When our desks are cluttered, we lose in at least three ways. We lose 45 minutes every day, on average, hunting for things on our desks, going through papers and notes. When our desks are cluttered, we lose focus as well as time.
Here are some easy steps to gain control of your desk:
Think of yourself as a jukebox. A jukebox takes out a CD, plays the selected song or songs, and then puts it back. Then it gets another. It doesn’t stack the CDs on each other. Get the point? It increases focus and concentration only having one file in front of you at a time.
You won’t take the piles off your desk until you can:
- Keep the task or tasks you need to complete in each file in front of your eyes by using a Master List or calendar.
- Find your files quickly in your file drawer.
Here are some easy steps to gain control of your desk.
- Take everything off your desk. In other words, “zero-base” your desktop. Wipe it clean for a fresh beginning, like you’re just moving in. Then, put things back in the order in which you use them most. What can you do without? Throw away outdated items, put your pictures behind you or to the side. Toss out any candy: it attracts visitors.
- Put a clock where it will keep you aware of time. Your perception of time and the reality of it are often different. A watch on the wrist and a time display on the computer are not enough. Put your clock in-between your two biggest interrupters, the phone and computer (e-mail).
- Organize your tools. Empty your desk. Cut down on pens, pencils, paper clips, and so forth; try to put them all into one drawer. Keep just a month’s supply of stationery. Divide your drawers into separate areas for stationery, files, personal things, etc. Toss any extra stuff you don’t really need.
Your papers and files should be broken down into three categories:
- The future (someday I’d like to read or start working on).
- The past (you’ve already finished it).
- The present (it’s something you’re currently working on).
Only worry about catching up the present first, it’s the highest priority. That goes for e-mail too. File your most recent e-mails first and work backward.
Keep only the “present” in your desk file: The best way to overcome paper overload is to manage only the present—what you’re working on now and for the next four weeks. You’ll focus on organizing the present first.
Set aside the past: Remove from your desk file all files that have been completed or closed out and put them on the floor for the time being. Since you’ll only be using them for reference we will file them last.
Set aside the future: Remove from your desk file anything that you expect to be needing or reading in the future. This too will be filed for reference after you have finished filing the present.
“Order is the best manager of Time; for unless work is properly arranged, Time is lost.”