If you want to work efficiently,
organise your workspace!
Maybe you have a home office, or just somewhere to catch up with your paperwork, and you’re always wondering how to organise your workspace. Maybe you’re a student and you have somewhere set aside where you can study in peace. It could be that you just have a little corner allocated as a workspace, where you sort out bills and other household necessities.
Whatever you have, and whatever you call it, your workspace is where you get things done. If it’s a mess, and if you sometimes can’t even find it under the mountain of papers, magazines, cuttings, folders and other odds and ends that keep piling up, you should really do something about it. It’s your workplace, your special place for getting things done, and if it’s in a bad state, it’s going to be a drain on you. You’re really not going to get that much done, and if and when you somehow manage to get it done, you could end up feeling miserable and washed out at the end of it.
This is your command center. You need to organise your workspace, if you ever hope to perform at your best. Here’s a few organizational tips to keep in mind.
To organise your workspace, first allocate a specific place
Get a specific place to do your work (your work on your computer, your homework, your studying, your work-from-home, whatever), and keep it clutter-free. Don’t use it for anything else (hobbies, lounging around, escaping from the hullaballoo of life, hiding from your partner, or anything else).
Do everything you can to organize your room, or even your corner of the room. Keep it for the one purpose it’s meant for, and it’ll be much easier to keep clean and organised.
Keep it lean, keep it clean
How you arrange it is your business of course, but I recommend you go for a minimalist approach – after all, most of what you need is probably in your notebooks/manuals/textbooks/whatever, or on your computer in digital form. You shouldn’t need very much else. The days of cluttered bookshelves and cupboards are gone. Today’s workspace can pretty easily be kept clean and clutter-free (no excuses then, eh?) And that’s the look you should be going for, simple, clean lines, efficient!
You want it so anyone who sees your workspace wonders how you manage to keep it so clean. And maybe wonders what it is you do that you can manage to do without any of the usual clutter!
Invest in a decent desk
You’ll want to get the best out of your desk, so get a decent one. Don’t settle for an old door stretched across a few plastic milk crates (we’ve all been there!). Get a nice looking, sleek desk with plenty of drawer space and file space. And make sure it’s positioned correctly, so that you don’t have daylight full in your face when you’re working. Think ahead when you’re planning your office and you’ll reap the benefit later.
Use lighting carefully (desk lighting and overhead lighting), to minimise distractions and to create a comfortable, pleasant atmosphere.
Tidy those drawers!
Keep all essential office supplies close by, right where you can put your hands on them. Get out of the habit of shoving bits of paper and all kinds of odds and ends in drawers with your eyes shut (or, failing that, keep one drawer specifically for the purpose).
Keep your desk clean – inside and out – and it’ll be a pleasure to work at. There are all kinds of trays and gadgets for organising your office bits and scraps these days, or, if necessary, you can easily make do with cutlery drawers and the like. Just as long as all your ‘stuff’ is tidied neatly away so your desk looks neat and doesn’t interfere with your work.
Are you sitting comfortably?
I know it sounds obvious, but you’re going to spend a whole lot of time sitting at your desk. Get yourself a comfortable chair, make sure it’s set at the right height, and attach a backrest to help you sit up straight and comfortable, if that suits you.
Also, remember to get up and walk around or get a drink from time to time. Too long sitting at a desk isn’t good for you – your work suffers, and so does your back! As you get cramped, so does your creativity. You need regular breaks, both to stretch and relax, and to clear your head.
It’s worth making sure you get in the habit of sitting properly as well. If you sit leaning forward or hunched over you can quickly suffer neck and back pains, but sitting upright can mean you can work at your computer for a long time without discomfort. While you’re at it, try to keep your arms and wrists relaxed as you type, and you’ll be able to type for long periods quite comfortably.
Divide and conquer!
Make simple dividers (use plastic or even cardboard cut from supermarket boxes) to separate and categorise all the stuff you currently have squashed up together on your shelves. Just getting all that stuff organised and accessible will give you a head start on getting on with more important stuff.
Use bright, clear labels to identify the different sections and to make it easy to find whatever you need in a flash.
Connectors, leads, plugs, USBs, and all the rest …
You’ve very likely got various leads and cables, USB connectors, plugs, chargers and other bits of computer hardware all over your workplace. It can be a headache finding the item you need, let alone finding out which one is the right one!
Gather all your gadget paraphernalia together and keep it in a drawer or a box designated for the purpose. Instead of searching high and low for the only connector lead that will do the job, you know where to look … you already know it’s got to be in the one place they all end up, now that you’ve got them organised!
