Organizing Your Desk
5 Steps to a Clutter Free Workspace

These 5 Steps will make easy work of organizing your desk, clearing your clutter and keeping a clear, calm workspace!

Whether you are a Multi-Passionsitas or a StraightLiner!

You'll take first 4 of these 5 Steps to organizing your desk and clearing the clutter around the desk in your home office or workspace only once.....and keep it cleared! Well...... maybe organizing your desk once a quarter is a bit more realistic

Regardless, this strategy is an amazingly easy way to reduce stress and overwhelm!  Especially if you are a Multi-Passionista and have a bazillion ides, projects, and things going on at once!

Overview of the 5-Step Process to Organizing your Desk

When you are first starting out, you'll find that sometimes steps 1, 2, and even 3 that have an interchangeable sequence. You figure out what works best for you.

  1. Gather the stuff  that has taken up residency on and around your desk.  Put all the projects and ‘stuff’ in see through boxes (with lids) instead of on top of your desk.
  2. Sort through the stuff, one item at a time, and ask yourself, “Does this really need to be dealt with now? At all? Ever?"  If not, toss it!
  3. Make your workspace feel good to you
  4. Schedule 30 minutes a day for 4 days a week ON YOUR CALENDAR, WITH A TIMER
  5. Use your Inbox consistently

Take these steps for organizing your desk for a maximum of 4 days the first week. Work just 30 minutes each day (at first.... less time as you stay consistent) Devote that 30 minutes to taking care of filing, paperwork, planning, catching up and all the other stuff and clutter you want to clear so you can have a calm workspace, free of the overwhelming burden of all that stuff! Your cluttered desk will stay cleared!  Seriously.... this works!

Materials Needed?

The materials you need for this desk organizing strategy are pretty basic supplies:

  • plastic tote boxes with lids ~ clear works best
  • a timer (very important)
  • a trash barrel
  • a loose leaf notebook
  • ummmm.... maybe some paper towels and furniture cleaner? maybe a vacuum cleaner

Step 1: Clear the Clutter Off Your Desk!
Organizing Your Desk Starts with a Creating a Clear Space

This is where you make the top of your desk and file cabinets and the floor around your desk suddenly appear before your very eyes!  It is quite nearly miraculous!

  • Set at least 2 of your totes in easy reach of the desk area.  I like to put them on chairs so I don't have to bend over! 
  • Gather up all the piles of papers, receipts, sticky notes, note pads, receipt books and put them in one box. Maybe books go in this box too
  • Drop all the random office supplies and equipment into another box; things like the pen holders and pens and staplers, coffee cups and paper clips, headphones, coins, business cards, rubber bands, dead batteries, grandson's action figure, etc ~  get it all off your desk, and off the floor around your desk, and off the top of the file cabinet or shelves near your desk. PUT THEM ALL IN A CLEAR BOX. With a lid on it.

For some of us it takes more than two boxes! I used a three 10 gallon, clear totes with lids the first time I got serious about organizing my desk and used this strategy.

This is like a giant inbox (you'll narrow it down to a real inbox in the last step)

Seriously folks. JUST CLEAR THE SPACE on and around your desk! And do it VERY QUICKLY!

Rest assured, you aren’t going to hide the stuff away and forget about it (hence the clear totes).  You WILL deal with it. I promise.

You are going to put the task of "dealing with the stuff" at the top of your Clearing the Clutter To Do List described in the next step.

Before you move on to the next step of actually organizing your desk, take out the cleaner and furniture polish and make your desk look and feel and smell clean, calm and peaceful. 

Stop here for the day and enjoy. 

Step 2: Sort Through All That Stuff You've Cleared!
You'll be Organizing Your Desk Space One Item at  Time

Now that you have a clear calm space to work in, the next step for organizing your desk is to open one of your totes and set your Timer for 30 minutes. Remeber you will only work for 30 minutes and STOP for the day.  Begin!

You might choose to start with the tote containing all the random supplies and non-paper stuff first.  Or you can have both boxes available at the same time. Starting with what's on top. 

Dust it off, clean it up, throw out pens that don't work and sharpies that are dried out.  Create an easy access place for everything you need. And throw away or give away what you don't need!

Putting paper and projects in their box is the one might make the biggest difference in organizing your desk! Go through all your lists, post it notes, plans, projects, ideas and write them down. Either on a piece of paper or on your computer, which ever works best for you. Examine each item briefly and ask yourself ...

“Does this really need to get done?” Is there any big problem is this doesn’t get done?” if the answer is “no” to either of those questions, either throw it away and forget it! ….

Or if you just can’t bring yourself to throw it away, put it on your “To-Delay, To-Delegate, or To-Don’t List." Otherwise it is okay to put it on your To-Do List

Step 3: Make the Space Around Your Desk Feel Good, Peaceful, Inspiring

What does that mean?  Mostly it means, be selective about what is IN and ON your space.

