Optimum desk arrangement not only makes work easier and more enjoyable, it also makes it better for your body. Too often, pain or discomfort can unconsciously distract you from your work. A well-thought-out arrangement of your accessories can make working easier and more efficient.
Ergonomic computer screen and keyboard setup
Keeping a straight spine helps with proper functioning of the body. A computer screen set up at the right height keeps your chin level with the floor, which also helps your posture. A keyboard at the right height helps avoid carpal tunnel syndrome.
If you’re working on a laptop, consider getting a stand for the laptop and an extra keyboard so you can position everything optimally. It’s also good to remember to get up from your chair at regular intervals; or consider a standing desk.
Clear space in front of you
Keep a space in front of you clear from distractions or extra clutter. That gives you space to create, and a place to put materials relating to the task at hand. If you are working digitally on several projects, consider using different desktop views for different projects. Look for tools such as VirtuaWin for Windows or Spaces for Apple. Keeping all the programs/documents etc. you need for one project on one desktop or space allows you to quickly resume where you left off without cluttering your working space with other projects.
Have a system for taking quick notes. Whether to capture an idea that just popped into your head or make notes during a phone call, you need a way to quickly record things you need to remember later on. Either keep a notebook just for notes handy, use post-it notes, or try an electronic notepad. I like using post-it notes. I use post-it notes to record actions I need to take or to record details of a conversation that I’m going to permanently record elsewhere (like jotting down someone’s email when I’m talking to them on the phone.)
The trick with using post-it notes is to only record one note or notes relating to one project on each note, then once the action is complete or the information is transferred, you get rid of the post-it right away.
Arranging your desk in these ways will help make your working day easier and less stressful. In the next post, we’ll discuss the best tools and supplies to keep at hand.
Ready to achieve your optimum desk arrangement? Check out our Virtual Organizing services.
In this post, we’re going to discuss how to organize mail, and some ideas for dealing with paperwork.
Developing the habit of sorting and acting on incoming mail immediately dramatically reduces the amount of work it takes to manage your paperwork. Be brutal with the advertising that comes to your home. Unless you’re actually going to use something, not just think you might, recycle it immediately. Set aside a short time every day to manage your incoming mail. Depending on the volume of mail, you may want to take action on the incoming mail each day, or set aside some time each week to manage anything that has come up. Do not skip a day. Do not let it pile up again! It will become easier and easier to stay on top of it.
Clear your desk between projects
Clearing your desk between projects allows you to focus on each project without distractions. This applies both in real life and on your digital desktop. As you are coming up to the end of the time that you’ve allocated to complete a task, give yourself a minute or two to clear any paperwork and close any windows on your computer that are related to that task so you can move on with clear space for the next task.
Store paperwork related to a particular project together. This applies to your digital notes as well as your actual paper notes. When you keep all the paperwork together for a particular project, it allows you to return to that project quickly and easily, without having to shuffle through paperwork to find the notes that you wrote last time you worked on it. Store papers in folders or in hanging files near your desk. Be sure to label the folders so that you can find the project again easily.
Complete, Complete, Complete!
Keep your focus on completing tasks so you can clear them out of your workspace and out of your mind regularly. Allowing tasks to linger creates a backlog that clutters up your thinking. When you complete tasks you can stop thinking about them. Letting them go out of your mind allows you to keep a clear mind as you move forward with the tasks at hand. The same applies to the paperwork associated with the tasks. Filing everything to do with that task allows you to keep your desk clear. This can be done digitally as well as in real life.
Managing paperwork is a continuous task, but if you keep on top of it you will find your desk a lot less overwhelming.
Hello! I’m Dr. Katherine Macey with Organize to Excel and over the next four blog posts we’re going to explore how to organize your desk so you can be as productive as possible. We’ll be covering the following topics:
Behavioral strategies you can use at your desk
Tools and supplies you can use to make it easier to work at your desk
Where to position your printer and other office supplies
How to create a clear workspace so you can be as productive as possible
We’re going to create some clear space for you so that you can have a clear mind as you do your work. Fewer things cluttering your workspace allows you to focus more effectively. If you have extra items around your workspace, your brain has to work to ignore them.
