Keeping Your Desk Clean: How to Do It and Why You Should

Most people would love to have a tidy desk, yet organization often falls to the bottom of the to-do list.Though it may seem like time cleaning could be better spent, the increase in productivity and decrease in stress that comes along with having an organized workspace will actually end up saving you more time and you’ll be happier because of it. Dr. Donald E. Wetmore found that people with messy desks spend an average of 1.5 hours a day looking for things or being distracted by things at their desk. DYMO also found that 51% of employers think there is a link between organizational skills and performance. Here are some tips for how to keep your desk clean, even if you don’t feel like you have the time:

Ten at a Time

If you don’t like having a messy desk but have a hard time getting yourself to clean it, break up your cleaning into smaller pieces. Every time you look at your desk and think about how messy it is or how you wish it could be clean, throw out or move ten items. Once you’ve done your ten, go back to whatever it was you were doing before the desk distracted you. This way, you’re setting a more concrete goal and can allow yourself to ease into the idea of organizing your whole desk. After a while, you’ll be able to do 15, then 20, then eventually you’ll have your desk so clean that there won’t even be ten things to clean up in the first place.

Make it a Habit

Usually, we only think to clean when things look messier than usual. Doing this takes up more time than it should and almost guarantees that you will sink back into your messy ways after every cleaning. According to this Inc. article, having a clean desk is something you need to work on consistently. Pick a time, whether at the end of each day or once a week, and hold yourself to using that time to clean. Once it becomes a habit, keeping your desk tidy will become easier and easier and will eventually take less time.

Adjust Your Lighting

Jeff DeGraff understands the importance of a productive workspace and recommends letting in as much natural light as possible in order to recharge the mind. In this blog post, he suggests getting “a window with a view outside” or “a plant or two.” Being around anything natural will make you feel more calm and productive, while fluorescent lighting can make you more anxious or stressed out. If it’s not possible to be near a window, follow Jeff’s advice and look for a low-maintenance plant. Something like a cactus or an air plant will make you feel more at ease without taking up much time or space.

Wipe Everything Down

Once your desk is free of clutter, invest in some disinfecting wipes. A study by the University of Arizona found that the average workspace has around a hundred times more bacteria per square inch than a public toilet seat, and the total amount of bacteria can increase 19-31% daily if not cleaned. This number is even higher if you eat at your desk. Don’t depend on you cleaning crews to do it for you, as they oftentimes won’t wipe down desks in order to stay away from any legal issues associated with misplacing important documents. Invest in some wipes and use them several times a week, especially during flu season.

Don’t Stop at Your Desk

If you schedule time to clean your desk, you’ll eventually be able to organize it so quickly that you won’t need all the time you’ve allotted. Once this happens, use your extra cleaning time to clean other work-related areas like your filing cabinet. Start with your desk, as this is the most important, but spreading organization into other areas will increase your focus even more. According to this blog post, even organizing your living space will help you feel more centered and productive in general.

Use Less Paper

Paper is one of the biggest sources of clutter on the average desk and takes a lot of time to sort through. ComputerWorld recommends using digital files in meetings rather than paper copies, as your laptop is much easier to organize and allows you to find documents more quickly than a stack of paper. This will cut down on both desk clutter and the time you spend looking for documents. If you are in a meeting where there are already paper copies, request a digital one and leave the paper behind. You’ll be saving your desk AND the environment!

Organize Digital Clutter Too

To fully feel the effects of workspace organization, you should organize everything on your computer in addition to your desk. According to Forbes, “digital clutter can be just as stressful and energy-sapping as physical clutter.” Just like you would with your desk, put files into folders, name everything properly, keep only essential items on your desktop, and color code as needed. This will help you find files more easily and work more efficiently on projects.

Your desk is a reflection of your organizational skills and has a significant impact on your health and productivity. Though it may be difficult to go from clutter to clean overnight, following these steps should help you get started.

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