I once worked with an engineer who had used the same office for his entire career and was near retirement. His personal mode of organization: Piles. He had a wrap-around desk covered with stacks of paper three feet high. Along with that, he had commandeered a long folding table and placed it near his office door. That, too, was piled at least 3 feet high with papers. So from the outside looking in, I could never tell if he was at his desk. I had to walk into the office and follow the path around the loaded table and into his buried workspace. I often wondered if being surrounded by an entire career’s worth of work gave him anxiety or a sense of accomplishment.
Surprisingly, if you asked for information about any project he’d worked on, he’d find it in 40 minutes or less-without messing up any of his stacks.
Like all things, offices tend toward chaos awfully fast. It doesn’t take long to find yourself buried in paper like my friend. The best solution is regular, consistent upkeep. If you set aside time each evening to clear your workspace, place papers into their proper folders, and file it all away, you’ll always start your day with a clean desk and room to work.
Perhaps you don’t create a lot of clutter in a day. If cleaning your desk each evening seems like overkill, schedule a weekly cleaning. Be sure not to let more than a week pass before you organize your space. If too much time passes, the job starts to look daunting. That’s when we start to procrastinate, and then we really have problems. If it’s been a while since you’ve seen your desk, here are a few steps to help you find it.
Start with the drawers. If you haven’t cleaned your desk in a while there’s a good chance that some of the things in your drawers are outdated. Perhaps you can throw some things out to make room for the stuff on your desk. It’s difficult to find things in an over-crowded drawer.
Clear off the surfaces of your desk and shelves. Remember that your goal when cleaning a desk is to eliminate as much clutter as possible. Keep a recycle bin close at hand and toss out as many papers as you can. Organize the rest in hanging folders in your drawers. Label your folders in the front of the folder so you can quickly find your important papers later.
Use your walls. You’ll discover that your walls make a great place for organizing. Using shelves and hanging organizers can keep some of your workspace cleaner.
Clean everything. Now that you have open surfaces, wipe them down with a disinfectant. Hold your keyboard upside down and use canned air to blow it clean. Wipe your monitor clear of smudges and other gunk that tends to collect there. Use a disinfectant wipe on your keyboard, your coffee mug, your phone, even your writing instruments.
Maintain a regular cleaning schedule. Now that you’ve done the heavy lifting, make sure you never have to do it again. Consistent cleaning and organizing will eliminate hours of big projects later.
Is there something we’ve missed? We’d love to hear your suggestions.