3 Strategic Things You Must Do to Effectively Organize Your Desk

Jan 10, 2022 | Organization, Productivity

Take a look around your workspace. Is it organized or a disaster area? Can you quickly and easily find things? Are there any items that are just taking up space?

Today is National Clean Off Your Desk Day, so it’s a great time to take a critical look at your workspace, and follow these three steps to make it a more productive area!

1. Create workspace zones. There are three zones you need to think about as you clear the clutter and put systems in place for staying organized. The three zones are:

  • Zone 1: Prime Workspace. Zone 1 is the main workspace at your desk – the center of activity that is within arm’s reach of your computer and phone.
  • Zone 2: Work Staging. Zone 2 is the area immediately next to zone one that includes your active project folders, incoming-mail tray, and the things you need easy access to as you work on your active projects. You may need to rearrange a few things on your desk so you can establish a specific direction for work to flow across your desk.
  • Zone 3: Storage, Archives, and Supplies. These are the things you rarely touch during the day, but need to access when needed.

2. Think about which direction work flows best across your desk – from left to right or right to left. Setup your file sorters or trays for staging daily work/projects on one side of your desk and move them to pending or completed containers on the other side as you work on them.

3. Clear the clutter. Here are the steps to help you achieve this.

  • Take “before” pictures of your workspace so you can visually track your progress.
  • Clear the clutter! Start with zone one – everything within arm’s reach of where you sit at your computer/phone throughout the day.
    • Take absolutely everything off your desk. Throw out trash and put everything else in a box.
    • Determine which items are essential to your daily work, and put them back on your desk. Or find a desk drawer or shelf where they can live. Be tough on yourself here. Ask yourself, “Is this really essential to doing my daily work?”
    • Leave the other items in the box and place it under or near your desk. Keep it there for at least a month. If you don’t need those items in that time, you can probably store or get rid of them. If you have personal items you want to keep, such as family photos, consider reducing the quantity or placing them outside of your primary work zone, in zones 2 or 3, to reduce the visual clutter.
  • Take “after” pictures of your workspace, desk drawers, file drawers, and storage cabinets in your immediate work area. Compare them to the before pictures. Pay attention to how they make you feel as you analyze them side by side. Then congratulate yourself on your progress!

Bonus Tip!

Setup your own file-on-the-go station for quick and easy organizing. When key organizing tools are at your fingertips, you can instantly gather, contain, label, and create a home for the items on the spot. Some items to start with:

  • 1 box of hanging file folders – letter size
  • 1 box of manila file folders – 1/3 cut, letter size
  • 1 box of colored file folders – 1/3 cut, letter size
  • 3-4 pads of assorted color sticky notes – 3” square size
  • 2 pencils
  • 2 pens (blue or black)
  • 2 black permanent markers (fine or bullet tip)
  • 1 file folder box or plastic tub designed for hanging files
  • 1 box of clear, quart-size storage bags that zip close
  • 1 box of clear, gallon-size storage bags that zip close
  • 1 package of mailing address labels (optional)

Here is a picture of my file-on-the-go station that sits on my desk:

When you clear the clutter you help your brain better focus and relieve stress. I challenge you to apply these steps and experience not only for the productivity improvements but the ultimate relief of getting organized!

© 2021 Julie Perrine International, LLC

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Julie Perrine, CAP-OM, is the founder and CEO of All Things Admin, providing training, mentoring and resources for administrative professionals worldwide. Julie applies her administrative expertise and passion for lifelong learning to serving as an enthusiastic mentor, speaker and author who educates admins around the world on how to be more effective every day. Learn more about Julie’s books — The Innovative Admin: Unleash the Power of Innovation in Your Administrative Career and The Organized Admin: Leverage Your Unique Organizing Style to Create Systems, Reduce Overwhelm, and Increase Productivity, and Become a Procedures Pro: The Admin’s Guide to Developing Effective Office Systems and Procedures. 

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