declutter your desk

Declutter Your Workspace to Boost Productivity

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August is the perfect month to declutter! A couple of years ago, I followed Marie Kondo’s advice and completely purged and got rid of everything that didn’t give me joy. It was not an easy path to take, but I will admit, I felt much joy after. The feeling of peace, and weightlessness, was just overwhelming. I’ve never considered myself a hoarder, but I am a “filler”, meaning I have to fill every border space inside my walls.

I had odd tables, chairs, benches, pillows, blankets, baskets, clothes, and of course, my shoes! What possessed me to go through this process? I moved to a much smaller apartment. It was very nice, and I was able to remodel it to fit me, but did I mention much smaller?? I am so grateful for a very understanding landlord!

I had boxes in the building foyer, boxes in my old apartment, and boxes in my new apartment, and he made space for me in the garage.  I knew what I had to do, and it wouldn’t be easy.

First, let me give credit where credit is due. If you ever have to go through a significant purging process as I did, I recommend the Tidy Up process with Marie Kondo. It’s gut-wrenching, emotional, temper-tantrum throwing, but it works.

We’ve tidied up our space, maybe even decluttered our minds in the process, but how about our workspace? When was the last time you saw the top of your desk?

We may not be able to go to the Marie Kondo extreme for our everyday work lives, but I have some tips I have used and still use that I hope will help.

I know There's A Desk Under There...Somewhere

Take an honest look at your workspace. What bothers you the most about it? Is it the stacks of unfiled papers or the empty coffee cups? Visualize how you want your desk to look and write down a list of changes to make it happen.

Start with unfiled papers. Add an inbox where you will place all incoming paperwork. This could be incoming mail, papers you need to review, or work to do. The point is to have one place for all new papers, so you know you have to deal with them.  I have a set of three trays for my inbox, stuff to review, and stuff to file.

As you go through the papers in the inbox, separate the things that need your immediate attention, things that have important dates or contact information, and those that you can handle at another time. Write meeting information in your calendar, add contact information to your address book or card file, and either file the paper where it belongs or get rid of it.

Create a simple filing system to keep important papers. This could include a tickler file you will look at when the day begins. A tickler file is a 31-day system that allows you to place papers you will need for the future. It is a reminder system to ensure you handle future items on time. I use the smaller post-it notes with a drop dead date written on them and stick them on the edge of the paper. This way, I can quickly see what needs my attention. Once you have your system in place, use it daily to keep papers from piling up again

A Place For Everything And Everything In Its Place.

Finally, clear all of the paperwork from your desk, even if it means only stacking it in the inbox so you can see what else you have to do. Clear the desk of all other items and decide to create a specific home for each one. If there are some office supplies that you use regularly, you will want to have them available when you need them. You will want to place anything you do not regularly use in a drawer or cabinet. When you have a place for everything, put each item where it “lives” when it is not in use.

Devote A Few Minutes A Day To Organization

Before leaving, take a few minutes to prepare for tomorrow, and put away things you used during the day. And don't forget to make tomorrow's task list tonight.

Yes, I probably sound like a broken record here, but I cannot emphasize enough how important a task list is – they keep you focused, clear your headspace, show you what your day looks like at-a-glance, and so much more!

If you know me by now, you know I will say, at the end of each workday, set yourself up for the following morning. Before you leave to go home, create your priority list for the next day. But don't stress if you didn’t do it the night before! You’ll get into the habit soon enough. So, for now, set a few minutes aside in the morning and create your list. Put the three most important tasks on the list. These three priorities are the most critical tasks you must focus on.

Once your desk is cleared off, do your best to keep it that way. Take 15 minutes at the end of the day to clear off the desk, so you have a blank slate when the new day starts. Work at keeping your desk cleared for a week before you begin focusing on the cluttered next area of your workspace.

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