October 8, 2015 by Jeff Lowen
Has anyone asked if you have a desk underneath all that stuff? Are you sure that you do? Those of who have a cluttered work space at home or at the office; I hear the same rationale over and over again. “I don’t have time…” and that leads to, “People with perfectly straightened out desks are boring…” I’ve even found websites in support of the infamous “Clutterer!” Is there such a thing an “Office Hoarder?”
Truth is, we’re all different. The “Sweetspot” of your efficiency and productivity can only be increased if you are open to the possibility that within your sea of papers and stuff resting atop your desk, which may resemble your bumpy hair when you first wake up in the morning; that you’ll try a few tips to help get it under control.
Step One: Purge
This is always the first step no matter how many articles, advice or examples I know of. However, easier said than done, and if we knew how to do this, wouldn’t we do it? 10 little words: “Get rid of everything that you don’t need or want!” This is hard for some of us. “I’ll need that someday” attitude will bog down your valuable brain-space. Take one area at a time no matter how small. I use a to do list, separating my office into bite-sized chunks that feels more like maintenance than purging, and I do this whether I need it once a quarter. That approach is easier on those of us that look at the war-zone and get overwhelmed. I also use a simple rule of thumb: If it’s gathering dust (about a week), it’s either on the chopping block or it gets stored.
Step Two: Create the ‘Flow’
You could definitely do bunch of things that make good sense. The purpose here is not to toss items on your to-do list for the sake of never getting them done, anyway. It’s to create a workspace environment that moves efficiently so you have MORE time in your workday.
a) Design your space – Is your office chair comfortable? Does it help you sit up straight so that you’re not getting tired? I prefer a stand up desk, myself. Re-evaluate if what you have is conducive to what you use it for.
b) Positioning – If you use your desk for sales, why is your phone waaaaaaay over there on the wrong side of your desk? We all have computers, do you find yourself with 20 tabs open at once? Maybe it’s time to get that second monitor and extend your desktop. Do you shuffle paper? Is everything that you use within arms’ reach, or do you have to get up to deal with it? Make it easy on yourself!
c) Enter the digital – Every receipt, invoice or paper I want to save gets scanned immediately and I have it set up so that it goes into a folder that at the end of the day, I drag and drop and rename a few items. Done! Filed. I have a printer scanner that makes it easy to do this at my desk. Out and about, I snap a pic with my phone and it’s auto-uploaded to a Dropbox folder when I play the drag and drop game later. If you resist that approach, create a space that you can put your paperwork for the day and file it all once, that day (or once per week). Side note: If you’re one of those people that have a computer desktop full of unorganized icons because you, “just don’t want to lose them…” then I would recommend a little computer file system training. There is an easier way.
Step Three: Touch it once
How many times have you picked it up, checked it out and thought about what you’d like to do with it? The trick here is when you’re ready to deal with it, you do and you’re done. That thing you do, moving one pile to another to consolidate to re-file to move here or there is killing your productivity and your efficiency. Create a place for bills, letters and paperwork and deal with them in your time. Once. “Touching it once” is an art and a habit that’s easy to instill. You’ll find it not only relieves a lot of the stress that new items tend to foster, but an effortless way of maintenancing your space, too.
Step Four: Close up shop
At the end of the day do you leave your desk in disarray knowing that you’ll just be back early in the morning and pick up where you left off? C’mon… You’re better than that. 15 minutes before you call it a day (or night), pick up your tools and put them away. You don’t see wrenches, hammers and drill bits lying out all over the place after the builder goes home, and neither should you. There is a sense of accomplishment that sets in when you leave with a clean workspace and return to it that way. It may all be psychological, but if it adds 10 minutes of better efficiency to your daily routine, that could amount to more than an entire work week in one year! Whether you choose to spend that working or with your family is up to you.
Like these ideas? Practice and incorporate them into your work life and you’ll see a marked improvement in not just your workflow, but your overall mind health. It’s very liberating when you come into the office each day and your workspace is fresh, inviting and begging you to seize the day!