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5 Tips for Organizing your Desk

Have you ever been on the phone and you need to refer to information that is in a document on your desk but you can’t find it even though you know it’s on your desk … somewhere? You say you know where everything is but do you … really? Take a good look at your desk. If you can’t pinpoint exactly where that document you needed when you were on the phone is, then it’s time to do some serious tidying-up and organizing. Here are some great tips that may help you to make your desk, and even your office, more organized.

1. Set Up a To-Do List System.

There are several ways to set up a to-do list system. You could enter tasks in a task list in your email application whether you use MS Outlook or gmail or most other email applications. You could enter tasks in a day timer which also allows you to allot some much time for each task. You could write a list of tasks out for each day that you check off as you complete each task or you could stick Post-It notes on your computer or around the monitor of your computer and remove the Post-It notes as you complete each task.

Try out different systems to determine which one works best for you. If you use an email task list, sync the list with your mobile device so that you can track your tasks whenever you need to. Use a notebook and keep it with you at all times or leave it in your office so that you always have access to see what tasks have to be done and check off the ones that are completed. Ideally having your task list electronically accessible or written in a day timer or notebook is more reliable and will help you see what tasks are to be done so that you can organize your time and the paperwork on your desk

2. Put things away when you're done with them.

Put things away when you’re done with them but don’t just put them in a drawer somewhere where you will forget where you put them.

Take a day or 2 to set up shelves or drawers that are designated to different categories such as reference books, manuals, catalogues, project binders, supplier catalogues, brochures or user guides. Set up a filing cabinet for different types of document files: correspondence, budgets, projects, confidential (usually locked up files) depending on what you need for the type of work you do.

Once you set up organized shelving systems and filing systems, it will be easier for you to put things away when your done with them and be able to find and retrieve them when you need them. As you tend to your tasks, take out the file or files you need that are relevant to the information you need for the task. Invest in a file holder that holds 4 or 5 files at a time to keep on your desk if you use more than one file for tasks. This keeps the required files organized and easy to find when you need them, and also keeps your desk clean and tidy.

3. When things get really bad, take everything off your desk and start over.

You might find that the only real way to clean off your desk is to clear everything and start over again. Trying to move piles back and forth and shuffling papers around is actually less time-efficient than clearing it all away.

So, bite the bullet and do it right. Take everything off your desk and clean the surface. And then take the time to go through things as you organize them into different categories as you place them back on the desk. As you place things in the different categories you will be able to put them in filing cabinets, storage closets, and trash cans, and only the things you really need will remain.

You may not want to go through everything on your desk because you will feel overwhelmed. Once you get started, you may find that it won't take as long as you think it will. Set aside a day and do this all at once or do a few minutes at a time if you like. Once you have gone through everything, organized what you want to keep and disposed of what you don’t want to keep, you will be amazed how much better you will feel. You might even feel more motivated and be more productive. Working in a clean, tidy, organized workspace can make a big difference.

4. Discover the power of folders (or files, or notebooks...)

In order keep your desk together, you need a reliable system. Some people organize projects into folders, while others prefer files, notebooks, or something else. Some people who work around specific deadlines set up a ‘tickler’ filing system that they check every day where documents can be filed for a specific due date. This might be something you want to consider too.

The point here is that you can't be improvisational about your paperwork or things are going to get out of hand again very soon. Plus, you'll be more productive if the materials you need are readily available and you know where everything is.

Set up a filing system that includes some way of categorizing your work into subsections and then group everything together. Each item (folder, file, clipboard, etc.) should contain everything you need for one task or project and it should be clearly labeled. It really doesn't matter what type of system you have, as long as you have one that works for you.

5. Spend five minutes organizing at the end of the day.

Take just five minutes to organize your work and your desk before you leave your office each day. This will help you get off to a great start in the morning. Put your to-do list (or calendar, or Post-its, whatever you're using) toward the center of the desk. Sort piles into a prioritized stack according to your task list around that center point, and file away or throw away all of the extras that remain.

It will feel really good to start your day the next day with a neat workspace. You'll be able to get right to work without wasting any time searching for materials, and the neat space will help you feel focused and relaxed. Spend just a few minutes organizing yourself at the end of the day. You'll be grateful for the fresh start. As well as being more organized, you’ll be more accountable, watch your productivity increase, and achieve your goals faster.

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