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How To Organize Your Desk – 5 Essential Tips

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Learn how to organize your desk quickly and easily with these 5 simple steps.

how to organize your desk

Does An Organized Desk Seem Out of Reach?

You are surrounded by piles of paper.

When you sit down to work, you need to clear some space.

When you need something you need to dig through stacks of paperwork. And you can barely keep up with paying your bills.

The floor around your desk is piled high with files.

Does this sound like you?

It's a wonder that you get any work done at all.

Martha C. White at Time.com states it best:

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

Any time spent searching for something is wasted time.

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

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

As a professional organizer, I am not immune to the perils of disorganization – and I've certainly been there.

So I know and truly appreciate the feeling of relief and control that I get when everything is safely in it's place.

Because today is National Clean Off Your Desk Day (no I'm not making this up) here are some strategies that you can use to clear the clutter.

Did You Know?

Paper clutter is a clue that you are not managing your time well. Master these time management skills to master your life.

Easy Desk Organization Tips

Get started on your goal of cleaning off that desk with these ideas:

1. Set Aside Time To Organize Your Desk

Having good intentions is great – but it will never happen if you don't allow yourself time to do it.

If you can't do it yourself, book a few sessions with a professional organizer to help you.

Remember, you don't have to do it all in one sitting.

Pace yourself. An hour a day for a week will still get the job done.

2. Prioritize Your Workflow

When it comes to organizing your desk, priority is very important.

Many things on your desk may be time sensitive – bills are due, appointments that you can't miss, etc.

So, while it may be tempting to tackle the tallest pile of paperwork first, you need to be strategic about how you go at it.

In fact, dealing with the biggest file can actually be a form of procrastination. You may be intentionally or subconsciously putting off things that you know need to get done.

So, if you don't prioritize, the process of organizing your desk can have the opposite effect and make you feel disorganized instead.

Related Article: 5 Tips for Organizing Craft Supplies

3. Sort Your Desk Clutter Into Piles

Keeping priority in mind, divide your desk clutter into piles.

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

The remaining piles can be grouped by task:

  • to read
  • to file
  • to scan
  • to shred, etc.

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.

Next, 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.

Related Article: Get Organized Month – Decluttering Tips and Organizing Ideas

5. Get Some Desk Organizers If Needed

A place for everything and everything in its place.

That old saying still holds true.

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

Sometimes, time is short, life happens, and the clutter creeps in.

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

There are many cute desk organizers, trays, inboxes, etc. to choose from. (Like this linen set at The Container Store)

But make sure the one you pick is functional.

Before you go shopping, take stock of the items you need to store, and buy one that fits your need.

Related Article: What Is the Definition of Organization?

A Bonus Desk Organizing Tip

Set Up Multiple Inboxes

The “catch-all” inbox seems like a great way to clear clutter in a hurry.

Sure, your desk will look clean and tidy.

But seriously, you've just transferred your mess from your desk into a box.

You're still not organized.

Creating a few (as in 2 or 3) inboxes is a better idea. (This stackable set of inboxes on Amazon is an example of what I am talking about.)

The strategy is to put different types of information in each box.

These are the three that I like to use:

  1. Bills and time-sensitive information – this is the inbox for urgent matters, things that you must deal with right away.
  2. Reading – this is the inbox for articles, magazines, newsletters, and other papers that you want to read.
  3. Everything Else – this is the inbox for documents you need to file, scan, shred, pass onto others, etc.

As information crosses your desk, you can quickly place it one of these 3 boxes.

Then allow yourself time each day/week to deal with each inbox.

Your bills will be separated so you can pay them on time.

Your filing will happen because you have a pile that is ready to process.

And you have reading materials at the ready that you can grab for the train ride home, or to read on your lunch hour.

Digital Organization Tips You May Find Useful

Clean off your computer desktop with this helpful article.

Find tips for organizing your digital clutter here.

What is Your Biggest Challenge?

What is the biggest desk organization challenge? What are some of your strategies for dealing with the clutter?

Tell us in the comments below.

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Theresa Lovelace

Wednesday 14th of March 2018

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! :)

Neena Nandagopal

Thursday 15th of March 2018

Thanks, Theresa! You are right, clutter is the worst form of distraction - I can't focus on anything when there is too much stuff piled up.