We’re going to make sure that the things that you need often are handy, without cluttering up your space. Let’s organize your desk!
Some of the traps that people fall into are wanting everything at hand. It’s actually okay to have to get up from your desk to get things occasionally. It’s good for you to be moving and not stuck sitting at your desk the entire time.
Another trap people fall into is leaving incomplete projects sitting around. You’ll learn in upcoming posts how to set up a space where you can collect the incomplete projects so that they’re not cluttering your space.
A third trap people fall into is not clearing the paperwork at the end of a project. Endless drafts, scribbled notes, and supporting documents all lead to extra clutter that does not need to stay on your desk.
Keep these traps in mind as we discuss our first major topic: paperwork!
To help organize your desk, it is best to stay on top of your paperwork. You’ve seen executive’s offices without a paper in sight. Perhaps you know someone who is never behind on their paperwork. If you are not those people and you have a little to a lot of backed-up paperwork, you probably have some piles around. Typically these piles of paper include reminders of things you need to do, records that need to be scanned or filed, advertising and more. The piles make it look like you have a lot to do and it feels overwhelming. Usually when we go through people’s paperwork, less than a third of the paperwork actually represents actions that need to be taken.
When you’re drowning in paperwork, use RAFTS
We use this system when clearing someone’s desk:
Recycle any paperwork that you have scanned that doesn’t have personal information, like advertising, old post-it notes, etc.
Actionitems need your attention. They are a reminder of a bill to pay, a letter to write, a phone call to make and so on.
Fileitems are items you may want to refer back to at a later date. Any statements, school records, policies, etc. I highly recommend getting electronic copies in the first place so you can skip the paper step.
Trash/Treasure might be memorabilia or that little thing you picked up that you’re not quite sure where it came from but you’re keeping in case it shows up as missing, but you’ve had it now for a couple of years…
Shredanything that has account numbers, social security numbers or other non-public information. It is not necessary to shred anything that has your name and address since that is a matter of public record and can be found anyway.
Once you have sorted your paperwork and shredded, recycled, filed and tossed everything in those categories, you will be left with your action items.
Store papers vertically
A long-time organizer friend describes papers as either lying down asleep or standing to attention waiting to take action. I like that analogy as it encourages you to complete actions associated with any paperwork. It also takes up less space on your desk. Utilizing file folder organizers keeps the folders vertical. File cabinets or file boxes are a very efficient way to store papers vertically, but I do recommend using hanging folders to store related categories together and keep the folders from sliding under each other. As much as possible, reduce the amount of paperwork you keep by scanning documents. And for goodness’ sake, don’t print anything that you don’t have to!
Develop a prioritization system
If you have a backlog of action items, it’s best to develop a prioritization system to manage them. Use a combination of due dates and level of importance to decide what to tackle first. Your system can be very simple (do the item in front first) or more complicated depending on the volume of paperwork you need to complete. Here are some ideas for your system in increasing complexity:
Do what’s in front first
3 folder system – Folder #1 for hot/red/do now items, folder #2 for warm/orange/do soon items, folder #3 for cold/blue/do someday items
8 folder system – time based. Decide which day of the week you will be doing which items and drop them into the corresponding day of the week. The 8th folder is for anything that is not being done this week.
Keep a running list, inventory style. A numbered concertina file is best for this with a list of which slot each action item is in.
Tickler file. A system of 43 folders, one for each day of the month and one for each month. Decide when you will be doing the action and drop it into the corresponding day/month. This requires diligent action be taken each day to complete the tasks allocated for that day.
The more complicated a system, the more time it will take to maintain it unless you stay on top of it.
I hope these tips help you organize your desk by managing paperwork effectively. Next time, we’ll discuss common types of paperwork and how to deal with them efficiently.
