[This post is part of the ongoing series 4 Steps To Getting Yourself Organized In The New Year. ]
Our work space is often the last place we ever get around to dealing with. Our drawers might be overrun by pens and the dust bunnies might be forming an army, but we’re completely focused on the work that needs to be done. It’s too bad, then, that we forget to take into account how our work space affects our actual work.
If our desk is covered with projects, files, paper, office supplies — anything but actual space for us to work, perhaps we need to try a little fill-in-the-blank exercise:
My desk is not where ________ goes to die.
Our desk should be a launch pad, not a crash pad. Nothing should have permanent residence on our desk but those things we determine to be absolute desktop essentials. Laptop. Notepad. Pen(s). Mug. It will vary for each of us, of course, but this is definitely a case where less is more. There are a few desk-clearing best practices we can follow.
- Go digital when we can If we can do it online, we can get it off of our desk. Think of using an online calendar instead of a desktop version, for example.
- Keep a simple notebook within easy reach. Messages, quick notes, and other “must-jot-now” items go here. Rather than searching for something to write on at a moment’s notice, we’re ready to go.
- Keep a drawer apiece. Having four desk drawers doesn’t mean we need four drawers full of pens or rubber bands. Limit supplies to one drawer if possible. Use each drawer for a specific and unique reason, and if it won’t fit in the assigned drawer, we don’t need it.
- One pen at a time. No one needs ten pencils or twenty pens in a desk. We can only use one at a time. Just keep a couple in the desk and the rest in supply storage.
- Avoid trip wires. Place electronics and wires on the floor or in a location where valuable desk real estate isn’t being eaten up.
Most of us never get around to organizing our project space for the simple reason that we don’t have any. We’ve never actually designated an area in our office or on our desk as “project space.”
Project space is, basically, space set aside for special work. Such space may or may not be attached to our desk. Your computer, notepad and daily use activity is kept (generally) on the desk while the project space is set aside for the materials for specific projects. Some of us might not have the luxury of having two separate work spaces, but if it’s possible, it’s a good idea.
- Avoid repeated clean-up. In the midst of a temporary project, perhaps the last thing we want to do is spend time each morning and each night putting our supplies, notes and work materials away pr getting them out. Space dedicated for project work gets a pass on clutter for the duration of the project.
- No backtracking. If we stop in the middle of a project, we want to start right where we left off. We don’t want to start where we left off plus three phone messages and a file that was misplaced.
- Supplies at hand. Some projects require different supplies than the run-of-the-mill office duties require. A project space allows us to keep those supplies where we’ll need them most, and fulfills the proximity rule very nicely.
What do we use our office for? Does it double as a meeting space, or do we have a room specifically for meetings? Do we need additional chairs?
Understand how the office is used, and whether the space even allows for that use to happen. If there’s no room or acceptable set-up for a meeting, such as electrical outlets or A/V equipment, we’ll have a tough time getting things to work in a way that looks like anything but chaos. Our space must fit the needs it is required to do.
- Say no. If we’re asked to have a meeting for ten in an office built for three, it’s not going to happen. Find another location. There’s no way such an event will end well for us or our office.
- Rearrange. Find a way to make the desk greet those visiting our office while maximizing space. Place the chairs in a way that encourages same-level conversation. There’s no need to lord over people and make them uncomfortable.
- Leave room for oxygen. Give everyone some breathing space. Make sure there’s plenty of leg room, and places for visitors to set a cup of coffee or a notebook.