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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 December 17, 2018

    Read this and stop feeling overwhelmed…for good!

    Read this and stop feeling overwhelmed…for good!

    We live in a time of productivity overload.

    Everywhere you turn are articles and books about how to be more productive, how to squeeze 27 hours of work out of every 24, how to double your work pace, how to do more and more all in the name of someday getting out of the rat race. Well this is about the side effects of those ideas. If we aren’t multitasking, we feel lazy. If we aren’t doing everything, we feel like we’re slacking. We compare ourselves to others who we think are doing more, having more, getting more and achieving more, and it’s driving us crazy. We feel overwhelmed when we think we have too much to do, too much is expected of us, or that a stressor is too much for us to handle. And we respond by lashing out with emotions of anger, irritability, anxiety, doubt and helplessness.

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    This season especially is the most stressful time of year. Between the holidays, final exams, family gatherings and general feelings of guilt that it’s the end of the year, it’s easy to get overwhelmed thinking of all the things you still need to get done. But if you use these tips, not only will you get the important stuff done, you’ll keep your sanity while doing it!

      Is this you?

      Change your thought pattern-stop thinking negatively

      When you feel overwhelmed, the first thing you do is start thinking negatively or begin to resent why it’s your responsibility in the first place! The first thing you have to do is to stop! Stop thinking negatively immediately. Instead, focus on the positive. If you’re stuck in traffic, think of how great it is to have some time to yourself. If you’re rushing trying to get things done by a deadline, think how lucky you are to have a purpose and to be working towards it. If you’re stressing about a final exam, think of how fortunate you are to be given the opportunity of higher education. After you’ve changed your thought patterns, you must then say to yourself “I can do this.” Keep saying it until you believe it and you’re more than halfway to ending feeling overwhelmed.

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      Take a deep breath/change your body posture

      When you’re stressed certain things happen to your body. You start to breath shallowly, you hunch over, you immediately tense up and all that tension drives your feelings of stress even more. Relax! Straighten your posture and take at least ten deep, cleansing, breaths. Force yourself to smile and do something to change your state. It could be as simple as giving yourself a hug or as silly as clapping your hands three times, throwing them up in the air and shouting “I GOT THIS!” Think to yourself, how would I sit/stand if I had perfect confidence and control of the situation?

      Focus on right now

      Now that you are in a better state of mind and are no longer thinking negatively, you need to focus on the here and now. Ask yourself this question: What is the most important thing I have control of and can act on right now? Keep asking yourself this until you have a concrete next step.

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      Take Action

      Now that you know what’s most important and what to do about it, do it! Start with the first step and focus on getting that done. Don’t worry about anything else right now, just on what your first step is and how to get it done. Once that’s done with, determine the next most important step and get that done.

      Let go of what you can’t control (the gambler’s theory)

      Seasoned gamblers understand the importance of due diligence and knowing when to let go. The Gambler’s Theory is that once your bet is placed there is nothing you can do, so you might as well relax and enjoy the process. The time to worry is when you’re figuring out the best odds and making the decision of what to bet when you can actually take action. I used this one a lot in college. After an exam, there is absolutely no point in stressing about it. There’s nothing you can do. And the same goes for feeling overwhelmed. If you can do something about your situation, do it, focus and take action. But if you’ve done what you could and now are just waiting, or if you’re worried about something you have no control over, realize that there’s no point. You might as well relax and enjoy the moment.

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        Relax and enjoy the moment

        Stop feeling guilty

        Finally, stop comparing yourself to others. If you are at your wits end trying to keep up with what you think you should be doing, you aren’t being fair to yourself. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t strive for improvement, just don’t go overboard because you feel like you have to. Only you know what’s really important to you, and your personal success journey so focus on what your top priorities are, not someone else’s.

        Everyone feels overwhelmed sometimes. The important thing is to realize it’s normal and that you can do something about it by taking focused and deliberate action. Happy Holidays!

        Featured photo credit: Stress Therapy via flickr.com

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