Your computer, a telephone, a lamp, a favorite journal or notebook or tracking document,

A potted plant or an orchid, or a sunflower

A framed photograph or picture.

If at all possible move your desk so you can easily look out a window

At the very least arrange to be facing an image that gives you a feeling of space and allows you to look at something beautiful. You don't have to go totally Feng Shui, but it isn't a bad idea!

If you want use a bulletin board or a whiteboard, be sure it doesn't create more of a feeling of clutter for you!  Your idea is to have a soothing workspace!  It is amazing how energizing a calm, soothing environment can be! 

Step 4. Putting it Away:
Work for 30 Minutes/Day, On Your Calendar. NO MORE!

Your desk and surrounding area is cleared of clutter. Your space is open, calm and inspiring. It will be wonderful to work in! 

But you stuff is still not put away!  That starts now.

PUT STUFF AWAY ONE ITEM AT A TIME! This bears repeating. Just open the first box and start putting stuff away according to what lies closest to the top.  Just open the box and get started one item at a time, top item only  … 25 to 30 minutes on the timer. But what does Put Stuff Away mean?

  • Put it in the trash
  • Find or create a home for it
  • File it
  • Put it in your inbox to take action on once all other organizing tasks are completed

Here are some tips on how to manage your 30 minutes:

Divide your daily 30 minutes up: possibly 5-10 minutes in the evening to plan what you'll do in your 20-25 minutes time slice of organizing your desk time the next day. You don’t want to mix up planning and the doing or you'll get sidetracked!

SET THE TIMER FOR 20-25 MINUTES - remember your planning time from last night? If you want this to work for the long term, in a sustainable way.... stop at the end of your time. This is a marathon, not a sprint.

Put on your favorite music.  Turn off your telephone, computer, close your training manuals, and anything else that might distract you.

This very special time just for you! …. AVOID THE MULTI-TASKING TRAP!

Be clear in your own mind, AND ON YOUR CALENDAR, that this is not marketing time, content development time, communicating or social media time, learning time, telephone time, etc

Step 5. Create Your Inbox and Use Regularly

Relegate one of the boxes as your Inbox (I actually needed a few inboxes at the beginning but that was MY disorganized desk and office space!). This is another plastic tote. Definitely a clear one!

I have found it helpful to have a loose leaf notebook and give myself one blank page per inbox project. That way I can identify action steps for each item when I come back to it.

Some things will need action but it isn't time to take that action yet. It may be on your Delay-It List or Delegate-It List. These two lists are key to efficiently organizing you desk, AND your time!

You won't want to file them away. So you put it in your inbox and List It! Don’t do anything with it, yet! You'll get to it. 

Example: a bunch of receipts that need to be entered into Quickbooks and/or contacts that need to be entered into Excell but it hasn’t happened because the system isn’t set up or you are slow at data entry or you just plain dislike that kind of thing .... like I do!  (BTW if that is the case! You shouldn’t be doing it! It is a WASTE of TIME to both do it and to worry about not doing it!)

Instead, an item on your Keeping It Organized List becomes, “Get Quickbooks and Excell set up and enter all receipts.” Maybe you'll have to suffer through the data entry, maybe you'll have your techno-talented-teenager do it, or maybe you'll hire a bookkeeper to deal with it!  But for now just get it off your desk and put it on the list!


On your Mark! Get set Go!

Go get your materials, so you can start calming the chaos and keeping it calm by organizing your desk

If you get 1/3 or ½ way through the box and the timer goes off…. Close the box and set it aside until tomorrow. Unless, of course, this is day 4! In that case pause the process until next week and begin again.

In that case, wait till next week on your calendar! Avoid trying to catch up in advance by either working longer or more days. Otherwise my experience tells me you'll end up burned out, overwhelmed again and the clutter will mysteriously begin to appear on your calm, clear desk!

Rest assured that may you have an extra day on your calendar the next week, or sometime in the near future…. If you choose to use it!

Focus on Daily Completion not Perfection

Let me repeat: Do NOT continue to work on organizing your desk space past 30 minutes a day.

Close up boxes, file drawers, etc when the timer goes off. Even if/when you feel like you are on a role STOP. Otherwise you are setting yourself up for burnout. You will never get the habit. And the clutter will return in full force!

Keeping Your Desk Calm and Organized

Consistent time on the calendar:
Within a couple of weeks you will probably find that you only need to spend 3-5 minutes a day in tidy-up mode (morning, evening, noon-time ... whatever works best for your peace of mind).  That should keep things calm and organized for the most part. Calm, Clutter-free workspace and desk.

Consistent In-boxing! Cherish and protect your Inbox.  Put stuff in it when you are running all your multiple projects and tasks and don't want to be distracted.  You don't want to get disorganized either!

However, You may find that stuff begins to creep back into your workspace despite your best intentions at consistency in organizing your desk and office space. 

As soon as you see it happening, put the kibosh on the clutter and pending disorganization by running the process again from start to finish for a few days.   

You are going to LOVE your workspace!


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