How to Organize Your Desk for Maximum Efficiency

By Robert Half December 28, 2018 at 9:00am

Your office desk is often a reflection of your personality and habits. Some workspaces are sparse and orderly. Others are colorful and highly personalized. Then there are those cubicles that are so cluttered, you wonder how any work can get done there. Organize your desk? Bring in a forklift!

Regardless of your preferences or inclinations, your workstation should be set up for the best time management, productivity and, yes, comfort. After all, whether you work in a cubicle or a private office, you may spend more time at your desk than you do in your own bed.

If you’re frequently overwhelmed by disorderly files, stacks of paperwork and general disarray, what better time than now is there to do something about it.

Here are eight suggestions for how to organize your desk:

1. Triage your stuff

Your physical desktop is prime real estate, and you probably don’t need half the stuff that’s taking up valuable space. Here’s a method for culling your things: On Monday morning, remove nonessential items from your desktop and put them on the floor. As you get busy working, put back on your desk only what you need for completing each task. At the end of the week, find a new home for anything still on the floor — a drawer, supply closet or even the recycling bin.

2. Go with your workflow

Many people have a left-to-right tendency. This means incoming items — telephone, inbox, computer, other devices — on the left, a clear workspace in the middle, and outgoing items such as staplers and completed paperwork on the right. The best way to organize your desk depends on how you operate. Experiment with various arrangements until you find one that feels natural and streamlined for you.

Looking to start anew with a fresh workspace at a different company? See what positions we place at Robert Half.

3. Save the space

When you need to sign or spread out paperwork but don’t have empty space, your stress level can increase. Designate a section of your desk as a no-parking zone, and get into the habit of not letting things sit there while you aren’t working on them. This clean-up tip may require you to think vertically, such as getting a wall shelf and using it to house non-essential files and other items.

4. Reduce visual clutter

Even if the desktop itself is orderly, you may not be as efficient as you want to be if there are too many things competing for your attention. For example, some workers love sticky notes, putting them on their desks and around their computer monitors. One or two are fine. But when you have too many, they become a distraction and make it hard to concentrate on what’s truly important.

5. Add a personal touch

Though clean, your workspace need not be sterile. Marie Kondo, author of “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” is a fan of items that give people joy. Put a few meaningful objects — photos, cartoons, inspirational quotes or a favorite action figurine — on your wall, bulletin board or desktop. But keep them to a minimum, or else your desk will look too messy and possibly unprofessional.

6. Go digital

Paper is still the biggest culprit of cluttered workspaces. If you haven’t done so already, migrate your calendar, to-do list and memo pad to your computer — and sync them with your smartphone for greater accessibility and utility. The beauty of digital productivity tools is that they come with notification options, so you can set up alerts for meetings, appointments and tasks.

7. Check under your desk

Don’t underestimate the importance of leg room. All those cords and cables under your desk don’t just contribute to the mayhem — they’re also a safety hazard. Use Velcro wraps and cord tamers to prevent tangles and give your feet more wiggle room. And if you’re using the floor to store stacks of files, move them to a filing cabinet or, better yet, digitize them and shred the papers.

8. Wipe it down

Keep a few supplies handy and get into the habit of giving your desk, keyboard, monitor and phone regular cleanings. Sitting down to a fresh-smelling, dust-free work area improves your mood and boosts your productivity.

Why know how to organize your desk?

An organized workspace is not a magical time saver, but it helps you get more done, because you know where everything is, aren’t overwhelmed by visual distraction and can focus on the task at hand. Plus, an organized desk helps create positive mental energy that can spread to your enthusiasm for your daily duties.

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