We have seen this week that what was normal is not okay for many people, black people in particular. I have already written on facebook about the tragedy of George Floyd and many others. A friend shared a picture of our kids protesting the death of Eric Garner 6 years ago. Their sign read “I can’t breathe.” I am a white woman from New Zealand and I have lived in Los Angeles for over 20 years. This is my inherited world.
So I ask, what will you change in your world this year?
Maybe you are in a position to affect policy change. Please do. Please make sure that the most vulnerable of our population are cared for, nutured, and encouraged to contribute their worth. Because they are worthy.
Maybe you are a business owner who is looking to hire. Who will you hire?
Maybe you are part of the privileged. Will you support higher taxes to ensure public schools get the funding they require? Will you donate time or money to help kids who need it most? Will you support our police departments to be less of a police force and more of a police community support?
Maybe you can have a yard sale to benefit a local group doing good in the community (Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper program has chapters in many places around the country, including Los Angeles: https://www.obama.org/mbka/)
Maybe, instead of buying something that you want, but don’t need, you could donate to a cause, or hire a young black person.
Maybe you are a black person – I encourage you to dream, don’t give up hope, and help us help you. Keep asking for what you need. I will listen. I will vote for the people who can affect positive change for you. I will support those organizations helping you. I will ask my clients to donate their items they no longer need to support causes that help people in need like you. I will stand with you and not be silent.
The first step to any project is clearly identifying the scope of the project. Specifying what your aims are as a closed project will help you to know when it is complete. However, you don’t need to drill down into the details as you’re outlining your project.
“Getting organized” is not specific enough. Equally, a list a mile long with specific instructions such as “Create 43 hanging folders, each labelled with 3.5 inch tabs with 20 point Arial font with the following labels… and filing all the loose paperwork into those folders, being sure to purge any utility bills older than…etc” is probably too much detail at the beginning of a project.
Here’s how to identify the scope of a project.
Choose an area to organize. It can be as small as a drawer in a bed side table, or a shelf in a closet. It could be as big as a whole room. (Again, “organize the whole house and the garage” is a bit too broad).
Imagine how you want the space to be at the end of your project, and make that your goal. You might want to specify that all horizontal surfaces are clear or with a certain number of decorative items remaining, or perhaps that all like objects are together, or that you only want one of each of the types of objects in the space. However you choose to state it, someone else should be able to come into the space and say, “Yes, you’ve done it!”
Know what you will do with the items that don’t belong in that space before you start. Dealing with these items should be part of your project – as long as they don’t expand the scope of your project. For example, you might need to move some items to the garage from the room you are organizing. If the new space is organized, then go ahead and put those things away. But if it’s not, it’s okay to put them in a holding place until you can organize them there. (See last week’s blog post about the domino effect.) The point is to come back to the project you started, not to get distracted by another space.
One of the biggest concerns people have when they start an organizing project is where to start. We call it the domino effect.
There are some clothes in the home office that need to go to the bedroom closet, but the closet is stuffed, so we’d need to make some space in there to put the clothes away. There’s some sporting equipment in the closet that really should go in the garage, but there’s no room in the garage unless we put the bulk supplies in the pantry. But the pantry had a few boxes of paperwork that used to be for current paperwork, but that are now so stuffed that you can’t fit any more paperwork in there and the stuff in the boxes is kind of out of date and could either be recycled or archived in the home office, except there’s no room in the home office unless we take out the extra clothes that should be in the bedroom closet ….
It’s like a slide puzzle. And we want to do it with the fewest moves possible.
Start with making sure you have some space in the room you are working in. So purge (recycle, donate, return, sell) items you know can go. If you need instant gratification to give you some momentum, focus on large items you know you don’t want so you clear the biggest amount of space in a short amount of time.
Stay in one space. Resist the urge to start moving things in other areas. That way your effort will produce the biggest visible return.
Once you’ve cleared some space, you can use the space for one category that makes sense in that space. Sometimes that is nothing, and that’s okay.
To extrapolate, to start any overwhelming project, start with a small do-able piece. The start is the most important part. It’s easier to keep up momentum.