By Ana Snyder, M.S., Exercise Physiology; CPT, FNS
Decluttering might seem like a straightforward task, but you can often get in your own way when it comes to tossing out trash. You might hold on to countless knick-knacks for sentimental reasons or convince ourselves you’ll use that item you haven’t looked at in years. These habits may seem harmless, but excess stuff can have a huge impact on emotions, decision-making, work-performance, and health. Cluttered spaces increase procrastination and decrease work output. In order to work more effectively, a clean office space is vital. The office space also serves as the environment people spend most of their time and may have the biggest impact on overall health and happiness. For both of these reasons, staying tidy is imperative. True health encompasses all aspects of the concept known as the wellness wheel, and environmental health is an important part of this. In this article, I’ll focus on organized office desk ideas that will bring you peace of mind.
Guidelines are important because they can help you decide what to declutter more objectively. When you dive in on your first decluttering mission, you may begin to feel overwhelmed as your nostalgic side kicks in. Here are some general tips that I will examine closer a bit later.
It’s so important that every single item in your office be kept in a designated area. If you place everything in a specific spot and know where your items are at all times, you can access what you want quickly and save yourself time. The same goes for knickknacks and miscellaneous items such as lamps and photographs. Keep those off to the side so you can stay focused and have plenty of space to work.
Paperwork is one of the hardest things to keep in a designated place. Dealing with heaps of it is common in most jobs, and it can be difficult to keep them all straight. Many times it’s easier to convert them into electronic documents and keep them organized in files on your computer. This way you can quickly search for the file you are looking for. If you have to keep physical copies of the paperwork, though, you can also create a physical filing system. For this method, it’s often simplest to organize each piece alphabetically. You should consistently review your paperwork to see what you no longer need and can dispose of. This can keep clutter from getting out of hand in the future and keep your desk and head clear.
The best way to maintain a clean desk is to organize it every day before you leave. Staying on top of a little clutter can keep you from an uncontrollable mess. Each day, you may find some items that you need to get rid of or some projects you forgot about. Professional organizer Diane Albright suggests that this can help you be more productive and finish up those uncovered tasks.
Electronic calendars work wonders for your mind and your desk. They help cut down on the paperwork in your office and can also alert you when you have appointments. It’s like having a personal assistant that reminds you of all of your meetings, appointments, and project due dates.
As you declutter your desktop, you may be tempted to throw unwanted items into your desk drawers. Do not do it! Just because the untidiness is out of sight doesn’t mean it isn’t still interfering with your life. Research shows that most people lose an hour a day if they are disorganized. You shouldn’t have to spend time digging through your drawers to find what you’re looking for. Rather, take these excess items and organize them neatly or throw them away. How do you decide which items don’t belong on your desk? Simply think about what you need in front of you at all times—such as your computer, a pencil cup, a notepad, and a few homey decorations-—and remove the rest.
The items on your desk should also be organized by how frequently you use them. Your phone, for example, should be placed by your dominant hand so you can pick it up easily. Everyday office supplies can also be kept on your desk, but off to the side to keep a clear workspace. The ones you don’t use quite as often should be placed in a drawer you have easy access to so you don’t have to get up and interrupt your workflow. Even if you just leave your desk once for supplies, your brain will stop thinking about the task you were working on and have to take time to refocus.
Lastly, you should also minimize your number of sticky notes and personal items. In excess, both of these serve as more of a distraction than anything else. Your brain is constantly analyzing your surroundings, and the more items you have in your workspace, the more information is competing for your attention.
Desk drawers should also be organized by what supplies you use the most. Place the most frequent on the side of your dominant hand, such as your stapler or tape. Your larger drawers should be used for files—only ones you need, of course—or be organized by a particular task. For example, if you have a project that always requires specific tools, it might be most efficient to place them together.
Anything you do not need or use, you should throw away or donate. Try to avoid having a junk drawer, but if you can’t, at least make sure it’s filled with materials you actually need, not clutter. Keeping your drawers and desk tidy will help you think clearer and can act as a huge stress reducer.
If you’re still feeling overwhelmed by how much clutter you have, doing a decluttering challenge may help! Regardless of whether you have a lot of junk or just don’t have a lot of time to organize, a challenge can help you simplify the process. Using these organized office desk ideas, you can transform your workspace by the end of the week. If you can’t finish the task assigned to each day, simply repeat the week after!
Throw away anything you have in surplus and empty your junk drawer. If you have any extra scissors, staplers, or an excessive number of paperclips, don’t keep the ones you don’t need. Also, empty any actual junk out of your appointed junk drawer and only keep the things you use.
Dedicate this day to organizing your paperwork. Throw away anything you don’t need and file anything you do. Whenever possible, make electronic copies of your documents to save space.
Opening an inbox filled to the brim with unread messages can be overwhelming and exhausting. Delete e-mail you don’t need and save the ones you do. If you have other files that could also use some cleaning up, use this same technique on them today.
Toss out all of your old phones, computers, and other outdated technology. Also upgrade your outdated desks and chairs to something better for your spinal health like a standing desk or stability ball. Sitting is the new smoking, and old technology will just slow you down. If possible, donate or recycle all of your old equipment.
Clean the surface of your desk from infrequently used supplies and put them away neatly. Place all of your files and other office items in your desk drawers, putting the ones you use the most closest to your chair.
Outside of creating an organized space, making your space mindful also encourages creativity, inner peace, and better work quality. According to Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries, mindfulness is a “mental state achieved by concentrating on the present moment, while calmly accepting the feelings and thoughts that come to you, used as a technique to help you relax.” According to research, mindfulness has been correlated with several workplace benefits. Those that frequently practiced mindfulness were less likely to get upset when their autonomy was taken away, experienced more self-confidence, and were less stressed and more energetic.
Mindfulness can be practiced anywhere, but some spaces are easier than others. Creating a mindful environment can remind you to take a moment to meditate if you’re having a difficult day. It can calm you and help you refocus on the task at hand. According to mindfulness consultant Cindy Stocken, there are some easy techniques anyone can use to transform their workspace to inspire mindful awareness.
An anchor is used during meditation to help you focus on the present moment. For example, many people focus on the repetitive pattern of their breath to keep their thoughts from wandering. Things in our environment can also be used to help us return to the present and focus on our work. Stocken recommends choosing something simple like a plant or candle but changing your object frequently so you are constantly reminded of its significance.
Sitting down at your desk and taking a few minutes to set your intentions for the day can help you organize your thoughts and be more productive. Having a clear intention for what you want to get done and how you want to do it can help you succeed in the workplace.
Everything you put on or into your desk should help you stay productive, not slow you down. The more organized you are, the greater your environmental health. Environmental health is an important part of overall wellness; improving it will help you feel happier and more successful.