Experts tell Moneyish how to banish the clutter and get your workspace in order once and for all
Less mess means more productivity.
Desktop chaos can take a toll on our productivity — and even lead to our making unhealthy choices. More than four in 10 workers say that having a tidy and organized space helps them behave more productively, and about one in three say it’s helped them advance their careers, according to a survey of employees by workplace tech firm Brother.
And another study published in the journal Psychological Science found that those who spent their time in an orderly office made healthier eating choices. (Though, to be fair, their are advantages of a messy desk, like enhanced creativity, according to a 2017 study from the University of Minnesota).
Still, many of us dream of cleaning up once and for all, though seeing those piles of paper, knickknacks and laptop screens littered with icons is daunting. So Moneyish asked organization experts for tips to get our desks in order and maximize at productivity at work; here’s what they suggested.
1. Empty your desk: “Completely empty the space as it currently is, [so you have a] clear palate to work with” says organization specialist Jacquie Denny, co-founder of Everything But The House, a site designed to help people declutter their homes. Then, place the crucial items back on the desk in a way that emulates an effective workflow. Start by placing your computer, followed by file cabinets and any other crucial materials which should move from left to right, like we read. On the left, you’ll form collections of work you have to do, you’ll deal with them in the middle, and you’ll move them to the right when they’re complete, Denny suggests.
2. Throw out junk: Next, “[grab] the garbage can,” says professional organizer Felice Cohen, famed for living in a spotless 90-square-foot apartment in New York City. Cohen says it’s difficult to quantify how long workers should keep documents — “everyone’s job is different, so obviously it makes a difference what you do” — but tchotchkes, old photos, piles of post-it notes, or documents that you have backed up on a computer should be the first to go.
3. Know what you really need: Cohen is a big believer that you only need a computer, phone, an “inbox” which can gather the work you have to do in one organized pile, and a to-do list to help you navigate through the day. Everything else is excess, but if you choose to display pictures or other personal affects, keep them limited to a simple bulletin board where they can all be contained.
4. Organize your digital files: Digitizing old papers should be your friend — that means scanning and saving pictures and papers whose physical counterparts you can discard. Next up is clearing off your desktop, culling collections of computer files. “I think of it as, ‘What are my areas of responsibility at the 30,000 foot level?'” asks professional organizer Casey Hazlett, founder of Sustainably Organized in Portland, Ore. Hazlett suggests collecting files by the type of project they concern — for instance, you could have a file for paying bills, a file for drafts of next quarter’s budget, a file for marketing materials, and the like — and then segmenting them into more particular files from there.
5. Keep items contained: Get rid of all those random scraps of paper and post-it notes and replace them with a clean, stylish desk blotter where you can scribble notes and appointment details, Denny says. And Cohen recommends having a few drawers where you can house your go-to items, like a personal drawer for everything you need on hand — a snack, your stapler, pens — without keeping them piled on the desk itself.
6. Do maintenance: Now that your desk is organized, the trick is not to slip back to old ways. So build in a few minutes, these organizers say, to keep your desk tidy on a daily basis. “The last 10 or 15 minutes of the day is critical,” Cohen concludes. “That’s your preparation for the next day, so spend 10 minutes filing [and doing things like] rewriting your to-do list… If you start with a mess [the next day], you’re not going to get very far.”
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