What does your desk say about YOU?
Albert Einstein famously pondered, “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?”
Well, Einstein was a theoretical physicist – what did he know about being an office administrator or a customer service operator?
But he had a point – how can you possibly be firing on all cylinders and working effectively if your desk is buried beneath layers of reports, files and post-its?
According to a survey 57 per cent come clean to judging a colleague based on the cleanliness of their workspace and nearly half say they have been ‘appalled’ by a dirty office.
Don’t let the clutter cloud your capabilities.
An empty desk is a sign of a well-ordered, highly organised, paperless work environment.
Here are our top 10 ways to spring clean your office and keep your desk spick and span…
- Organise your workspace into zones
Decide, firstly, on what you want from your office space, and whether it’s meeting your needs? Then divide your desk into zones for your daily functions – a workspace for your computer, a clear surface area for your research, a storage area for your stapler, stocky tape and paper clips and a filing area for any reports or proformas. This will give you the basis for a more efficient use of workspace.
- “The only stuff in the radius of your arms should be the stuff you need immediately” (Walsh).
Banish the boxes of pens, file the pile of papers and chuck out the old coffee cups. Decide which pieces of equipment are the most important for daily use – such as your monitor and keyboard, telephone, two pens, one notebook, a lamp – and make these the only visible items on your desk.
- Create a clearly visible daily paper system
If we can’t all aspire to the idea of the paperless work environment, streamline the process by hanging files or baskets labelled “To Read”, “To Do” and “To File”. Establish set days for each, so that you don’t get behind or feel the overwhelming need to do everything at once. Consider color-coding ongoing projects, and set them apart from your archives. This way you’ll know where everything is and what requires your attention first.
- Establish limits
From the very onset, establish limits on the amount of books, files and folders you’re willing to accept. When your shelves become full with books and your cabinets bulge with files, give away one book for every new one that you add and get rid of some of the paperwork you no longer need to maintain your limit. Your ability to maintain your desk organisation over weeks and months and stick to your limits will be just as important as your original organisation plan.
- Use drawer dividers to help organise office debris
Avoid turning one of your drawers into a no man’s land for odd things and misplaced items just to get them out of sight. Use drawer dividers to ensure all items have a place. Consider opening the drawer regularly (instead of leaving it firmly closed for month upon month in fear of what lurks inside!) and clear out useless items.
- E-mail to-do lists just make us more anxious
Laura Stack, president of time-management consulting company The Productivity Pro, says: “Most of us are drowning in e-mails and too often use our inboxes like to-do lists. Digital clutter can be just as stressful and energy-sapping as physical clutter.” She suggests organising our inbox into folders – in a similar way to paper filing. For example, rather than flagging emails randomly, use Outlook commands to set a reminder to follow up.
- Streamline your desktop icons
Declutter your screen of icons and unnecessary shortcuts. A chaotic desktop will only make life more stressful and almost impossible to find anything. Reduce your desktop icons to a select necessary few and create a logical digital filing system. Take down all the sticky notes or reminders from your monitor – they will only serve as a distraction from your work.
- Use hooks to store items of clothing, bags etc.
There’s nothing worse than leaving your desk to answer a colleague’s phone and becoming entangled in bag straps and coat belts! Clear the floor area around your desk of clothing and personal items and use hooks in your office to store them safely. You should aim to provide one hook per item to avoid a cluttered approach on the wall instead.
- Keep a basket for short-term storage
Even the most organised amongst us needs a temporary storage area from time to time, for instance, somewhere to keep a newspaper, magazine, personal planner, keys. Keep a basket devoted to these items, and clear them out at the end of each day.
- Disinfect regularly
Keep a convenient disinfectant spray or wipes handy and use regularly to prevent the build-up of dust, dirt, food stains or fingerprints. Give your desk, phone, keyboard and monitor a wipe down once a week. The habit will also force you to tidy up unwanted papers and festering wrappers and rubbish.