Many people assume that taking time to organize your workspace is a waste of time, since everything will eventually turn into a mess again. This is why they decide to do it smaller chunks, like dusting a few shelves, rearranging trash cans, or organizing a few papers. However, this is ineffective.
Environments in which we work have a profound effect on how productive we can be. For example, dim lighting creates a sleepy mood, and artificial lighting can cause headaches, whereas natural light can improve our mood and motivate us to accomplish more.
Yes, there are exceptions, like Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, who thrives in disorder and chaos, but most people get distracted by mayhem. A clean, tidy office is what most people need to get more work done without getting distracted, tired and stressed.
Organizing your workspace doesn’t have to take days. It’s just a matter of a couple hours, which in the end, will make up for themselves tenfold.
Start with “The Purge”
No workspace organizing can take place without “The Purge”. For those who don’t know, purging refers to getting rid of all clutter, paper, dust and whatever else there might be in the office. Take a look around. What haven’t you used in quite a while? Take all of those things and move them out.
This refers to everything including furniture, tech, gadgets, equipment, supplies and what not. Last come plants and decorations. If all those are covered in dust (which means that you aren’t, or don’t have the time to look after them), out they go.
Create more space for yourself and breathe easy. There is a reason why Japanese people are so minimalistic about keeping stuff at their homes.
Organize and redistribute
Pretty straightforward. Gather everything that’s not in its place and put it back. This goes for the small things like gadgets and personal belongings as well. Make a habit of putting everything back to where you took if from. It will be much easier to find an item next time you need it.
Create your work zones
In almost any office today, there is work that needs to be done via computers, and work that doesn’t involve computers. Take the time to decide which areas of the office are most suited for each.
Zone 1: Desktop
This is the place where you spent most of your time, tackling tasks in front of a computer. Rearrange your desktop closer to the windows if possible. Light and fresh air are always needed to keep you going. Keep your desktop clean. Try to remove all distractions from your desk (smartphone, wallet, pictures, etc.) and place them into a drawer nearby.
You will still be able to answer phone calls if needed, but at least your eyes won’t be catching distractions all the time. Plus, you get more breathing room and free space. Don’t forget to place your smartphone away into the drawer after you make/answer a phone call.
Finally, make a neat place nearby (a good idea is a second drawer, above the one with your personal stuff) where you keep items that you use frequently. These include pen, paper, sticky notes, and other things depending on what you do in the office.
Zone 2: Other stuff
Everything related with non-computer work should be done here. This includes paperwork, brainstorming with the team, relaxing, making important sales calls, etc. Again, free space and tidiness are your best friends. You could also have a table, or a large sofa depending on the space available, but try to keep it simple.
Organize your computer desktop
In a paperless world, the computer desktop has replaced the messy filing cabinet. However, for a lot of us, we’ve just taken our bad habits over into the digital world. Take the time to your computer desktop it by creating folders and placing item where they belong. Delete duplicates. Create easy to understand folder names to be able to find everything fast. A couple of examples you could use:
The meetings folder – this will contain all the files for upcoming meetings, reports, brainstorming sessions, etc. This way, you will be better prepared for all those events.
Temp folder – temporary folders usually contain files that needs to be dealt with, but there is some kind of a problem or a delay. Check it every few days and don’t forget to move stuff that gets done in the future.
Completed projects folder – This is for storing all completed projects. If you ever need to refer to some past data, you will know where to find it. It’s also a good idea to have a few back-ups using a cloud system for important docs.
Per project folders – finally, it’s a good idea to organize your data according to every project you are working on. Have a separate folder for each project and poor all the relating docs into those. Don’t forget to create subfolders if the information varies greatly (e.g. strategic docs, marketing stuff, sales reports, etc.)
If you’re looking for a more definitive guide on different ways to set up your desktop for maximum efficiency, I would recommend checking out this article on Lifehacker: How to Design and Create a Clean, Organized Desktop
As creatures of habit, we love to “get organized” and “Spring clean” but we’re not very good at keeping up with . That’s why we have to go back and reorganize ourselves every quarter, and Spring clean every single year. In his best-selling book, The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg puts it nicely:
“Habits are powerful, but delicate. They can emerge outside our consciousness, or can be deliberately designed. They often occur without our permission, but can be reshaped by fiddling with their parts. They shape our lives far more than we realize—they are so strong, in fact, that they cause our brains to cling to them at the exclusion of all else, including common sense.”
There is some hope for us yet. If you can’t build the habit of getting organized and then staying organized there’s no point in trying. If you feel you want to build new good habits but are not sure how, definitely read The Power of Habit.
A final note
Keep in mind that it’s also important to personalize your workspace. If you have any special preferences, make sure to include those into the organizing process, as long as they don’t contradict with keeping everything distraction-free, neat and tidy. Whatever you decide, don’t wait too long: start to organize your workspace as soon as possible!
How do you organize your workspace ? Share your ideas in the comments!