When you look at your desk what do you see? Stacks of paper everywhere? Sticky notes reminding you of all the tasks you need to complete?
If your desk is a mess, chances are you are experiencing some level of mental chaos as well. Cleaning up and organizing your workspace will help you to concentrate more, stress less, and be more productive.
Here are a few strategies for creating an office space that works for you not against you:
1. Establish an administrative time. Choose a time, usually either at the beginning or end of the day to clear your desk and deal with the pieces of paper or files that have piled up. This purpose of this time is not to address major action items but to tie up loose ends and make sure little things don’t fall through the cracks. This is also a great time to review and reorder your “To Do” list and answer emails you haven’t yet been able to respond to. The more chaotic your work life, the more frequently you should schedule these times.
2. Resist putting things aside. Every time you have to pick up a document and reacquaint yourself with its contents you are expending valuable mental energy. Whenever possible take the necessary next steps with a document right then and there rather than putting it in the “I’ll deal with this later” pile.
3. File! File! File! The key to maintaining a clean workspace is having a really good filing system. It may take some adjusting and readjusting to develop a system that is just right for you. Ultimately, file categories should be specific enough that, when you open them, you can find papers easily.
4. Keep your computer organized. Your computer is a virtual extension of your desk. Make sure that you organize your digital files into folders (and subfolders if necessary) so that you can find documents easily. Avoid saving files to your desktop whenever possible (it creates unnecessary visual clutter) and clear your downloads regularly, saving the files you wish to keep.
5. Avoid paper & digitize. Scanning paper and using digital files wherever possible will not only reduce the amount of paper you have to manage, it will be easier to access files on-the-go.
6. Stack smart. Some people work best when their desk is completely empty, while others like to keep papers around them to remind them of what they need to do next. If you are the latter type of person, organize the paper on your desk in such a way that you only keep documents that you are working on at the moment directly in front of you. This will help you to minimize distractions and focus on the task at hand.
7. Nix the knick-knacks. A few meaningful items on or around your desk area can add a nice personal touch. However, too many objects can be distracting. Be selective.
8. Clean and disinfect weekly. Because we spend so much time in our offices, they are usually loaded with bacteria. Clean and disinfect surfaces such as keyboards, mice, armrests, telephones, and doorknobs at least once a week. We recommend using a wipe that can both clean and disinfect such as Cholorox Disinfecting Wipes. (Click here for tips on how to use them properly.) Never use these wipes directly on your computer screen. Instead, use a clean microfiber cloth.