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10 Steps to a clean desk

Is your desk a disaster area?
If so, you are exposed to both direct and indirect stress. Sitting in an environment of disorder can do unpleasant things with your desire to accomplish things. Eventually it becomes so frustrating for you to just get hold of a paper, or do anything special, that the idea to start looking for what you need is enough to get you stressed (not to mention what happens when you are in a hurry and you really MUST find a particular document). This is incredibly unnecessary - especially when it's so easy to actually organize your desk.

How to organize your desk:

1. Remove everything from your desk and take out everything from the drawers. Yes, everything must go right now. It's great to get a quick look at how an empty desk looks like.

2. Clean your desk thoroughly. Remove all dirt, coffee stains and everything else that you have stored over time.

3. Get a garbage bag and start throwing things away. Simply place all the papers in a big pile and be tough. Check catalogs and manuals. Are they old? Do you really need them? Have you even looked them through? Throw, throw and throw things away. If there is anything you need, but don't use every day, put all that stuff in another pile. You can probably throw away more than 80% of all the papers you keep on your desk. The only thing you should keep is what you're working with right now. Everything else you should put away and store in appropriate folders.

4. Start putting all of your office equipment back on the desk - PCs, printers, phone and everything you really need for your work. The same rule applies here - it's just the stuff you use every day that should be on your desk. Everything else you can put in drawers, cupboards and other storage facilities. Get rid of everything that doesn't work. If you're not sure whether a thing belongs on the desk or not, ask yourself these questions:
• Do I like this thing?
• Is this thing useful?
• Does it belong on my desk?
If the answer is no, it shouldn't be there.

5. How many calendars and address books do you really have? If it's possible, you should only keep one where you have all your contacts and appointments scheduled.

6. Personal things. How many photos, toys and other things do you have on your desk?
I've seen desks that look more like a dresser at grandma's house with pictures of the whole extended family. The entire surface of the desk is cluttered with papers and rubbish.

7. Start thinking about the surface of your desk as a place for things you do every day, not as a storage bin. Forbid yourself to put stuff there.

8. Have a bigger trash can than you need. It's great because it'll be easier to ask yourself these questions when you get papers of various kinds:
• Do I need/want this?
• Is it too late to act on this?
• Is there anyone else who needs this information?
If you answer no to these questions - throw, throw and throw it all away.

9. Fix a simple system to keep track of things:
a) Current - jobs in progress can be categorized into topics. Use a binder or folder per subject in order to keep all the papers in the same place (you'll thank yourself every time you need a better view of what you're working with.)
b) Today - things to do today
c) For the archives - this allows you to store stuff where you can't see it. You know you might need it, but you won't be tempted to use it as a bin for cowards. Throw things away. Always ask yourself the question: “Why can't I get rid of this?”
Make sure you are hard on yourself and just save stuff for the right reasons
d) To read – this is where you store books, articles and other stuff. If you're smart you'll have a special time to read these things as well. I read all of my subscribed newspapers an hour every week and then throw them away. It doesn't matter how seductively glossy the paper they are printed on is and how many smart ”I certainly have use for this later”- articles they tempt you with. They should end up in the trash (or rather the recycling bag) when they are read.

10. The last thing you do every day is to take care of your desk so that it feels fresh and new when you come to work the next day. Your desk can make you in a good mood and full of eagerness to work instead of making you tired and depressed. Wouldn't that be pretty nice?

There, now you should have a tidy desk and a future way to gain time. Congratulations. Give yourself a reward for having saved yourself hours each week!

About the author

Stefan Ekberg has worked in marketing for small business for 20 years and has written around 30 books on how small business owners can market themselves with limited resources. . In 2012 Stefan was nominated as Entrepreneur of the Year in Stockholm.

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