I have a lifetime membership in the messy desk club, but as my business has grown, I've had to learn how to organize a desk or else.
It's a matter of productivity: to get more done in the same time, you simply have to get organized.
There's professional help out there if you need it. The National Association of Professional Organizers are the folks who created National Get Organized Month, which is every January. They offer organizational tips and personal consulting and say that the majority of their clients most interested in organizing tips for home offices.
No matter where your office is, getting your desk streamlined and efficient can change everything.
Angela Wallace, NAPO president, says, "Becoming more organized can reduce stress, save money, increase productivity and enhance the quality of your life."
She reports that the majority of a professional organizer's clients are looking for help with organizing home offices, so I put together these organizational tips for the messy desk folks with home offices.
1. PLAN AND USE YOUR TIME WISELY
Plan your day in advance, block out activities, including when you'll check email and when you want uninterrupted time. This will let you focus and feel less distracted, so you get more done. Work on just one thing at a time, and when you're moving to the next project, put the first away. For even better focus, set a timer so you know you have a limit.
2. ORGANIZE DOCUMENTS AS YOU GO
The secret to avoiding email and snailmail overwhelm is merciless weeding and filing. Open your mail over the trash can, and only keep what is important. Do the same with emails, deleting what you don't need and sorting the rest into folders for Immediate Action, To-Do, File or Archive, for instance. Make categories that makes sense to you, but keep them simple or you won't do it.
3. STORE IMPORTANT THINGS IN THE CLOUD
Scan the front and back of your credit cards, identification (passport, drivers license, Social Security card), and important papers for your files. Email yourself and attach the image and you now you can access it from anywhere. Subscribe to a cloud-based automatic backup system like BackBlaze, and your files will be constantly backed up for you.
4. GO PAPERLESS
The IRS now accepts scanned receipts, and Neat.com solves the problem of converting files with their scanners and incredibly easy-to-use software that let you scan, email or even just take a photo of a receipt and the software reads it and adds it into your records automatically.
5. BECOME A CREATURE OF HABIT
Assign everything a place. Put your keys, stapler, briefcase and mobile phone down in the same place every single time. Empty your receipts in to the same file basket. Get a desk organizer to make it easier, because when your space is more orderly, you save a lot of time trying to find things later.
6. MAKE YOUR DESK ATTRACTIVE
Keep your main work surface clear except for what you're working on at the moment. Clean out desk drawers and toss or donate anything you don't really use. Keep a few of your favorite pens close to your writing hand. Pay attention to lighting and art to create a comfortable atmosphere. A desktop fountain can add a sense of tranquility.
7. LOOK FOR CREATIVE WAYS TO SAVE TIME
Handy time-saver extras to keep include menus from favorite restaurants so you can pre-order lunch and a collection of assorted greeting cards with stamps for thank-you cards and birthdays. Carry reading or simple projects with you for when you find yourself waiting for an appointment or in line.
8. USE TOOLS FOR DECLUTTERING YOUR HOME OFFICE
Use a cable management gadget like The Container Store's Cable Twisters to manage that unsightly jungle of cords. Small sizes work for iPod headsets. Keep two trashcans, one for recycling and one for garbage. Keep duplicates of phone and electronics chargers in your office and attach them with sticky Velcro to the spot where you use them.
It is intimidating for us messy deskers to get organized? Sure it is. Making new habits takes time and attention.
In our defense, according to BusinessWeek, while a messy desk and extreme clutter can be a career problem, there is also a case to be made for the creativity born from messy desks. Many geniuses, including Albert Einstein, foundtheir best work in chaos. That makes sense; how to organize a desk must be the furthest thing from the mind of a genius.
We have two weeks left in Get Organized month, so let's give it a shot, but if these organizational tips don't work, we can just say it's a sign of genius.
For more about making your office work for you: