Growing up, I had the messiest desk in my classroom. If you’re old enough, you may remember those clunky wooden desks with the hollow middle that you can stuff things into. Well, mine was so bad that at one point a teacher dumped the contents of my desk out in front of the entire class and then made me reorganize it. So embarrassing! As an adult, I find that working with a messy desk stunts my productivity. It became clear that I had to create some new habits so that I could actually find things and not be overwhelmed by clutter. Research shows that it takes 21 days to form a new habit, so, I vowed to spend 3 weeks following these habits, and sure enough, my office became a cleaner, more organized space!
Manage Paper Clutter
Papers lead to clutter, and that leads to a messy, unproductive space. I keep all my rogue papers in a file on top of my desk, and I go through it each day. That way, if I have to get rid of something or move it to a more permanent location, I can do that, or I can shred it. By the way, I love shredding to get rid of papers—so cathartic!
Parallel & Perpendicular
I line everything up parallel and perpendicular on my desk before I leave each day. This type of organizing is very pleasing to the eye and tends to feel much less cluttered. That way, when I come in to work each morning, I start with an organized desk—everything looks tidy and ready for a new day.
Hide Wires & Chargers
Whether it’s going cordless on your keyboard and mouse, or simply hiding existing wires in your space, a cord-free environment will make a huge difference in how clean and neat your space feels. There are a number of clever products on the market to help wrangle and hide wires, and of course, using something like a docking station for your cell phone will also naturally hide these eyesores.
Coffee Cups & Drinking Bottles
These things have a habit of sticking around once they’re done. It’s very common to find a handful of Starbucks cups or dirty ceramic mugs on desks in most offices I’ve worked in. Be vigilant about disposing of these or bringing them back to the breakroom and washing them for future use.
Everything in your office has a home, and if it doesn’t, you should either find one for it (preferably out of sight), or you need to part ways with it. Before you leave every night make a clean sweep of your desktop and return everything to its designated spot, that way a clean workspace will await you in the morning.
This is one of the habits which I follow religiously each week; I keep a general purpose microfiber cloth (I actually use a Maker’s mini now as it takes up less space) in my desk along with a small spray bottle of all-purpose cleaner. This preparedness allows me to quickly spot clean all of the surfaces in my workspace—desk, mouse, lamp etc.—as well as all of the screens which inevitably end up with dust and fingerprints on them.
Finally, while this is not necessarily cleaning related, it is organization related—I always have a to-do list running for all of the things I need to accomplish that day, including any one-off cleaning jobs. This sounds really obvious but it keeps me on track: what gets scheduled gets done!
These all sound like such simple things, but actually following them day in and day out is often a challenge. So, give it the 21-day treatment and I assure you, you’re in for a much cleaner and organized, not to mention productive, office space.