Organize Your Desk

Organize your desk so that you can quickly and easily find anything you need instead of wasting time hunting for papers, files or important memos. Having an organized desk will improve your productivity.

First step when you organize your desk is to move everything, except large things like desktop monitor or printer, off the desk and place it on the floor or another table. Discard or recycle items that you don’t need anymore like old papers, bits and pieces of paper with information, empty envelopes, old magazines, pens and other tools that no longer work, dried up glue etc. Make sure to shred all pieces of paper with sensitive information.

Give away items you don't use.

Sort the items you decided to keep into categories like papers, files, folders, binders, magazines, reference materials, tools and personal items.

Next step when you organize your desk is to return items one by one to your desk according to how often you use them.

Only keep essentials on the desk. Otherwise it will look cluttered.

Place your computer on one end of your desk facing you. Place your phone next to the computer along with some pens or pencils in a cup and a notepad or notebook for messages and phone notes.

You can also keep your planner or PDA on your desk.

If you have clients, put your business cards and some pens behind the computer monitor on the client side. Leave the rest of the desk area clear so that if your clients want to put their laptops or paperwork, there is enough space to do so.

Consider putting the calendar, personal photos, plaques, mementos etc. on the wall especially when desk space is limited.

Put frequently used items like pens, pencils, erasers, whiteout, scissors, paperclips, sticky notes, stapler, paper punch, tape etc. in a drawer that is within easy reach. Also designate a drawer that can be locked for your keys, phone, PDA, wallet etc. Please see my article on organize desk drawers for more ideas.

If you don’t have enough drawers use a drawer unit that can be tucked under the desk.

You can use a book case, filing cabinet, printer stand, another desk or similar furniture next to your desk in an “L” formation to keep your printer, modem, printer paper, magazines, empty binders, files and folders etc.

Organize all cables/wires. This is an important and necessary thing to do when you organize your desk. Fold and tie the extra length with velcro, plastic ties or hook-and-loop ties. If your desk is close to a wall, tuck the cables out of the way by placing them on the side of the desk that is against the wall. Otherwise, you can tie/attach the cables along the table legs and/or the side/underside of the desk so that they are neatly tucked away. This way they don’t become a trip hazard. Also, the cables won’t get in the way when you are trying to move around in your chair. Go wireless wherever you can (wireless keyboard, printer, router etc.). Less cables and wires mean less clutter.

Loose pieces of paper are the main source of desk clutter. So give them a home by assigning binders, folders or files. This will also prevent them from getting misplaced or lost. This is the most important part when you organize your desk.

Develop a filing system for papers, manuals, reference materials, receipts etc. so you know where to put them. This will also help you find them easily and quickly when needed.

Prioritize the documents into high, medium or low. You can use a file rack or file trays to sort and store paperwork that you are currently working on. If you use a file tray designate the top tray for papers that are of high priority, the middle tray for medium priority and the bottom tray for low priority. When using a file rack designate the front slot(s) for high priority paperwork, center ones for medium priority and back slot(s) for low priority. You can also use colored files or folders and assign a different color for each level of priority.

The key to keeping your desk organized is to tackle paperwork before it accumulates. File documents as soon as you're finished with them. Make sure to label the files, folders or binders.

You can use a filing cabinet or book case to store files. When using a book case, put files or folders inside a magazine file so that you can arrange them vertically. This way you can get to what you need without having to move the ones on top.

You can use a filing cabinet that slides under the desk for documents that you need frequent access to.

I use a 3 ring binder for organizing monthly household statements and manuals and an old magazine to organize my receipts. Please see my home office organization page for more information on these.

You can also scan documents into PDFs and keep them on your computer. This will be very useful if you travel a lot as part of your job.

Organize your desk area in such a way that you can grab an empty file or folder, label it and put it in your file cabinet or book case without having to get up from your chair. It is easier to stay organized when the effort is less.

Keep magazines in magazine files. Recycle magazines after a year and reuse the magazine file. If you want to keep something specific from the magazines for reference (like an article) just keep those pages. If this is something you save from every issue or often, assign a binder for these pages. Use divider tabs to separate each category. This will save valuable space. Another idea is to scan the pages you need and have them on your computer. Saves space!

Maintenance is crucial. It is more efficient to stay organized if you organize as you go rather than trying to do it all at the end. Develop a habit of clearing your desk at the end of each day. Take a few minutes to sort what is needed, what needs to be stored and what can be thrown away. A clear desk in the morning will help you begin your day with a calmer state of mind and will discourage clutter.

In course of time, see what works for you and what doesn't, and modify your organization process to suit your needs.

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