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10 Simple Steps to Conquering Your Messy Desk

10 Simple Steps to Conquering Your Messy Desk


    Does your desk look more like a crime scene than a workspace? Is your job one where you interact with people face-to-face on a daily basis? If you answered “yes” to both questions, now’s the perfect time to look into cleaning up your act.

    Whether you like to believe it or not, coworkers and clients often judge your professional potential by the amount of clutter that surrounds you. And the last thing you want is to be sending nonverbal cues that you’re disorganized and unfocused.

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    Even if you’re the only one who ever sees your workspace, it won’t hurt to give these tips a shot. You’d be surprised how quickly items on your daily to-do list get crossed off when your desk is clean and airy.

    Here are 10 simple tips to help you get your desk space in tip-top shape:

    1. Give yourself less room to be messy

    Consider downsizing your computer desk (especially if you primarily work on a laptop). It’s hard to have a cluttered desktop when there’s only room for a computer, a phone, and a pen or two.

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    2. Keep the essentials out in the open

    Pare the items on top of your desk down to the things you use several times a day. Your computer tower, monitor, one or two pens and pencils, a lamp, highlighter, family photo, and phone will usually do. Keep papers filed away unless they’re something you’re actively working on that day.

    3. Get rid of duplicates

    Once you have your desktop essentials set aside, get rid of the extra office supplies you’ve unwittingly been hoarding. No one needs 3 staplers, 2 staple removers, 12 steno pads, 100 pens, 14 thumb drives, or 8 boxes of paper clips. Trust your office manager to have more of something if you run out of it.

    4. Keep the secondary essentials in your closest drawer

    You can keep things like extra pens, whiteout, stationary, binder clips, and staples in your closest desk drawer. A compartmentalized storage tray can help keep things organized while out of sight.

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    5. Hide it in plain sight

    Attractive decorative storage trays, drawers, and cubes work double duty by keeping non-essentials out of the way and giving your desk some personality.

    6. Use your walls (sparingly)

    Instead of putting sticky notes anywhere you can or having a clogged cork board, use a whiteboard. This ensures your daily to-do list is never more than you can actually handle in a day, and keeps you from having to solve the mystery of the missing Post-It. Keep your floorspace clear by using hooks to hang things like bags and coats.

    7. Files are your friend

    If it’s a completed or upcoming project, file it away accordingly. If it’s ancient or obsolete, trash it. If it’s something you’re actively working on that day, it can stay in a file folder on top of your desk.

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    8. Lose the paper trail

    Make digital archives (scan, then save as a PDF) of old documents then toss them (or put them into storage if you’re really attached). Doing this will let you free up file space that can be used for in-progress projects.

    9. Keep a shredder next to your trashcan

    Have one multi-tiered storage tray for incoming and outgoing mail. Resist the temptation to start another pile somewhere else once it’s full. Open your incoming mail over the trashcan and immediately shred or recycle what you don’t need.

    10. Schedule daily maintenance

    Once you have everything under control, set an alarm on your phone and schedule 10 minutes at the end of each workday to keep it that way. This will help you get into the habit of being tidy. Plus, it’s much easier than waiting for things to pile up and having to start from scratch every time.

    (Photo credit: Businessman with Messy Desk Asking for Help via Shutterstock)

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    Last Updated on February 21, 2019

    How to Stop Information Overload

    How to Stop Information Overload

    Information overload is a creature that has been growing on the Internet’s back since its beginnings. The bigger the Internet gets, the more information there is. The more quality information we see, the more we want to consume it. The more we want to consume it, the more overloaded we feel.

    This has to stop somewhere. And it can.

    As the year comes to a close, there’s no time like the present to make the overloading stop.

    But before I explain exactly what I mean, let’s discuss information overload in general.

    How Serious Is Information Overload?

    The sole fact that there’s more and more information published online every single day is not the actual problem. Only the quality information becomes the problem.

    This sounds kind of strange…but bear with me.

    When we see some half-baked blog posts we don’t even consider reading, we just skip to the next thing. But when we see something truly interesting — maybe even epic — we want to consume it.

    We even feel like we have to consume it. And that’s the real problem.

    No matter what topic we’re interested in, there are always hundreds of quality blogs publishing entries every single day (or every other day). Not to mention all the forums, message boards, social news sites, and so on.

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    The amount of epic content on the Internet these days is so big that it’s virtually impossible for us to digest it all. But we try anyway.

