the Grouping/Separating Rule.
Frequency-of-Use Rule: Items should be placed according to how frequently you need to access them. Items that are accessed quite frequently (i.e., on a daily basis) should be placed within immediate reach/view, while things that are used less often (i.e., weekly, monthly, or yearly) should be placed further away so that they do not interfere with your daily work. So first, think about what items you need most at your fingertips – i.e. telephone, rolodex, calendars and planners, frequently-accessed reference materials, staplers, pens, etc. – and place these items in easy-to-access places in, on, or above your desk. Items that you use fairly frequently, but not every day should be placed either in desk drawers, filing cabinets near your desk, or shelving above or near your desk.
Grouping/Separating Rule: Similar items should be placed together, while dissimilar items should be separated from each other. For example, put similar items together, such as paper clips, and separate them from dissimilar items, such as pencils.
Step 6. Organize! Store items in storage areas and containers designed to accommodate them. Action items can be stored on your desktop in single or multiple stacking paper trays. Store supplies like paper clips, rubber bands, pencils/pens, scratch paper, Post it, and white-out in desktop supply caddies or drawer divider trays designed to organize such items. Arrange the items you need for clear viewing under a clear desk pad or in an orderly fashion on a tackable board over your desk.
Step 7. Nix the Knickknacks! If you can bear it, try and keep the number of knickknacks to a minimum (you don’t need five pictures of your kids), and place them in areas on or above your desk that will not interfere with your work.
Step 8. Make Your Work Area More Functional! Obviously you need to leave some clear space on your desktop for writing purposes and to give your desk a tidy appearance. Make use of the numerous office organizing products on the market – e.g., paper trays, drawer divider trays, computer disk holders, desktop supply caddies, shelf dividers, etc. Don’t be afraid to purchase something or ask your boss to purchase something for you if it will help you get more organized.
Once you’ve organized your desk, keep it that way! To maintain your new found tidiness, make an immediate decision about what to do with each item that comes across your desk. Resist the temptation of saying to yourself, “I’ll just put it here for now.” If you keep files in your desk, make appointments with yourself to go through them several times per year to discard outdated material (again, don’t forget to recycle!) Try to put things back in their proper places as soon as you are done using them. Straighten up your desk at the end of each workday. It only takes about five or ten minutes and it is much easier to clean up a day’s worth of mess than a week, month, or year’s worth.
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