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How to Make a Clean Start with a Clean Workspace

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We’ve all been there. It’s three minutes before the big conference call and instead of being ready to go, you’re frantically shuffling papers around your desk searching for the call-in number. How’d you get here? The problem can be traced back to a few days ago when you jotted the number on a tiny pink sticky-note instead of entering it into your smart phone. Why? Because at the time when you received the call-in number, your smart phone was missing — hidden beneath one of the many piles that have accumulated since the last time you organized your desk which was, ahem — a while ago. 

Take this as a sign. It’s time to tidy your cube, organize your desk and clean up your act at work. Don’t know where to begin? No worries. We’ve come up with some helpful hints that should make what may seem like an insurmountable task, a cinch.

1. Schedule the cleanup

It’s easy to put off or minimize the importance of having a clean and organized work space. What with projects, meetings and deadlines, taking time out to tidy your desk or office may seem almost frivolous. Yet according to Health Advocate, having a cluttered desk or office space can add to your stress, reduce productivity and impair your ability to focus. So treat your cleanup like the important project that it is. Schedule it. And when you look at your schedule and see the big cleanup coming up, take it seriously. Don’t consider it an optional activity that can be rescheduled if something better comes along. Remember: your efficiency, productivity and serenity are at stake!

2. Take out the trash

Digging out from under mounds of paper, misplaced and broken office supplies and who knows what else can be daunting. So rather than just moving the contents from one pile to another, devise an organizational system that makes sense. 

Jolie Kerr of Fortune recommends you start by pitching any trash on or around your desk, cube or office. How can you be sure whether something qualifies as trash? “If you’ve spent more than 10 seconds considering whether or not to keep something, put it down and move on,” Kerr advises. You can make a more thoughtful decision about the item in question later. 

3. File it away

Create a filing system that works well for you. Whether you choose to color-code, alphabetize or organize chronologically, be sure that your filing system is user-friendly. Consider investing in some office supplies such as stacking trays, drawer organizers or storage boxes. Sometimes, a stroll around the office can yield great finds such as abandoned file cabinets, bulletin boards and bookshelves. If they’re up for grabs and they’ll help you get organized, make room for them in your workspace. On the other hand, beware of adding stuff you don’t need that only adds to the clutter. 

4. Use some elbow grease

Now that you can see your desk, it’s time to disinfect. Sometimes the truth is hard to hear, so we hope you’re sitting down! According to Krista Krumina posting for Desktime.com, “the average workplace desk can be 100x less hygienic than your kitchen table, and 400x dirtier than the average toilet seat!” Meanwhile, adds Krumina, “your keyboard harbors approximately 16 million microbes, many of which can make you sick!” 

Depending upon whether your desk is made of wood, glass or Formica, choose the appropriate cleaning product. Take special care with your computer screen and keyboard, only using products that are meant for this sensitive equipment. Don’t forget to wipe down your phone, printer and any office supplies that will continue to live on your desk. 

5. Do a digital cleanse

Many of us have as much trouble getting around to cleaning our virtual desktop, as we do cleaning our actual desktop. Just because you have all that digital storage space, doesn’t mean you have to use it. 

Carly Stec
at Hubspot recommends creating a filing system for your virtual desktop that resembles the one on your actual desktop. Try demarcating storage areas by using your desktop’s wallpaper options, Stec suggests. Need more motivation? Display an inspirational message or image on your desktop.

Whatever system you choose to use, the bottom line is the same: Keeping unnecessary files, images, documents and emails makes it difficult to locate the things you need, slows down your computer, and causes unnecessary stress. 

6. Beautify your space

Considering the amount of time most of us spend at our desks and in our cubes or offices, it makes sense to make them attractive and comfortable. Once you’ve cleaned off surfaces and gotten rid of junk, consider what you might do to give your workspace a personal touch. Photos of people and places you cherish, treasured books and souvenirs and flowers and plants can make even the most institutional settings feel cozier. 

7. Keep it going

We can all but guarantee that creating a workspace that feels more like a sanctuary will positively impact your mood, and your ability to work more efficiently, productively and professionally. 

So, why not make a decision to maintain your rehabbed workspace over time? Schedule a few hours of cleaning once a month, initiate a daily desk tidying ritual, keep cleaning supplies at the ready and let go of the need to hold on to every piece of paper and every email. The effort will be well worth it!

What are your best desk organizing tips? Share them on Facebook and Twitter.

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