    That’s when we feel overloaded. If you’re not careful, one day you’ll find yourself reading the 15th blog post in a row on some nice WordPress tweaking techniques because you feel that for some reason, “you need to know this.”

    Information overload is a plague. There’s no vaccine, there’s no cure. The only thing you have is self-control.

    Luckily, you’re not on your own. There are some tips you can follow to protect yourself from information overload and, ultimately, fight it.

    But first, admit that information overload is really bad for you.

    Why Information Overload Is Bad for You

    Information overload stops you from taking action. That’s the biggest problem here.

    When you try to consume more and more information every day, you start to notice that even though you’ve been reading tons of articles, watching tons of videos and listening to tons of podcasts, the stream of incoming information seems to be infinite.

    Therefore, you convince yourself that you need to be on a constant lookout for new information if you want to be able to accomplish anything in your life, work and/or passion. The final result is that you are consuming way too much information, and taking way too little action because you don’t have enough time for it.

    The belief that you need to be on this constant lookout for information is just not true.

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    You don’t need every piece of advice possible to live your life, do your work or enjoy your passion.

    How to Stop Information Overload (And Start to Achieve More)

    So how to recognize the portion of information that you really need? Start with setting goals.

    1. Set Your Goals

    If you don’t have your goals put in place, you’ll be just running around grabbing every possible advice and thinking that it’s “just what you’ve been looking for.”

    Setting goals is a much more profound task than just a way to get rid of information overload. Now by “goals” I don’t mean things like “get rich, have kids, and live a good life”. I mean something much more within your immediate grasp. Something that can be achieved in the near future — like within a month (or a year) at most.

    Basically, something that you want to attract to your life, and you already have some plan on how you’re going to make it happen. So no hopes and dreams, just actionable, precise goals.

    Then once you have your goals, they become a set of strategies and tactics you need to act upon.

    2. Know What to Skip When Facing New Information

    Once you have your goals, plans, strategies and tasks, you can use them to decide what information is really crucial.

    First of all, if the information you’re about to read has nothing to do with your current goals and plans, then skip it. You don’t need it.

    If it does, then ask yourself these questions:

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    • Will you be able to put this information into action immediately?
    • Does it have the potential to maybe alter your nearest actions/tasks?
    • Is it so incredible that you absolutely need to take action on it right away?

    If the information is not actionable in a day or two, then skip it.

    (You’ll forget about it anyway.)

    And that’s basically it. Digest only what can be used immediately. If you have a task that you need to do, consume only the information necessary for getting this one task done, nothing more.

    You need to be focused in order to have clear judgment, and be able to decide whether some piece of information is mandatory or redundant.

    Self-control comes handy too. It’s quite easy to convince yourself that you really need something just because of poor self-control. Try to fight this temptation, and be as ruthless about it as possible – if the information is not matching your goals and plans, and you can’t take action on it in the near future, then SKIP IT.

    3. Be Aware of the Minimal Effective Dose

    There’s a thing called the MED – Minimal Effective Dose. I was first introduced to this idea by Tim Ferriss. In his book The 4-Hour BodyTim illustrates the minimal effective dose by talking about medical drugs.

    Everybody knows that every pill has a MED, and after that specific dose, no other positive effects occur, only some negative side effects if you overdose big.

    Consuming information is somewhat similar. You need just a precise amount of it to help you to achieve your goals and put your plans into life.

    Everything more than that amount won’t improve your results any further. And if you try to consume too much of it, it will eventually stop you from taking any action altogether.

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    4. Don’t Procrastinate by Consuming More Information

    Probably one of the most common causes of consuming ridiculous amounts of information is the need to procrastinate. By reading yet another article, we often feel that we are indeed working, and that we’re doing something good – we’re learning, which in result will make us a more complete and educated person.

    This is just self-deception. The truth is we’re simply procrastinating. We don’t feel like doing what really needs to be done – the important stuff – so instead we find something else, and convince ourselves that “that thing” is equally important. Which is just not true.

    Don’t consume information just for the sake of it. It gets you nowhere.

    The focus of this article is not on how to stop procrastinating, but if you’re having such issue, I recommend you read this:

    Procrastination – A Step-By-Step Guide to Stop Procrastinating

    Summing It Up

    As you can see, information overload can be a real problem and it can have a sever impact on your productivity and overall performance.

    I know I have had my share of problems with it (and probably still have from time to time). But creating this simple set of rules helps me to fight it, and to keep my lizard brain from taking over.

    I hope it helps you too, especially as we head into a new year with a new chance at setting ourselves up for success.

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    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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