Reading this at work? STOP and take a minute to assess your surroundings.
Is your area littered with stray post-its displaying cryptic messages? Random paper scribbled with old to-do lists, blemished with questionable food crumbs and coffee stains? Or binders, calendars and note pads stacked on top of each other smack in the center of your desk?
You need help. It’s time to get your space and your thoughts organized.
Simply having a visually kempt space for things can increase your productivity and reduce stress. According to the National Association of Professional Organizers, we spend one year of our lives looking for lost items. ONE YEAR. Take your first step toward organization by starting with the basics.
The physical: your desk:
Designate a space for every item.
This may sound easy, and it can be at the beginning. Where it gets difficult, is remembering to put things back in their place. Start with managing miscellaneous clutter invading your desk. For example: writing utensils belong in a cup/holder of some sort. I recommend a cup and not a drawer, as it provides easy access to the writing implements, otherwise they may roll around in a drawer and accumulate in the back.
Now that your pens have a place, keep them by a pad of post-its, close to the phone on your desk. This way, if you’re surprised with an important call, you have somewhere to write notes – or if you happen to take a message for someone who is unavailable a post-it fits the bill.
Determine a space for your post-its too.
This can be a binder, a note pad or even a small bulletin board. Somewhere your post-its can live and you can find them easily.
Use them as a quick to do lists, to mark pages in a book, or as a reminder. You should be able to toss them by the end of the day. If you write important information on a post-it, make sure to transfer it to somewhere else at the end of the day otherwise, it gets lost, you’re out of luck.
Tackle those binders and calendars in the way – move them to a shelf (parched for shelf ideas? Check these out. Get a calendar to pin on the wall in front of you, or a desktop version you can use to jot notes down on.
Keep an inbox and an out box.
If you work with a lot of paper, keeping and inbox and out box is essential to reducing clutter. The inbox will keep all the items you still need to assess and work on. The out box will have items you either need to file, or pass along.
Keep only a few items that make you happy.
Like a photo of your really cute puppy and a plant, on your desk. Too much decoration can cause distraction too – keep it simple.
Finally, take care of the other miscellaneous clutter encroaching on your desk space that may include: lotion, snacks, mail, rubber bands and paper clips, etc.…
If you have a drawer available, I recommend organizing your items into the drawer*. If you are like me and have no drawers, try using a nice** box as a catchall. I have way too many different types of lotion, gum, and notebooks I place in the box to keep the top of my desk clear.
The mental: Keep a notebook:
It’s important to have a method to managing your thoughts, and this tip can be a huge headache relief if used correctly.
Every morning start a new page in your notebook.
Add the date to the top of the page and write your to-do list. You may already have a to-do list in the works, but I highly suggest re-writing the list every day. Your priorities may change or the due date for an item may change. If you stay consistent with dating the top of every page, you can go back in your notebook and find notes down to the exact day. Here’s a tip: if you are taking notes about a client or a job task, next to the date, write what the notes are about on the top of the page too.
Leave room for your tasks and thoughts.
Draw a line under your to-do list and use this as the secondary to-do list; think of it as a waiting room for your tasks and thoughts. You accomplish more when you stop multi-tasking and focus on the task in front of you. If you get interrupted or you have a random thought about another project, pause to write it down in the waiting room and get back to it later.
Check your to-do list.
Finally, and importantly, check your to-do list all the way through about an hour before work is over. That way, if you missed something, or spaced on a waiting room task, you have time to work on it or even complete it before the day is over.
It’s time to ditch the clutter and embrace a new, cleaner, more organized environment.
Caution: you have to want to make a change and commit to keeping a tidy space. You can take a day to make your workspace nice, but if you don’t maintain the organized system, your efforts will be pointless and your desk will revert back to a messy state. Taking a minute to tidy things up before leaving for the day is a great way keep things neat and will help you start off the next day on a high note.
Do you have any organizational tips that work well for you in an office space? Share them in the comments!
*This doesn’t mean tossing these items all willy-nilly into a drawer. Invest in a space saver, with small sectioned off spaces so your items stay in place, and in sight, so you don’t have to reach in the very back of the drawer and feel around for a highlighter or unbroken rubber band.
**If you are taking the time to organize your desk, I think you should at least have an aesthetically appealing box to hold your items, rather than a plain cardboard box – but maybe that is just me. (Need some box ideas? Check these out.