The secret to maintaining a tidy desk all day, effortlessly (part 1)

Sheila Chandra - Thursday, April 27, 2017

Despite the fact that I work from home everyday, my desk looks like one of the miraculously clean and clear ones in all those glossy brochures for furniture. Okay, my last one looked a bit more beaten up than that, because it was very old and I left an essential oil burner alight and unattended on it once, and it bore the scars… But basically I have a tidy desk. It’s clear of all paper, with my laptop, mouse, lamp and a phone and in tray on it and nothing else. It’s very easy to clean!


Please don’t hate me for my tidy desk….

Now before you strangle me, I want to give you the secret to maintaining a tidy desk all day, every day. It’s much easier than you think, and it really does help you to focus properly.


To have a tidy desk you need some decent filing and archive space

You have to have a good amount of filing and archive space available to you. It’s no good trying to maintain a tidy desk if things live on there purely because there’s nowhere for them to go when you’ve finished with them, so I’m going to assume you’ve got this.


To have a tidy desk you must have a reminder system for long term projects

Secondly, you must have a system for remembering all the administration tasks you need to complete, in place. And it must be one which doesn’t rely of visual reminders alone. So it’s fine to have an in-tray of visual reminders, because in-trays are for one off pieces of work. But long term project files shouldn’t live on your desk functioning as reminders, because they’re taking up space which you need to work and to think. So either get yourself a day book in which you can list them and consult this regularly or, for an even more in depth solution, consult the first chapter on home offices, in my book Banish Clutter Forever, which will give you a comprehensive system for even the most difficult and diverse of schedules.


To have a tidy desk, remove things that don’t belong on it

Assuming that none of the things currently cluttering your soon to be tidy desk fall into these two categories, the rest will be made up either of things that don’t belong there at all, or of office equipment. Remove the stuff that doesn’t belong there, and show your working life the respect it deserves. Your work is important, and you need to be able to focus without distraction.


If you want a tidy desk keep most things out of sight

Then start relocating the office equipment out of sight by putting the things you use most frequently as close to you as possible, and putting the things you use less frequently further away. Also, try to group things used for a particular task altogether. So if you mail out brochures frequently, then put them together with the correct stamps and the right size of envelope altogether in a drawer close to you, rather than separately, and with all the stationery across the room from your desk. ‘Demote’ the stuff cluttering up the desk drawers closest to you, which you hardly ever use, to somewhere further away. A good tip here is to clear out the lower drawers first, to clear some space which will come in hand as you work your way up to ‘prime space’ near the top.

Next time, having given you the basic preparation, I’ll give you the golden rule which will enable you to maintain a blissfully clear and calm working space all day.

If you have a complicated set of projects to manage and let them live on your desk, try reading the home office chapters in Banish Clutter Forever for a system that will keep you on top of everything…

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