How To Organize Your Desk – 5 Essential Tips

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This is how to organize your desk quickly and easily in 5 simple steps.

Decluttering your desk may seem like an impossible task – especially if every inch is covered with paperwork and office supplies.

But desk organization can be easier than it seems if you break down the process into smaller, manageable tasks.

The process I use to clean off my desk involves the following 5 steps:

  1. Put aside time to do the work
  2. Get clear on your priorities
  3. Sort paperwork and clutter
  4. Process one pile at a time
  5. Create an organization system to avoid future clutter

You can either use this framework or modify it to work for you.

photo of white desk that is neat and tidy with window behind it

Why An Organized Desk Is Important

Having an organized desk is important because it helps you to focus, work more efficiently, save time, and reduce stress.

When you sit down at your desk are you surrounded by piles of paper? Do you need to clear some space to actually do any work? Are you constantly digging through stacks of paperwork to find the one thing that you need? Are you late paying bills because you forget about the due dates? Is the floor around your desk is piled high with files?

If this sounds like you – it’s a wonder that you get any work done at all!

Martha C. White at states it best:

A disorganized, sloppy workspace detracts from your ability to focus and get tasks completed efficiently.

Remember this – any time spent searching for something is wasted time.

You should always be able to find what you want when you need it.

The second Monday in January is National Clean Off Your Desk Day which falls right smack in the middle of Get Organized Month – so start the year off right with these 5 tips to declutter your desk.

1. Set Aside Time To Organize Your Desk

A cluttered desk will not organize itself.

To get the job done, you need to set aside time to work on organizing.

In her book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, Marie Kondo encourages you to organize in one fell swoop as opposed to a little at a time.

When it comes to your desk, I have to agree.

If you don’t organize it quickly, the additional paperwork that crosses your desk each day will negate your efforts.

Set a goal to get your desk organizing project done within a short period of time. Use the SMART Goals framework to keep yourself accountable.

2. Prioritize Desk Organizing Over Doing Work

When you set out to organize your desk, you might find that you get distracted by all the “work to do” that you find buried in the mess.

Many of these things may be time sensitive – bills that are due, deadlines you need to meet, etc.

It will be tempting to deal with some of this work during your organizing time – but once you get off track, it is hard to come back.

There are a few strategies that you can use to deal with any urgent items that you need to deal with.

First, you can schedule a block of time with yourself AFTER your organizing session to address any work tasks that came up while you organized your desk.

Or you can follow the 2 minute rule that David Allen outlines in his book Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity.

Using this rule, you can deal with something right away – while you are organizing – as long as the task will take only 2 minutes or less. If it takes longer, put it aside to do at a later time.

3. Sort Your Paperwork and Desk Clutter Into Piles

As you sort through each item on your desk, divide everything into piles that are grouped by task.

The first pile should be your high priority items – things you need to deal with right away.

These are the things that you might be tempted to work on during your desk organization session.

The remaining piles can be categorized as follows:

  • to read
  • to file
  • to scan
  • to shred
  • to put away in a different part of your home,
  • etc.

Be sure to toss anything that you don’t need or want.

4. Tackle One Pile At A Time

Once all your clutter is properly divided, the next step towards your goal of an organized desk is dealing with each pile.

Deal with your high priority items first, doing whatever needs to be done to clear that pile.

Don’t stop here!

At this point, the surface of your desk is probably clear of all the clutter.

Already, you should be feeling a sense of relief and greater control.

But you still have work to do.

Continue to schedule organizing time to deal with each of your other piles – one at a time.

For example, you can do all your filing at once, and then in your next desk organizing session you can do all your scanning.

An important tip: If something on your desk requires several steps to make it go away – it is actually a project.

Do NOT tackle your projects in your designated organizing time.

Instead, you can create a file folder for you project and set aside a time in the future to do that project. Don’t get sidetracked right now.

5. Use Desk Organizers to Stay Organized

The final step is to create a system to keep your desk organized going forward.

Evaluate the type of desk organizers that you will need for the stuff you have – and do NOT use storage organizers as an excuse to keep junk!

You should have a place for all of the types of paper, information, and office supplies that you deal with daily.

If you have a designated place for everything, you will be able to deal with your piles in a matter of minutes.

Here are some desk organizers and accessories that I use on a regular basis.

Use these desk organizers and accessories to keep your home office neat and functional.

More Home Office Organization Tips

An Organized Desk Is Within Your Reach

An organized desk doesn’t have to be a dream.

You can experience the feeling of relief and control that comes when everything is safely in it’s place.

To get started, all you need to do is set aside time to organize, stay focused on organizing during that time, sort your paperwork, deal with one pile at a time, and create a system to keep you organized going forward.

Happy organizing!

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  1. Great post Neena. I often tell my audience that a cluttered work area is a huge form of distraction. I like the tips you provided. Good job! 🙂

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