Keeping a neat desk and knowing where everything is, is vital to your productivity. Just think about it - the time you spend looking for something must come from somewhere, and that somewhere is probably going to be your work time. This can easily end up resulting in you either having to work overtime and thereby sacrificing the fun stuff you were planning to do after the day’s work was over.
This applies to people who’re working in an office, as well as people who’re working from home. However, if you belong to the latter group of people, it’s even easier for your office to end up messy, because it’s so easy to “temporarily” put something non-work related on your desk or chair, like that random stack of papers we all seem to have floating about, and in the end, it becomes a permanent part of the clutter, which makes it oh so hard to focus and get work done.
These tips below are some of my own personal favorites, that have helped me keep the chaos more or less a-bay, which in return means that I get more work done faster and gives me more time to other fun things 🙂
1. Organized Shelves Above Your Desk
Installing one or two shelves above your desk, helps you keep the things you use the most within easy reach and and prevents unnecessary movement.
+ Do place the items you use the most frequently on the shelves
+ Do a quick sweep of the shelves every day when you’re done working, to make sure random clutter didn’t make its way up there.
- Don’t overstuff the shelves - it will overwhelm and distract you
- Don’t fill the shelves with little knick-knacks and other useless stuff - they’re there to help you be productive, not show off your most beloved possessions (one picture, preferably of your cat, is acceptable).
2. Turn a Chest in to a Filing Cabinet
There are a plethora of ways to do this - some more hands on (read: DIY) than others. The chest in the image was built completely from scratch, which kinda blows my mind. This is the link to the original article, if you want to do it yourself.
For those of us who are less DIY-savvy, there is an excellent ikea hack right here.
You can basically use these filing frames in any container that’s tall enough, and turn whatever boxes you’ve got lying around into filing cabinets. Super easy, and keeps everything organized and in place.
3. Use Binder Clips to Prevent Cords from Tangling
Clip a binder clip onto your desk and thread the cord through the hole in the handle. Super easy and keeps the cords in place, ready for when you need to use them next.
Be sure to double check that the clips open wide enough to fit on your desk, before you buy them.
If they don’t and you already made the purchase, you can also clip them onto a nearby shelf. By doing it this way, you also reduce the amount of clutter on your desk.
4. Hide Pens and Other Supplies in Your Desk Drawer
This step doesn’t require much explanation. Just put your stuff in your drawers, to clear the desk.
However, don’t just dump whatever into the drawers, sort it so you keep the stuff you need the most, throughout the day, easily accessible, and the stuff you hardly ever use, tucked away somewhere else (if you don’t throw it out all together).
5. Use Drawer Dividers
Once you’ve successfully migrated all your little items from your desk to your desk drawer, it’s time to help them settle in in their new home, so you don’t end up feeling like you’ve opened Pandora’s box every time you go to look for something in your drawer.
The best way of keeping your drawer under control is by using drawer dividers. There are a few different options, when it comes to doing that.
A super cheap and easy DIY option is to use old cereal boxes, that you decorate with nice looking (scrapbook paper) for a tutorial on how to do that, go here.
Another option is to just get plastic dividers. There are a bunch of different options here, and it’s up to you whether you prefer to use pre-made dividers or interlocking pieces of plastic, that you can then adjust to fit whatever you want. For more in depth information on drawer dividers, check out our review here (link opens in a new tab).
6. Keep Your Papers Under Control and OFF your desk
Don’t store papers on your desk. Instead, keep dedicated folders, binders and hanging files for all your documents.
Group your papers in a logical manner, this will make it a lot easier to find what you’re looking for whenever you need it.
One tip is arranging them alphabetically by subject, in a way that makes logical sense to your work. You might think that this is overly formal and complicated, especially when you’ve just started working from home, but trust me, paper accumulates over time, and a few years down the road you’ll be happy you got into the habit of filing everything in a logical manner.
7. Keep Unprocessed Papers in a Dedicated Spot
…and try to process them asap.
Related to the above, find a place for your unprocessed papers. These can be bills, customer orders, testimonials and whatever else you have yet to take care of. Keep them together in the same spot (you can use a binder clip if you want to literally keep them together) so that you know exactly where they are, when it’s time for you to process them. A good idea is to keep them in a desk tray organizer, but… preferably away from the desk. Because these organizers can quickly end up looking messy, I suggest putting it somewhere where you can hide it away during the day, unless you’re constantly using it.
8. Organize Your Bookcase
A bookcase can quickly end up being a catch-all, overflowing with random stuff. In order to prevent this, I recommend you organize it similar to your files - alphabetically and by subject. That means that books on architecture go together, books on management go together and so on. Once the books have been grouped, you can sort them alphabetically, either by title or by the name of the author.
9. Get Rid of Things that aren’t Work Related
Your dirty laundry does not belong in your office, seriously. …the drinks cart … well I’ll let that one slide.
10. Sort Everything Constantly and Keep Order
Once you’ve managed to clear up your desk, and hopefully the rest of your office as well, it’s time to keep it. Sort relentlessly, and throw out things as soon as they’ve served their purpose. Don’t keep dead pens lying around if they’ve ran out of ink long ago. Toss them and buy new ones. Same goes with old papers.
It can be a pain to get a home office under control, especially if it starts out as a messy mayhem. What’s an even bigger pain, however, is getting it under control - again, because you didn’t maintain the order the first time around. By constantly sorting and keeping everything in its dedicated spot, it’ll be super easy to keep your office looking good and tidy, which will make it easier to be productive, all day long!