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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 October 22, 2019

    How to Focus and Concentrate Better to Boost Productivity

    How to Focus and Concentrate Better to Boost Productivity

    We live in a world of massive distraction. No matter where you are today, there is always going to be distractions. Your colleagues talking about their latest date, notification messages popping up on your screens, and not just your mobile phone screens. And even if you try to find a quiet place, there will always be someone with a mobile device that is beeping and chirping.

    With all these distractions, it is incredibly difficult to concentrate on anything for very long. Something will distract you and that means you will find it very difficult to focus on anything.

    So how to focus and concentrate better? How to focus better and produce work that lifts us and takes us closer towards achieving our outcomes?

    1. Get Used to Turning off Your Devices

    Yes, I know this one is hard for most people. We believe our devices are so vital to our lives that the thought of turning them off makes us feel insecure. The reality is they are not so vital and the world is not going to end within the next thirty minutes.

    So turn them off. Your battery will thank you for it. More importantly though is when you are free from your mobile distraction addiction, you will begin to concentrate more on what needs to get done.

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    You do not need to do this for very long. You could set a thirty-minute time frame for being completely mobile free. Let’s say you have an important piece of work to complete by lunchtime today. Turn off your mobile device between 10 am and 11 am and see what happens.

    If you have never done this before, you will feel very uncomfortable at first. Your brain will be fighting you. It will be telling you all sorts of horror stories such as a meteorite is about to hit earth, or your boss is very angry and is trying to contact you. None of these things is true, but your brain is going to fight you. Prepare yourself for the fight.

    Over time, as you do this more frequently, you will soon begin to find your brain fights you less and less. When you do turn on your device after your period of focused work and discover that the world did not end, you have not lost an important customer and all you have are a few email newsletters, a confirmation of an online order you made earlier and a text message from your mum asking you to call about dinner this weekend, you will start to feel more comfortable turning things off.

    2. Create a Playlist in Your Favourite Music Streaming App

    Many of us listen to music using some form of music streaming service, and it is very easy to create our own playlists of songs. This means we can create playlists for specific purposes.

    Many years ago, when I was just starting to drive, there was a trend selling driving compilation tapes and CDs. The songs on these tapes and CDs were uplifting driving music songs. Songs such as C W McCall’s Convoy theme and the Allman Brothers Band’s, Jessica. They were great songs to drive to and helped to keep us awake and focused while we were driving.

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    Today, we can create playlists to help us to focus on our work. Choose non-vocal music that has a low tempo. Music from artists such as Ben Böhmer, Ilan Bluestone or Andrew Bayer has the perfect tempo.

    Whenever you want to go into deep, focused work, listen to that playlist. What happens is your brain soon associates when you listen to the playlist you created with focused work and it’s time to concentrate on what it is you want to do.

    3. Have a Place to Go to When You Need to Concentrate

    If you eat, surf online and read at your desk, you will find your desk a very distracting place to do your work. One way to get your brain to understand it is focused work time is, to use the same place each time for just focused work.

    This could be a quiet place in your office, or it could be a special coffee shop you use specifically for focused work. Again, what you are doing is associating an environment with focus.

    Just as with having a playlist to listen to when you want to concentrate, having a physical place that accomplishes the same thing will also put you in the right frame of mind to be more focused.

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    When you do find the right place to do your focused work, then only do focused work there. Never surf, never do any online shopping. Just do your work and then leave. You want to be training your brain to associate focused work with that environment and nothing else.

    If you need to make a phone call, respond to an email or message, then go outside and do it. From now on, this place is your special working place and that is all you use it for.

    Every morning, I do fifteens minutes of meditation. Each time, I sit down to do my meditation, I use the same music playlist and the same place. As soon as I put my earphones in and sit down in this place, my mind immediately knows it is meditation time and I become relaxed and focused almost immediately. I have trained my brain over a few months to associate a sound and a place with relaxed, thoughtful meditation. It works.

    4. Get up and Move

    We humans have a limited attention span. How long you can stay focused for depends on your own personal makeup. It can range from between twenty minutes to around two hours. With practice, you can stay focused for longer, but it takes time and it takes a lot of practice.

    When you do find yourself being unable to concentrate any longer, get up from where you are and move. Go for a walk, move around and get some air. Do something completely different from what you were doing when you were concentrating.

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    If you were writing a report in front of a screen, get away from your screens and look out the window and appreciate the view. Take a walk in the local park, or just walk around your office. You need to give your brain completely different stimuli.

    Your brain is like a muscle. There is only so much it can do before it fatigues. If you are doing some focused work in Photoshop and then switch to surfing the internet, you are not giving your brain any rest. You are still using many of the same parts of your brain.

    It’s like doing fifty pushups and then immediately trying to do bench presses. Although you are doing a different exercise, you are still exercising your chest. What you need to be doing to build up superior levels of concentrated focus is, in a sense, do fifty pushups and then a session of squats. Now you are exercising your chest and then your legs. Two completely different exercises.

    Do the same with your brain. Do focused visual work and then do some form of movement with a different type of work. Focused visual work followed by a discussion with a colleague about another unrelated piece of work, for example.

    The Bottom Line

    It is not difficult to train your brain to become better at concentrating and focusing, but you do need to exercise deliberate practice. You need to develop the intention to focus and be very strict with yourself.

    Set time aside in your calendar and make sure you tell your colleagues that you will be ‘off the grid’ for a couple of hours. With practice and a little time, you will soon find yourself being able to resist temptations and focus better.

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    Featured photo credit: Wenni Zhou via unsplash.com

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