How to Organize Your Desk for Success

According to a recent survey, the average person spends 5 minutes a day looking for a lost or misplaced item.1 That’s not much time, but what if you lose track of several items in one day? Be it on the job or at home, a cluttered, messy desk can easily add unnecessary stress to your life.


Not only is a messy desk setting you up for a less-than-ideal day at work, but it can also negatively affect your productivity over time. If you have just a few minutes to spare now, follow these eight steps to set up your desk up for success.


Step 1: Throw Away Waste

Start by removing all of the old takeout menus, plastic utensils, dried-up pens, markers and so forth from your drawers, desk surface and cabinets. Keep a garbage close to you while you sort through your desk and underneath your desk from now on. Throwing trash across the room might help you practice your free-throw but it won’t help contribute to a cleaner and more productive workspace.


Step 2: Sort and Put Away Office Supplies

Your paper clips, stapler, notebooks and scissors probably don’t need to be on display at all times. If possible, stow office accoutrements in a drawer if you don’t use them every day or use an organizer for most-used items. Aim for as much free space on your desk as possible.


Step 3: Digitize Any Papers You Need and File

If you must keep original files for your line of work or personal use, an accordion folder can work wonders to organize and neatly file documents. Otherwise, if you can get rid of physical documents, scan important papers to a convenient PDF file and shred the physical copies. Make sure to organize your digital files in easy-to-find folders on your computer.


Step 4: Limit Your Personal Effects

This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t display one or two personal desk items that bring joy to your workspace, but consider limiting the items that are cluttering your desk. If you take a good look at your workstation, do you have items that aren’t useful just sitting there? Did you forget to bring something home or return it to the correct spot before? The goal is to eliminate things that distract you from doing your work.


Step 5: Conquer Your Email

Your digital workspace can likely use some sprucing up, as well. Try to reach inbox zero by filing anything you don’t need or deleting it altogether. Consider limiting the time you spend simply reading and responding to emails. Setting aside a few minutes a day to tackle email can also free up your schedule and help you accomplish more. Unsubscribe from any email lists that you don’t need. If you really can’t get away from your inbox, our guide can help you curb your email addiction.


Step 6: Arrange the Cords

You probably have a few too many cords hanging around your feet. Laptop power cords, phone charging cords and monitor cables might not take up a lot of space but they can become tangled and potentially hazardous around your legs and feet. A few cable organizers can keep your cords and workstation more orderly and the cords at bay.


Step 7: Utilize Your Digital Calendar

Optimize your calendar to work for you. Set up your preferred digital calendar to employ reminders, manage your to-do list and organize your workflow. An online calendar can prove more beneficial than a paper calendar hanging at your desk as it can travel with you, from the office to home and beyond.


An organized desk is much easier to keep clean. Before you head out for the night, give your space a quick cleaning to set yourself up for the following day. A mild surface cleaner can remove buildup and germs that congregate on your desk. Don’t forget about your keyboard, mouse, monitor and computer screen — just make sure you’re using electronic-friendly cleaners or wipes.


If you can’t tackle all of these steps in one session, spend a few minutes a day organizing your desk and improve your productivity. Get into the habit of maintaining an orderly workspace, and see how much time you save during the week!



1Pixie. (May 2, 2017). The nation’s biggest lost and found survey, by Pixie. Retrieved March 27, 2019, from

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