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How neat is your desk? Five strategies to help you get organized

Jan. 25, 2017

Our desks are the mission control of our workdays. And if you’re anything like me, when my desk is orderly, I feel a bit more grounded than on the days when it looks like a 2-year-old climbed up and gleefully played 52-card pick-up on top of it with a stack of files.

calendar bundle

Enter to win this IU-themed 2017 calendar bundle, complete with a full-size wall calendar, planner and pocket calendar. | PHOTO COURTESY OF BAILEY BRISCOE, IU COMMUNICATIONS

If one of your New Year’s goals is to organize your workspace, here are five tips to help get you started:

1.  Sort. To start, move files, books, binders and paper piles into zones based on importance and where things happen in your office/ work area. Your central workspace/ desk is where you want the items you reach for most frequently. Your reference area, with various guides and books, can be a bit farther away from your workspace; and your storage zones can be wherever you have access to cupboards, drawers or a closet.

Enter to win
IU faculty and staff using a valid IU email address can enter to win an IU branded-calendar gift bundle featuring a full-size wall calendar, a planner and a two-year pocket calendar, a $30 total value. The contest opens Jan. 25 and closes at 4 p.m. Monday, Jan. 30, 2017.

2.  Purge. Once you have all of your office clutter separated into “desk,” “reference” and “storage” zones, it’s easier to see what can be thrown out. I hope you fully embrace the complete and utter satisfaction of tossing, recycling or shredding the no-longer-important documents, trade publications and miscellaneous papers. There’s nothing like getting rid of excess stuff! If you find you have an overabundance of tchotchkes and mementos in your office/ work area -- merely taking up space rather than adding to it in any way -- consider packing them away or getting rid of some of those as well.

3.  Archive. For files, magazines and catalogs earmarked for storage, archive them in labeled boxes and move them out of your immediate workspace -- to a closet or storage cupboard if possible.

4.  Create action folders. For the desk zone, consider revisiting your filing system to see if it can use some shoring up. Adding the following action folders to keep at your fingertips can help:

  • A “now”/ “hot” folder for projects needing immediate attention
  • A “to be discussed” folder for documents/ notes needed for upcoming meetings
  • An “awaiting response” folder for keeping track of initiatives on hold for final decisions
  • A “to be filed” folder for documents that need to be put in their proper file, helping to keep paper piles at bay. Pick a day, and make a resolution to file on a weekly basis
  • A “working” folder for projects in progress

. Straighten up. Before heading home for the evening, try making it a point to clear your desk. I find that coming in to a neat desk in the morning helps get my day off to a better start.

When your desk/ workspace is under control, you can more clearly see the proverbial forest for the trees -- highlighting the most important to-do’s to tackle first. A neat desk also signals to your boss, clients and fellow co-workers that you’re conscientious about organization and efficiency -- which, for many, only adds to the impression that you’re doing a great job.

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