Desk a Disaster? Be More Organized and Productive in 4 Steps

Source: iStock

Source: iStock

Your surroundings and environment matter a great deal. Whether we’re talking about the big picture – i.e., Darwinian evolution – or simply trying to gauge your productivity, your immediate surroundings have a big impact on behavior. For that reason, a lot of time, effort, and resources have been spent exploring how to optimize offices and factories for maximum output.

These days, entire buildings are being constructed using everything we’ve learned, incorporating productivity-maximizing schemes from the moment you pull your car into the garage, until you leave your assigned seat for the day. But you don’t need an entire building to help you power through the day – you can make some big steps in the right direction by looking at the desk or table right in front of you, and making some alterations.

In an effort to help people reevaluate their surroundings, and to guide the reorganization process, the folks at – a site dedicated to helping business owners and entrepreneurs lower expenses – put together a blog post featuring an infographic with an easy-to-follow method for de-cluttering and optimizing your work space.

“After a business has organised their structure, growth plans, and everything else that can improve its bottom line, many business owners neglect the simple basics, such as organising your working environment,” the post says. “However, the truth is an organised office can be just as effective at improving a business’s bottom line as directly optimising your operations.”

This is a trap that many of us fall victim to. We may have our lives in perfect working order, for the most part, and yet our desk may be an absolute disaster. And it has a real, measurable effect on how much we’re actually getting done.

So, following along with’s advice, and maybe modifying your diet and sleep patterns, you could put yourself on track for a serious uptick in output – and maybe set yourself up for a promotion, or a raise.

Here’s the four-step method came up with.

1. Rearrange and purge

The first step is to simply take stock of what’s in front of you, and then break the process down. First, you’re going to want to de-clutter. That means getting rid of everything you don’t need or use, clearing up valuable space. Next, rethink your layout, and arrange your things so that what you need is within reach. It’s all about shaving off seconds – which can add up over the course of a week, month, or even a year. Finally, find a permanent spot for the things you keep around. Now you’ll know instinctively where everything is, and won’t waste time rifling through drawers looking for a pen.

2. Renew old systems

Next up, examine your workflow. Explore your office and find places that you can designate as ‘screen-free’ for brainstorming, or ‘quiet areas’ for clearing your head. Look at how you’re storing information as well. That may mean that you clean out those filing cabinets full of physical clutter, and decide what can be digitized, or what needs to stay. After that, give your inbox a sweep. Start using folders and labels, and sort your email to minimize the amount of time spent in Outlook or Gmail.

3. Renovate communication

Take notice of how you’re communicating. Are you only using email? There are better ways! Check out any number of communication platforms out there, including Slack, which mentions specifically (and which The Cheat Sheet uses as well). Also, create a ‘response folder’, which means you won’t forget anything that requires further digging into.

One more thing – communicate directly, if you can. That means getting up every once in a while, and asking questions in person. This can help build camaraderie, and trust among your coworkers. Plus, it wouldn’t kill you to burn off some calories and get your eyes off the screen every once in a while.

4. Renovate desk space

The last step is to take a good, hard look at your physical work space right in front of you. Keep what you need within arm’s reach (as discussed), have an organized system that can coexist with your particular workflow, and give everything a due date, or expiration date. That way, you’re not losing or missing anything, and you’re ensuring everything gets done on time.

For the full infographic, and further discussion, check out’s blog.

Follow Sam on Facebook and Twitter @SliceOfGinger

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