If working from home has taught me anything about myself, it’s that I’m capable of morphing my l-shaped desk into a special kind of purgatory, one where focus, motivation, and productivity go to die. Now that I don’t have to worry about my cubicle’s professional appearance, my distaste for the mundane shows. It’s a vicious cycle, man. The less I attend to my desk, the less I want to spend time at it. Finally, the disarray got to me, so I picked up some desktop organizers and office gear and sought a simple way to clear off my workstation for good.
Though it may seem intimidating, clearing your workstation space isn’t really all that difficult, especially if you divide the problem areas into a handful of categories and then conquer one category of items at a time. Categorizing the type of items that monopolize your space makes sorting that much easier. Being able to tick a category of clutter off your list feels surprisingly good (I see you, dopamine). That positive feedback can motivate you to keep on trucking toward the finish line.
Even if you’re of the minimalist ilk with a sleek standing desk, consider how critical the few items sitting on your desk are. I mean, let’s not get too extreme about it. We don’t want to throw out our all-in-one desktop computers or up-end our home office desks just yet. But try to challenge yourself to find alternate, proximal locations for those “critical” things. You may find a new spot that’s superior to the current one.
Below I’ve listed off the categories I’ve used to clean up my act, each followed by examples and rationale. It’s not exhaustive, and it’s not minimal, but I hope you find it useful.
1. Small Electronics
Routers, speakers, cables, hard drives, printers. Is your desk the only surface upon which you can rest your electronics? Desks with shelving can work wonders for clearing up the visual clutter of your electronic staples. But with the advent of Bluetooth technology, many of these items can sit beyond your arm’s reach without inconveniencing your process.
And, what about that little elephant in the room: your phone. Consider how your smart device impacts your productivity. Granted, it might not take up a lot of space, but the amount of attention we fritter away with it can certainly clutter-up your time.
2. Bric-a-Brac and Décor
If achieving a fully functional space is your goal, evaluate the current placement of classic desk accessories and décors like clocks, framed photos, and memorabilia. Relocating such items to display shelves or wall mounts not only simplifies your work surface; it can improve your office’s vibe. You might even consider swapping out your current desk lamp for one that’s more slender and features a smaller base.
3. Gadgets and Gizmos
I’m sort of a sucker for desk toys, honestly. Drinking birds, fidget spinners, Rubik’s cubes, miniature zen gardens – the market for quirky executive desk toys has boomed for years. And while I’ll be the first to elide the importance of silliness in the workplace, when it comes to quirky executive desk toys, even two’s a crowd. Whether nostalgia, anxiety, or a shopping addiction inspired those purchases – ask yourself if you value your space or your hoard of gadgets.
4. Tools Irrelevant to Your Present Objective
There’s a time and place for many desk-oriented tools – calculators, drafting implements, graphing paper, laptops, mice, reference materials, staplers, tape. And it’s reasonable to stow those things in one’s office. But think about which tools apply to your current objective, and then put the rest out of sight. If you’re crunching numbers, you probably don’t need that dictionary.
I shouldn’t have to explain this, but okay, fine. Chairs and laptop keyboards don’t exist to collect your potato chip crumbs and hummus foibles. Popular opinion says that keeping your work zone and your break zone separate positively affects energy level and motivation. Dedicating a room or space to certain functions allows you to step away for a bit, take another environment in, and, most importantly? Get up and move more. Eating while distracted is a notorious recipe for overeating, which, at best, results in lethargy (I’m a sugar-coma kind of girl, personally) and implicates your health at worst.
6. Unsorted Documents
You know this already – those piles of dejected post-it notes and last week’s mail aren’t doing you any favors. If there’s an accumulation on your workstation, make a point to sort it out and file the important stuff. You’ll feel like a grown-up, and you’ll have cleared off more prized desk territory.
Clean, Clear, and Under Control
The benefits of clearing up your workspace aren’t difficult to see. Having an orderly area in which to do your biding can lower the odds of distraction and procrastination; the visual improvement might find you more inclined to spend time in your home office. Who knows, you might even like it.