Recently I started a new job. On my first day, I walked into the office and found a desk covered in stacks of paper and an inches-thick inbox. Some stacks had sticky notes. Some stacks contained folders. Others contained loose papers. I felt overwhelmed.
I appreciated that these stacks of paper were things that I needed to do immediately – urgent tasks were not hidden away or filed. But they made me feel stressed when I came into work. In those first few days, my main goal was to clear the desk.
It took me a few weeks to work through those stacks and organize the office to where I knew where things went. I set up a desk calendar where I could write daily reminders. I got caught up in filing, and then vowed not to let the filing pile up again. I try to set aside 10 minutes to file papers every day.
I’ve read a lot of organizing advice, and it all boils down to these 3 tips that really work:
Handle each item only once – follow up, file it, or discard it. I’ve come across this advice many times, and it works for cleaning your home, your office, and your email. In practice, it’s really difficult to do, because not everything can be done right away, and we need to prioritize tasks. But I do file things in “pending” folders so that I can get to them later.
Write daily lists. Take 5 minutes at the start of the day to write down the things you need to accomplish. If you’re in the middle of a big project, you may want to take 5 minutes at the end of the day to write your task list for tomorrow.
This is easy for me to follow, because I’m a list-maker – I make lists for practically everything, from tasks to appointments to shopping to books I want to read. I’m addicted to the sense of accomplishment I feel when I cross something off the list.
Surround yourself with things that make you happy. I added a small ceramics piece that I use as a candy dish. I added a photo of my family to remind myself of why I work.
Once I organized my desk, I decided that I needed to organize my home office desk too. It was cluttered with binders, folders, office supplies, and other miscellany. I set out to clear off my desk and organize. I even cleared off a space so that my son can sit at my desk and do his homework.
Now I feel more relaxed. I can focus on my work, instead of being overwhelmed by work. An organized desk has helped me feel more in control of my life.
What does your desk look like? Is it a struggle to keep it organized?