“Get organized” is on your to-do list, isn’t it? And it’s probably been there for some time, falling farther and farther into the backburner as other “more important” tasks take precedence. But organizing your workspace is more important than you think, and it takes less time than you think—especially when you take small measures over the course of a week.
That’s why I want to share my own one-week organization challenge. I’m no Marie Kondo, but I am an obsessive-compulsive who rearranges his apartment once a month for funsies, so I know a thing or two about organization best practices.
Organizing your workspace is easier said than done, especially when you’re short on time. But if you take it step by step, you can achieve organizational nirvana in no time. Allot 10 to 15 minutes per day at the same time per day for one whole week, and then deep-dive into these five challenges:
Yes, you read that right. Remove everything. Move the desk, the printer, the vase, the laptop stand, the notepads and the pencil holder. We want to start with a clean slate, so if it isn’t you or your laptop, send it packing. Why? Because at the end of the week, you’ll be able to see what’s actually essential.
If you start to squint on Tuesday, bring back the lamp. If you need to take notes on Wednesday, retrieve a pen (yes, one pen) and a notepad. Only grab what you need throughout the week. You may be surprised to find on Friday that more than half of your stuff isn’t that important to keep permanently on hand after all.
One of the reasons why I stay so organized is because I have bad memory. So, I designate specific places for specific office supplies and items. At home, I have two drawers: one for stationery items such as notebooks, stickies, pencils and computer paper, and another for office supplies such as tape and a calculator as well as organizational tools such as a binder, paperclips and rubber bands. I don’t put anything anywhere else.
Not only does this save time because you know exactly where to look for what you need, but it also saves precious brain space. Nothing is worse than working on something, stopping to search the drawer for a highlighter, and then losing track of thought. This also helps if you operate in a shared space, because then others can find items easily and know where to put them back.
Organization isn’t only for the “real world;” it’s for the digital world as well. After you clean up the top of your desk, move on to your desktop. If you have a lot there, I recommend writing down everything that is on the desktop and then ideating on how to categorize them into as few folders as possible. It’s better to have four folders of stuff on the desktop than it is to have 30 files. Although, I would recommend only keeping things on the desktop that you use at least once or twice a week. Anything that’s a one-off, keep it elsewhere.
You already have a clear desktop? I like your style. Then use this time to organize your files and folders. Color-code them according to your clients, services or products—whatever makes the most sense. Or, find folders with more than 10 files in them, and then find a way to create insightful subfolders.
When I worked at a non-profit, my coworkers told me that unless I was at my desk they had no idea if I was at work or not because my desk was so clear. It was because I refuse to use paper unless absolutely necessary. Sure, I consider myself an environmentalist, but it’s also for professional reasons. Paper gets lost; Google is forever. And as long as you have the Google Docs or Google Keep app, your notes go wherever you go.
Find a system that works for you, and keep all those notes in one place so you never search for a Post-It Note ever again. I also like Slack since we use it at Elevate My Brand, but a lot of friends use the free software Evernote with great success.
Happy Friday! Now that you’ve brought back the essentials, let’s race. By that, I mean choose a random office supply and then—at a normal pace—try to retrieve it from its new spot in three seconds or less. If it takes longer, especially if it takes a lot longer, ask yourself how you can make it more accessible.
To make it more interesting, wear a blindfold. If you can get to the office supply by touch alone within five seconds, I’d say you did a damn good job of designating regions and reducing clutter. For a fun twist, if you have family members or friends around, see if they can find specific items in the same five seconds.
With these five organization challenges, you’ll have a more efficient and effective workspace setup within a week, but that isn’t the end. There’s always more you can do to maximize your space to save time, reduce stress and boost creativity. Organization is an on-going process. So, maybe it doesn’t belong on that to-do list of yours, but on your daily calendar instead.
Have your own organization tips and tricks? Share them with us in the comments section below!
Cody H. Owens, Account Executive
Elevate My Brand