“If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?”
– Albert Einstein
Ok I admit it, my desk strays towards the, well, messy side. Is that all bad? I can find what I need! Ok, sometimes I have to spend way too much time looking. Every couple days I get mad at myself for letting it get out of control then I pile the papers (file some of them) and get on with my work. I really could use a better system of keeping on top of it!
How to keep on top of it? Hey, that’s a great idea; spend a couple hours researching how to keep my desk tidy rather than taking the 30 minutes to actually do it. Well hopefully my pain is your gain. Here’s a few tips I found along the way:
De-clutter your desk (I know Einstein – that’s not rocket science!)
Do you really need all that stuff on your desk? One penholder will probably do the trick. As for your collection of Swingline Staplers that take up at least a third of the desk, perhaps you can find a shelf to display them or maybe they can make their way to a new home. I’m not saying make it a barren landscape with no personality, just keep it down to a manageable number of items.
Don’t Print so much stuff in the first place.
We are all guilty of “I might need that someday” but most items that make their way to our filing system, never, ever, see the light of day again. Think before you print. The key is to deal with the printed piece of paper right away, don’t put it in a pile “to file”. The “filing” pile becomes a second filing cabinet, only its ontop of the filing cabinet. My daughter’s 6th grade teacher had a fantastic saying,
“A loose paper, is a lost paper”
Remove the piles
Not sure if you’ve ever checked out her website, but the FlyLady has all kinds of excellent household organizing ideas (really, check her out she’s amazing). One of them is to do a little at a time, and that task you thought was huge will just miraculously disappear. Schedule 10 minutes each day, and work on that pile of paper.
“do it, delegate it, defer it, drop it”
Veteran coach and Management consultant David Allen shares his method for stress free productivity in Getting Things Done. He suggests applying this rule to keep your Inbox empty. Living in a stressful environment, he believes, hampers your productivity and having piles of unresolved issues (paper) hanging around your desk is definitely stressful.
One thing at a Time
OK, here’s a real challenge; only keep on your desk the file that you are working on. I know, easier said than done. But, this will allow you to focus on the task at hand, and you will be more efficient.
5 in the morning and 5 at night
Take 5 minutes at the end of the day to set up for tomorrow. Don’t spend more than 5 minutes, otherwise you’re starting to work again and heck, you want to get home!
- Deal those loose papers from the day.
- Review your schedule
- Start your “To Do” list for tomorrow
- Clean off your desk, and put away what you’re working on
Spend the first 5 minutes of your day “warming up”.
- Do not check email first! You’ll be there for longer than 5 minutes
- If you’re desk isn’t tidy, deal with the few loose papers that are there
- Find the files you are working on, and have them in priority order in your “on-deck” area.
Well there we are. Now we have a nice tidy and organized workspace. I’m not sure if that’s going to make us less like Einstein, but I think it surely will make it easier to sleep at night and get more done during the day.
How do you keep your office organized?