How to Organize Your Desk for Workplace Nirvana

Published on
Mar 29, 2023
Written by
Coryne Forest
Personal Development

Back in college, I picked up the habit of straightening my dorm room before I started doing homework.  If my room was neat, I was in the right head space to tackle differential equations and fluid dynamics. Either that, or I was just avoiding homework... but regardless, it worked for me.

Then I entered the workforce and was introduced to the cubicle.  That little 6 x 6 space to call my own.  The place where I had to put all the essentials and keep ALL THE PAPER.  It was eye-opening, to say the least.

If you’re like me, this next part is going to resonate.

Every now and then, my desk looks like a tornado hit it. Reports/papers/notes are on one corner; current work is spread across the keyboard.  I know I have an appointment coming up, but I can’t find my planner amongst the piles.

It seems you, like me, may need to learn how to organize your workspace! And there’s no time like National Clean Off Your Desk Day.  Yes, there truly is a day for everything…but this is a good one and it is Monday.

Having an organized workspace can do more for you than make your desktop look better. Being organized can help you be more productive and reduce the amount of stress you feel when you get to work, during the day, and when you leave for home.

Less stress always equals goodness in my book.

Organizing your desk may take more time than you have available during your workday. Ask your boss if you can come in on your own time to clear and organize your desk. They’ll appreciate your desire. After all, organizing your workspace benefits them as well as you.

In these Work From Home times, you don’t even have to ask; you can do it whenever you want.  Could be the perfect cure for insomnia or when you are just listening to a meeting on your phone.

Either way, know that clearing your desk actually helps you focus on a task at hand, especially if it’s more complex or requires deeper thinking.

These steps will help you organize your workspace:

1. Remove everything from the top of your desk and out of the drawers. Of course, you can leave large items such as your computer or printer where they are. Everything else should be put into boxes. Your office will look like a freak storm hit it, but don’t worry, it’s part of the process.

2. Wipe down the entire surface of your desk and inside each drawer. I am always amazed at how grungy things get on my desk!

3. Sort through the items you removed from your desk and drawers. Group items together such as office supplies, filing materials, items to be filed, reference materials, and desk accessories.

4. Get rid of paperwork you no longer need. Do you have unnecessary duplicates of reports or files? Recycle them. Are there items you still need? Keep those items and set them aside until later. A lot of papers hanging around used to be useful but are now out of date or obsolete. Time to jettison those (in an environmentally friendly way, of course!).

5. Make a plan for where you’ll put things back. You’ll want items you use frequently to remain within reach, so those items will take precedence on your desk. If you’re right-handed, put your most used items on your right side or in the right-hand drawers.

6. Create an area where you can keep current papers handy. Paper trays are often used. Vertical files are another option if you have quite a bit of paperwork.

• Bonus Tip: Establish a tickler file for various activities you perform regularly – To Read, To File, To Pay, To Do, and others.

7. Put items back into place after you’ve gone through them and purged what isn’t needed. Only the items you need at your desk should be put back.

Maintaining Your Organized Workspace

The old saying goes “a place for everything and everything in its place.” This is not to be changed to “a pile for everything and everything in its pile!”

Decide where each item goes and then leave it there unless you’re actively using it.

• Bonus Tip: If you’re in the middle of a big project and it’s taking up much needed space, don’t be afraid to remove an item and then put it right back when you’re finished with the project.

Remember that your goal is to have an organized desk. This doesn’t mean it has to be totally cleared off, but you do want to have space so you can function, both mentally and physically.

If you’ve noticed something that will help you become more organized, don’t be afraid to ask your boss to pay for it. In the long run, your increased productivity will more than pay for the item. If that isn’t going to happen, invest it in for yourself.  Your sanity is worth it.  For me, it was tiered wire racks that lets me keep 8 files on my desk and I can read the labels.

After you have your desk organized, do what you can to keep it clean. Decide what you’re going to do with each item as it’s placed on your desk. Use the tickler file if you have paper, or write important dates on your calendar instead of setting things aside to deal with later.

It can be so easy to keep your desk clear once you’ve learned how to organize your workspace and put things back in their home when you’re done with them. Take the last five minutes of your day to straighten your desk and it will hopefully stay that way from here on out.

Leaving you with this from the lighter side: Hand to God, this is a book available on Amazon.  How to Get Organized Without Resorting to Arson. However, sometimes a flame thrower may be needed…just sayin’…

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