13 Tips For Organizing Your Desk & Getting More Done

There's something to be said for having a clean desk. Of course, many people (including myself) often argue that messiness helps the creative process. And sure, sometimes it does. But when it comes to being super productive, you may want to find ways to organize your desk, and actually get stuff done.

Start by taking a look at your desk right now. Is it organized to the gods, and the envy of all who walk by? Or is it a stress-inducing mess, teetering on the brink of disorganization disaster? If it's the latter, you may notice some kind of correlation between your messiness, stress levels, and your ability to finish projects.

I've definitely noticed a connection when it comes to getting stuff done. My desk often vacillates between the two extremes (super messy/super neat), so I know how the two can affect my productivity. I get the most done when my desk is organized perfectly, with everything I need right within reach.

I don't get anything done, however, when I'm searching through the chaos for a notebook, a stapler, or a power cord. It's a total time suck, and also takes me out of my creative moment. In fact, as noted in an article on Newsweek, "... the average American burns 55 minutes a day — roughly 12 weeks a year — looking for things they know they own but can't find."

See? Messiness is a total waste of time, and definitely not the best way to get stuff done. With that in mind, here are some ways to keep your desk organized, and get way more done.

1. Start With Some Spring Cleaning

When cleaning up a messy, disorganized desk, the first place you should start is with a clean slate. "De-clutter, empty, shred, get rid of everything that you don’t need or want," suggested Royale Scuderi on Lifehack.org. Then revel in the clean expanse that is your desk.

2. Get Rid Of Pens You Don't Need

My pen holder is constantly full of ugly company pens (AKA ones I stole from the bank), as well as dried up pens from 10 years ago. Sound familiar? Then go ahead and toss 'em. As Mark Shead said on Productivity501.com, "If you aren’t going to use it, don’t feel bad about throwing it out." Start over fresh with a new crop of pens you really like.

3. Designate A Spot For Everything

Once your desk is cleared of junk, move everything around for maximum efficiency. Here's what your desk should look like — monitor in the middle, phone to the right (or the left, if you are left-handed), and files on the opposite side. You want the things you use the most on your dominant side. It'll make for a way easier, and more productive, day.

4. Store Necessary Stuff Within Reach

Make sure you have necessary items within reach, because the last thing you want to do is fumble around when a good idea strikes. As Kathryn Vasel noted Money.CNN.com, in an interview with personal organized Amy Trager, "Getting up even just once a day for a pencil or paper clip is shutting your brain off a project you are working on and you will have to come back and re-center."

5. Keep Everything Else In (Organized) Drawers

Choose those lucky few things that get to stay on your desk. "Anything else can be hidden in a desk drawer," As Meridith Levinson said on CIO.com. "Bins ... [can] help you keep your drawers organized and everything within easy reach. They give a distinct home to all the flotsam and jetsam that might otherwise create a junk drawer."

6. Get Rid Of Ugly Cords

It's tough in the age of tangled power cords, but try not to keep them all piled up on your desk. Instead, store cords away in a drawer, or neatly hang them behind your desk. According to Shead, "Even if you have enough room it introduces visual clutter ... cutting down on clutter reduces the amount of work between a messy desk and an organized desk. This organizational tip can go a long ways toward making your desk and office a much nicer place to work."

7. Keep Those Picture Frames To A Minimum

I know, you want framed photos of your cat within view at all times. But one too many and your desk can quickly get messy, as well as super distracting. As personal organizer Lisa Zaslow noted in the interview with Vasel, our eyes pull every single thing in front of us and our brain processed it, even if we don't realize it. So keep those photos, personalized coffee mugs, and vacation pics to a minimum.

8. Create A System For Dealing With Messes

OK, so you got rid of the bazillion photos, and old pens, and you organized your desk to perfection. Now it's time to create a system. By this I mean focusing in on your bad habits, and looking for ways to fix them. For example, you can open mail right next to the shredder, and immediately process each paper you’re keeping, suggested Martha Uniacke Breen on StyleatHome.com. That way, mail won't pile up, and you'll be more likely to respond to everything on time.

9. Have A "Catch All" Spot

This one is totally necessary when it comes to preventing odds and ends from gathering on your desk. All you have to do is create a "catch all" spot for things like your bag, coat, and umbrella so they don't get in the way. As Neil Patel said on Inc., "A catch-it space should be set up in the most obvious area of your office. If you have a door, create your catch-it space to the right of the door. If you're in a cubicle, create a catch it space somewhere near the entrance."

10. Manage All Those Pesky Papers

Papers are my one and only (OK, not only) disorganization downfall. I like to pile up mail and bills that I'll "totally get to," only to leave them gathering dust for weeks on end. Not only is this messy AF, but it's a really good way to lose something important. As Breen said, "At the end of the day (or the end of each work session), take a few minutes to process, discard or put away everything left out on the desk." I'm glad it really can be as easy as that.

11. Get Yourself Some Document Trays

The thing is, papers can't always be tossed. And new ones come in at an alarming rate. That's when document trays come in handy. According to Patel, "A two-tray system is the simplest and most effective for handling incoming paper. The system works like this: 1) new tray, new documents; 2) old tray, documents you've opened or looked at, and need to deal with." (Note: just remember to actually deal with the stuff in the old tray.)

12. Have A Go-To Notebook

Do you jot down notes and phone numbers on napkins and little scraps of paper? If so, do yourself a favor and get a notebook for that very purpose. As Shead said, "If you can keep these all in one place, you’ll be far more productive if you need to look something up later."

13. Straighten Up At The End Of The Day

This tip is the most important when it comes to having a pristine desk that's the envy of coworkers everywhere. All you have to do is take a few moments at the end of each day to straighten up, file important documents, and recycle those annoying papers. You might even want to figure out your to-do list for tomorrow (because, you know, productivity). It'll feel really nice to return to that impressive level of organization the following morning.

And that's really what it's all about — staying on top of your mess, and keeping that one little area of your life super organized. Because an organized desk really does mean you'll get more done. I promise.

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