5 Things You Can Do in 5 Minutes to Keep Your Desk Tidy

What does your desk say about you? Keeping a clean and tidy desk isn’t just one of those things that’s “nice” to do. It can set the stage for a less stressful and more productive day, every day. It also sets a good example for your employees!

  1. Manage Your Prime Real Estate.

Sitting at your desk, reach your arms straight out in front of you, then to your sides. Anything within arm’s reach is valuable real estate.

What’s on your desktop? My rule of thumb is this: If you use it every day, it gets to stay. Everything else should be put away.

Think in terms of hot, warm and cold when deciding what to put where. “Hot” items are things you use often in your work—keep them close at hand on your desktop or in desk drawers. Store “warm” items like reference manuals on a nearby credenza or book shelf. Move “cold” items like old client or project folders to a more remote area of your office.

  1. Quick-Sort Your Inbox.

Here’s a clever way to quickly sort through that overwhelming pile of papers in your inbox. Start by flipping the pile over. Very often, the older papers—the ones that were on the bottom of the pile—are outdated and can be recycled or shredded. Working from the bottom up makes it quicker and easier to get through the stack.

  1. Set Up a System for Next Steps.

It’s common practice to leave papers and files out as a reminder to do something like make a call or some other follow-up activity. The problem with this “system” is that papers can (and do) get lost under other papers.

A better system for managing active documents is to set up “next step” folders and store them in a vertical desktop organizer.

Before setting a document down, ask yourself: What’s the next step needed? For example, you may need to call someone, enter data, write a memo or email, read it more carefully when you have more time, or delegate it to a staff member.

If you can do the next step in two minutes or less, do it now. Otherwise, file the paper in the appropriate next step folder. Then add that task to your task list or schedule it on your calendar.

  1. Corral All Notes in One Place.

Is your desk cluttered with a slew of sticky notes and reminders written here, there and everywhere? Use a single notebook or journal instead to take all notes, and find one small enough to keep with you throughout the day.

Each day, flip to a clean page and write the day’s date. Capture notes from meetings and phone conversations as well as stray thoughts and ideas. As long as you can remember approximately when you wrote the note, you’ll be able to find it pretty quickly.

  1. Clean Your Screen and Keyboard.

You spend a lot of time at your computer or laptop—and it shows. But cleaning your screen and keyboard is easier than you might think. All you need is a microfiber cloth and a little water.

Start by shutting down your computer. Dust the screen lightly with a microfiber cloth and then dust the keyboard. To remove stubborn grime, spritz the microfiber cloth with a little water to dampen it, and then wipe gently until it’s gone.

Donna Smallin Kuper is a professional organizer and writer for Quill.com. She helps people organize their homes, businesses and lives as The One-Minute Organizer.