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The 17 Most Important Steps to Organize Your Office (Finally!)


Considering how much time most workers spend in their office (a survey by NEC-Mitsubishi, a maker of computer monitors, found that 67 percent of office workers feel more tied to their desks than they did two years ago), we should all be whizzes at organizing our offices.

messy office

A messy office will mess with your mind, leaving you less productive and more frazzled.

In reality, most of us could use a little help, and who could blame us, considering that after spending a long day in the office the last thing you want to do is spend more time organizing.

Yet chances are high that within the last week or certainly month you've said (or at least thought to yourself) "I've got to get this office organized!"

You likely also said it through gritted teeth, with a red face, and feeling frustrated as you frantically searched for that important memo, only to find it lost amid piles of papers, business cards and post-it notes. Life does not have to be this hard.

You can have an organized, clutter-free and irresistibly simple office by the following the tips below. Keep in mind as you read through them that organizing your office is not something you should do for 10 hours straight, once a year. It's a process that you must adopt over time. And by conquering a little at a time, perhaps as little as a few minutes everyday, your office will become your sanctuary.

The 17 Top Tips for an Organized Office

Once Your Office is Organized ... Make Sure It's Also CLEAN

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  1. Take a few minutes each day to go through papers. Throw away those you don't need and file those you do.

  2. Invest in color-coded file folders and bins to organize important papers.

  3. Put only the bare necessities on your desktop. Keep everything else out of sight in drawers or cabinets.

  4. Personalize your desk with (a few) personal items such as a desk lamp, tasteful personal photos or a plant. Devote one desk drawer to your personal items like snacks, breath mints, a hairbrush and photos.

  5. Every week remove at least one item from your office that you haven't used recently.

  6. If you come across a pen that doesn't work, get rid of it immediately.

  7. Revamp your file drawers. Those in your desk should contain only files you use regularly, or which are confidential. Others should be stored in a separate filing cabinet.

  1. Remove anything from your office that you don't like or that brings up negative emotions (such as souvenirs from a trip with your ex). Also don't feel compelled to keep or display things because they were a gift (or a free conference giveaway).

  2. Pare down your office supplies. No one needs 50 "back-up" pens and three staplers. Reduce your office contents to just what you need and you'll have space to breathe.

messy office

Your office should have personal touches that make you feel at home ... but resist the urge to display too many distracting knick-knacks or mementos.

  1. Clear your workspace of everything but the project you're working on. Keeping multiple projects active at once will actually slow you down and increase the chances that you'll make mistakes.

  2. If your file folders are growing too large, use interior file folders to divide the file into smaller, more manageable pieces.

  3. At the end of the day, make a to-do list for the next day and set it out on your desk so it's ready when you come in. Not only will this help you be more efficient, it will help declutter your mind so when you leave the office you can focus on things other than works.

  4. Use organizational boxes, trays, file folders and others to your advantage. Everything you use regularly should have a designated home in your office so that you can easily find it when you need it.

  5. Avoid thinking of the surface of your desk as one giant in-box. Instead, put papers, books, and everything else away so that your desktop is clear of clutter.

  6. Keep the things you use most often closest to you. You should be able to reach everything you use frequently without getting up. Things you use daily, but perhaps not hourly, should be a short reach away. Once-a-week or once-a-month items can be kept in a cabinet or closet across the room, while things you use once a year can be moved somewhere else entirely.

  7. If you have a drawer full of ketchup, soy sauce, salt, pepper and plastic utensils, reduce the quantity by at least 90 percent.

  8. Purge your file folders (both paper and e-mail) twice a year so they don't grow out of control.

Recommended Reading

The Surprising Health & Psychological Benefits of a Clean, Uncluttered Desk

What are the Top Injuries in a Typical Office (and How Can You Avoid Them)?


BBC News March 24, 2004

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