Friday, July 13, 2012

8 Quick Tips on Organizing Your Desk Area

Having a beautiful neat, clean, perfectly organized desk can be something of an obsessive goal -- like reading all the books on your wish list in one year, or travelling to every country you've ever dreamed of. I know that for me, I'm a "clipper," meaning that whenever I see a photo of a seamless office area, either for a home office or at the workplace, I cut it out and put it on my wall (or Wall, if we're talking Facebook), so that even if I don't accomplish a perfect end result, at least the photo keeps me inspired. OK, maybe not next week, but possibly next month??

Recently, I did a major cleanup of my home office. It took  me nearly 7 hours, and believe it or not, I'm still not done! Still, the final product looks a lot better then it did before. If you're in the mood for a summer cleanup, or you haven't found those important file folders in a few months, take some time and organize -- you'll feel better for it, and you can celebrate by doing something fun when it's all over, like treating yourself to a summer movie.

So, here are 10 of my toptips on staying organized in your home office, and particularly your desk area.

1. Scan for Clutter.
Before actually doing anything, scan your desk area, bookcases, and files, for where current clutter exists. Keep in mind items you might need to make more room for, like project folders or equipment like a printer or scanner, as well as items you can do without. Treat your office items like you would your closet -- anything you haven't worn or used in a year, should be tossed.

2. Start Tossing and Sorting.
Starting with the areas you use the most first, such as your desktop, bookcases, file folders, or any other shelving, start sorting away any items that you definitely do not need. This might include old articles, pens that no longer work, duplicate books or resources, gadgets or misc items from conferences or exhibit halls that somehow seemed exciting at the time...and now are in the "what was  thinking" category. For items you aren't sure of, start a MAYBE pile which you can return to later. Commit to discarding at least one large garbage bag of items.

3. Organize by Type.
For items you are holding onto, make separate piles of similar objects, such as pens, pencils, post-its, notebooks, file folders, and even organizers themselves such as file holders, pencil holders, letter trays, etc.

4. Keep Contacts Handy.
Whatever online systems you use on your computer to organize your contacts, such as calendar programs, Evernote, Address Books, etc., it's a good idea. to keep a hard copy back up, just in case. I just rediscovered my Rolodex, and it was great for filing recent business cards I had collected, as well as other contacts I wanted to keep in one place.  Plus, if I move or want to take it with me anywhere, it's self-enclosed and easily portable. Keep you Rolodex in easy reach, so you have it handy.

5. Minimize Wall Art and Get a Bulletin Board
I like having fun art like inspirational quotes, comics, and graphics of flowers, but my desk was getting too cluttered and I found myself feeling overwhelmed every time I sat down. So, I pared my art down to just a few of my favorite photos and gadgets, including, of course, my desktop Buddha for writing inspiration. As far as wallspace is concerned, it's important to keep calendars, reminders, and project notes handy, so if you don't already have one, invest in a small bulletin board and hang it in a designated wall space. This is also a great place to post reminders of any kind. I like to use mine for event tickets, as well as items I may want to research in the future and don't want to forget about.

6. Filing? Try Color Coding.
If your work requires that you use a lot of project folders, you might want to try color coding. When I have multiple clients at once, each client has a color code, and I mark all related documents with the designated color. Since Gmail and the Apple ICalendars also include a feature for color coding, I try to match all client correspondence on Gmail, as well as client work such as coaching or other related events, with a color code, so I can easily distinguish between accounts.

7. Within Arm's Reach.
There's nothing more frustrating then not having what you need right in front of you. Organize pens and pencils, post-its, stapler, scotch tape, rolodex, phone, calendar, and of course, your computer, so they are readily accessible.

8. Use Everyday Items for Small Accessories...and Go Green!
Everyday items are a great way to organize small items, such as clips, pushpins, post-its, and staples. I like to use an empty egg carton or strawberry container for these items, and even for business cards.

So, what did I miss? If you recently organized your workspace, please share your tips here!

PS I took my own advice and rewarded myself with a movie --Woody Allen's "To Rome with Love." While the movie was not great, at least I came home to a newly organized desk space so I could be inspired to maybe write my own! Screenplay, anyone?

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