The Effect of Your Environment

Dazed and Confused

Are your efforts to work at peak effectiveness at school or on the job being derailed by the clutter in your workspace? Try these quick and easy tips to organize your desk.

In their Scholastic article A Space That Makes You Want to Study, Toby Leah Bochan and Shama Narang note that where you work should take into account whether you’re “a lone studier” or “you thrive in a busier atmosphere.”  Either way, they say, your work surface should be ergonomically correct – “about waist-height” with “a combination of overhead light and a reading or desk lamp” and room to “position the monitor about 18-30″ away from you.” Their recommendations, directed at younger students but appropriate for anyone who wants an effective workspace, include keeping supplies “all in one spot so you’re not always hunting for things you need.”

“If organizing the entire desk is too large of a goal,” says Renee Belisle, “break it down to be more manageable for you.” In her Business Credit magazine article 8 Tips to Make Work More Productive, she explains, “For instance, limit yourself to only clearing off the papers from the top of the desk today, empty the top right drawer tomorrow, organize the second drawer the next day, etc. It doesn’t have to be an all or nothing endeavor.

“Limit the items on your desk top to 8-9 things at the most,” Belisle continues, noting, “Many offices and desks are filled with things that are not ever used. Meanwhile, time and energy are wasted looking for important things needed to effectively do your job. Depending on how much you have and how much space you have, follow these guidelines:

  • Identify what you use on a daily basis and put those items within easy reach.
  • Items used every other day can be placed in nearby drawers.
  • Items used on a weekly, bi-weekly or monthly basis may be best stored in a supply closet or some other type of longterm storage option.

The National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) agrees with this approach. In Office Organization, they note that – to “Tame Your Desk” – you should do the following:

  • Create a paper flow system for your incoming documents.
  • Avoid looking at documents and placing them back on the desk. Follow through with the decision you have made about the document.

NAPO’s suggestions to “Conquer Your Filing” include these steps:

  • Create a filing system for your electronic documents that mirrors the one you have for paper. Sort, file, and purge electronic information regularly.
  • Keep a file index (a master list of file names). Check the index before creating a new file to avoid making duplicates. Also use it when deciding where to put new documents.
  • Keep the most recent papers in the front of the file. Whenever you open it, the current information will be on top.
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