Get it all shifted
As you’re getting your stuff organised, you’ll inevitably build up piles of papers, pens, markers, books, magazines, office supplies of all kinds, and stuff you’re having trouble even categorising! Don’t stop there – find a home for each pile, but AWAY from your desk. All your various paper (printer paper, laminating sleeves, envelopes, wrapping paper, labels, padded envelopes, etc, etc) needs a home, but don’t give in to it and let it park itself on or near your desk. Allocate to each its own specific place, and make sure it knows it has to stay there!
Ideally, you should have a stationery cupboard for all this stuff, and that would solve the problem once and for all. But let’s face it, most of us have to make do with what’s already in our workplace rather than buying specific office furniture. Worth keeping an eye out for a suitable item that would do the job though – even an old bedside cabinet could be pressed into service in a pinch.
Be the office manager!
Imagine this is a working office (okay, it is, we know that!), and you’re the one in charge of keeping it neat and efficient. Would you be happy to see people leaving their desks in a mess? Would you put up with piles of indeterminate ‘stuff’ stacked here and there, for no apparent reason? If you wouldn’t put up with it if you were in charge of an office in a company, don’t put up with it at home. Be your own boss, and make sure you adhere to certain standards. Don’t leave the place in a mess!
Make your own magazine files
Pick up some empty wine boxes from the supermarket – the ones that hold six bottles (I know … they throw them out!!). Cut the sides on an angle and you’ve got sturdy file holders, far better and stronger than some you can buy.
I do this and it works great. Use them for files, for printer paper, photo paper and laminating sleeves, display folders, and for when you need to keep a few books together in one place. They not only hold things together nicely, they really help keep things properly organised and accessible.
And if there are no completely empty wine boxes, you might just have to buy a couple of bottles to empty one … well, needing the empty box isn’t much of an excuse, but it’ll do!
If you have accumulated lots of stationery as well as lots of peripherals (spare monitors, computer parts, scanners, printers, modems, cables, etc), you might feel like no matter how carefully you organize things, you’ll never have any peace. If that’s the case, it might be worth investing in a proper office cabinet. Everything can go in it and stay hidden behind closed doors. You’ll know where everything is, and you’ll be able to put your hands on any item in double quick time, since they’re all in their own permanent spots.
Of course, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a purpose-built office cabinet. You could use any cabinet, and, if necessary, fit the doors yourself. You’ll keep costs down and get the cabinet that’s most suitable for your situation.
Use an online organiser
Pick one from the wealth of online organisers available (most of them free), and use it to store virtually everything. One of the main advantages of this is that you’ll always know where things are, since you keep almost everthing in one place. With the vast majority of them, you can keep lots of separate files (or folders) in one parent file, so a single file can contain an enormous amount of information on a whole range of things.
DO NOT forget to use a decent password – if you don’t safeguard your stuff, it’s like stuffing it all in a box and leaving it outside in the street for anyone to pick up and take away.
Use a letter rack for stuff you can’t dispose of
You have letters, forms, leaflets, brochures, snippets cut out from newspapers and magazines, scribbled notes … no matter how organised your office, you’re going to have some of this stuff – it’s inevitable. Forget the dream of the paperless office – it doesn’t exist (not yet, anyway). Don’t fret over it and just let it build up like a flood barrier – use a simple letter rack or something similar, so that all those bits are at hand, and in one place … and so that you can see them and get on with dealing with them, instead of having them sneak up on you when you’ve forgotten they’re lying around!
If you have something that you’re working towards, and you keep asking yourself, “How do I stay motivated?”, you have to do whatever it takes to keep it in mind. That might mean having a motivational poster on the wall, or a few well chosen words on a post-it note on a shelf above your monitor … or it could mean having motivational phrases popping up on your screen every five minutes, or having desktop wallpaper that puts you in the right frame of mind. You’re going to be looking at your monitor, or the wall, quite a lot during the day, so why not make use of it?
If you like the idea of subliminal messages and images appearing on your screen, there are various software programs to choose from. If you want a free one, try this from MC2Method.com – it has text and an image version, so you can choose to see text phrases or motivational images. Both are really small, unobtrusive programs, and they’re very easy to set up.
Keep it clean!
Spend a few minutes, at least once a week, tidying your desk. Get everything off it that isn’t absolutely needed, and give the desk a quick wipe over and a touch of spray polish. Take the opportunity to clean your keyboard as well – tip it over and give it a shake to get rid of dust and crumbs (not that you’ll be eating at the desk, of course!), and dust any peripherals at the same time (printer, copier, etc).
It can be pretty depressing when you’re trying to work and you keep noticing that your desk is dusty and grubby. If it gives the impression that a homeless person has spent the night there and forgotten to tidy up after him, that’s a pretty good sign that you need to organise your workspace!
There are other pages devoted to helping you get organised, and they’re not scattered haphazardly all over the site. The links to them are all conveniently organised in the sidebar!
>> Get Organised! links in the sidebar >>