When your desk is well-organized, you minimize distractions, which allows you to be more productive. And the DIY Network agrees – “Organization is considered by many to be the single most important factor in establishing and sustaining productive work habits.”
Your desk surface is a place to do work, not store it. By keeping your desk organized, you’ll have more space to spread out current work without overlapping with clutter. There is nothing worse than digging through a pile of paperwork to find a single document.
One great way to optimize your work space is to use the PLACE system.
P – purge unnecessary items from the desk surface (this means material you are not working on, archives, junk mail, etc.)
L – group like items – group all your office supplies together, organize your reference books in the same place, etc.
A – make important items accessible – frequently used items and tools need to be readily available. Store all of your other items.
C – contain loose items using a desk organizer or storage system
E – evaluate how well your system is working and make changes until you get it right
After you have your supplies and tools organized – think about workflow.
By setting up your desk to compliment your workflow, you will always have the right tools at your fingertips when you need them, further increasing your productivity.
Since we generally operate processes from left to right, you might want to layout your desk this way. Productivity experts recommend keeping your inbox, phone, and diary or agenda (if you use one), on your left side, with work being processed in the middle and work that is complete or needs to be stored on the right.
When you stop for the day, always make sure the middle and right side are clear
Remember, it is easier to keep larger, more permanent items organized: equipment, supplies, decorations, and reference materials. Transient items, such as work to be processed, action reminders, and project support materials, are the challenge.
Here are some useful tips to better organize those as well!
Work to be processed – place these items in your inbox (a tray or basket). This includes unsorted, un-prioritized material, mail, requests, lists, folders – things you would usually leave on your desk.
Action reminders – notes about to-do’s go in your task management software or, if you are paper-based, your planner.
Support material – place these items in files or, if it is too big to fit in a file, put them in a binder on a project shelf or in project area, away from your desktop.
Now you should have just an inbox and agenda/notebook on your left hand side to help you manage your work. It is important that you don’t manage your work from stacks of folders, manage your work from lists. Put what you need to accomplish on your action list and then keep the supporting materials in files or on a project shelf. This will ensure your desk stays clear.
When you are ready to work on something, only then is it time to bring in the files and support materials.
It is also helpful to avoid working on multiple tasks that require lots of support materials. If you can break down a task and only keep the materials for the current task on your desk surface you’ll be much more focused and energized.
If you keep the ideas above as a guiding principle, you will not only find your desk surface more appealing, you will find that you get more work done and that you feel good about starting fresh tomorrow.