Like your home, keeping your workspace organized is a constant challenge. Papers pile up, files get misplaced, business cards clutter your desk. They all conspire to limit your productivity and stress you out. And while it’s not always easy to avoid disarray, it can happen far less with a system in place.
Now, getting better organized should not be complicated since that would defeat the purpose of the whole idea. At very least, the decluttering tips that follow are simple building blocks of any well-organized workspace.
Try what works best for you. It may be a little tough to accomplish for some, but it’s a worthwhile goal in the long run.
Decluttering Tips that Work
Everything in your office sends a signal to clients, management, and others who work with you. What does your workspace say about you? If it’s not conveying the uncluttered image you’d like it to, start with these decluttering tips:
1. Take an inventory
If your desk looks like it was sucked up by the same vortex that hit Dorothy and Toto and you don’t know where to begin sorting things out, don’t despair. Take an inventory of what you have, then throw out (or recycle) anything that’s not essential. Above all, be ruthless.
Likewise for the rest of your workspace. Do you really need those dust-collecting fake plants or 3-generation-ago computers stacked in the corner? Okay, then.
2. Give stuff a home
Once you’ve weeded out the detritus – everything that’s worn out, never used, serves no real purpose – it’s time to get organized. Give everything a home, starting with your desk space.
Keep your desk top clear of all items except the ones you use every day i.e. computer, smartphone, desk light, pen, pad, etc. That will help keep you focused on each task at hand.
Try to designate individual desk drawers for single purpose or related use only and use desk organizers to keep drawers from becoming a jumble of stuff. That way you’ll know exactly where to go for the things that you want to quickly access.
Use shelf and cabinet space for other common items like photos, plants, books, documents, and supplies. But keep them to a minimum because the more places you have to put stuff, the more it’ll grow.
3. Organize your paper
A paperless office is a myth, as we all know too well. If you’re struggling with paper, another solution is to set up (or simplify) your filing system. Keep file categories broad enough to handle a variety of related documents and colour-code your folders to easily identify projects, for instance.
At minimum, use three filing trays including one for incoming paper, one for reading, one for filing. Ideally, handle all paper only once and don’t forget a waste basket, recycle bin, and shredder for other filing needs.
Decluttering your home office
4. Re-route your email
Digital clutter can be just as stressful and messy as the physical kind so meet the challenge head-on with an efficient way to deal with email. Consider your inbox as ground zero. As a rule of thumb, it should only be a temporary location for email that needs to be read and re-routed.
Again, start with a simple filing system. Include action-based folders such as Reply, Waiting, Archive. Move email from your inbox into one of these folders as soon as possible.
Another important component of keeping email organized is how often you process it. It’s common practice for many people to check their inbox first thing in the morning.
That may or may not interfere with your priority tasks for the day, it’s up to you. Check again at lunch and end of your business day, for example.
5. Be consistent
Like any effective system, keeping your workspace free from clutter requires maintenance. Take a few minutes at the end of each day to clear your desk so you can start the next day fresh. Spend 5-10 minutes filing.
Also try to get your email inbox down to zero messages each day. Longer term, schedule dates to do regular clean-ups of desk drawers, cabinets, and shelves, and experiment with timing of those tasks that works best for you.
Bask in the Benefits
Decluttering tips like these can free you from workspace chaos and you just might find yourself becoming more creative, more productive, and a lot more comfortable in your surroundings.
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