How to organise your desk to be the most productive you can be


If your work, lifestyle or hobbies entail being at a desk for long periods, it’s worth giving that space some attention to maximize its functionality so that you feel your best in the area.

Seven Steps to work space happiness:

  1. Take stock of the existing arrangement, what’s going on at the moment? Is there a lot of clutter? Is it all paperwork? Can you find your phone? What items do you use the most and what do you rarely use?
  2. If you haven’t had or given yourself a Work Station Assessment I suggest taking the time and checking out this useful document.
  3. Sort everything (drawers included) and get the desk cleared. Use some space behind you to create piles of “like” items.
  4. Detox the space. Bin, recycle or rehome things that don’t belong. Rethink your collection of knick-knacks, are they really bringing value or just adding distractions?
  5. Clean the surface of the desk. And get into the drawers.
  6. Using your computer as the prime real estate location (as that is most people’s prime focus), take the piles you’ve made from step 3 and begin to position the things you most use as close as possible to the keyboard. Phone, notepaper and pens are usually the most used items so they should be within easy reach. Continuing further out, place items further away as they rank less and less in importance.
  7. Developing a new routine in order to maintain your newly organized desk space may be something to think about in order to keep the desk operating smoothly. When packing up for the day, sparing five to ten minutes to place things back in their “homes” ensures that a ready and supportive desk is there to greet you each morning.

Paperwork weeding

In initially organizing the space, one of the piles that you collected will most likely be made up of paperwork.  So lets look at that now. The aim being to keep as few papers on the desk as possible.

Looking at the paperwork pile, create three sub piles divided into three types of documents:

  1. Documents which need to be actioned
  2. Documents which are important but which require no immediate action
  3. Junk – shred or recyle it!

Once the original pile has been sorted into these three categories, turn your focus to the first group. What we’re looking to implement is a system that doesn’t allow for stacking ’till later’. A wire vertical file organiser is what I recommend as the tiered design lets you easily identify folders. Divide the papers into categories that makes sense to you and use terms that you regularly use – using different coloured folders will further cement the system.

Looking at a couple of different desk set ups, we’re going to work through some tips and processes that can make your situation greatly improved.

In an office

Divide your workstation into zones, using various sections of the desk to reflect and contain your various activities. This may mean that you have a zone where you take phone calls (note paper, pen and contact details), another for filing (in trays, files and folders), and a zone for research/reading.

Hot Desking

If your office environment utilizes the ‘hot desking’ system where every day requires setting up at a different desk, creating personal routines become of paramount importance. First, allow at least 20 minutes to find and get settled at your new post. Make a basket or box (one that you like) your hold-all and resist dumping everything in it at the end of the day. By having an end of day routine to keep the things in your box orderly – the next day is made easier and your brain gets into the habit of relaxing for the evening to come. Such a box will also help streamline the start of the next day for when you go to your locker, as it’ll be simply a matter of retrieving one item and getting on with finding your work space. Before starting work, take a moment to wipe down the desk and equipment to assist in maintaining your health and also adjust the height of the chair and monitor so your body is comfortable.

Small Business

If you’re running a small business from home and don’t have the luxury of having a dedicated room for it, being able to section off your work is the second best solution. This could be through the use of screens for example. By having a certain area set up for your business with everything you need to conduct your work, it helps trigger work ready habits and to help keep work separate from the rest of your life.

If space is really quite tight, using a box or basket that you can unpack and pack up your work items (laptop, papers, other equipment) in helps create a routine and triggers the mental preparation for work to come (see Hot Desking above).

At home

The home ‘office’, if you will, is often fulfilling several functions – sometimes as a hobby room, often times as a home admin center or a place for quiet study. Decide what purpose/s your desk at home is serving and ensure that it isn’t taken over by unassociated clutter. It can be tempting to use a study room and its desk surface as storage, but by working at maintaining the prime purpose of the space it helps to establish zoning for the rest of your house.

Study, hobby, office or small business – the desk is the heart of it all. Get this “tool” on side and watch as other parts are enable run more smoothly!





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