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Your Desk: Straighten Up and Fly Right

When you’re inspired to get some work done, it is a huge help to have your desk and supplies organized and ready. Your desk should be like an airplane cockpit, with everything you need close at hand. Here are some suggestions for desk organization basics that will make work less stressful along with a few less obvious ideas to increase efficiency at your desk.

First, you should have everything you need to do your work within arm’s reach. Your office chair should be wheeled and should roll easily to get to the things that are just slightly out of reach, perhaps a bookcase or your paper storage.

The top of your desk should be fairly clear and clean. A computer, telephone, a task light and an in-box are three must-haves. A pad of paper and a pen for notes is also essential, and for me, a labeler is never far from my desk.

Most of us have a center desk drawer, and this is prime real estate for often-used supplies. However, it easily can become a messy catchall. In what should be an active, vital area, there is usually a good quantity of inessential stuff — in a recent client’s center drawer I found ancient cough drops, 53 stubby golf course pencils and 100 expired coupons, all of which made finding things difficult. 

Clean the center desk drawer out at the end of each week and limit its contents to several working pens, one or two sharpened pencils, an eraser, a ruler, a calculator, some Post-Its and anything else you need regularly in the course of a normal day, whether that be TUMS, gum or a tape measure.

Other desk drawers or nearby storage should contain extra printer paper, legal pads, extra pens and pencils, file folders, stamps, envelopes , etc. Paper clips, binder clips and all sorts of little items can be corralled in a kitchen utensil organizer or small plastic drawer organizers that snap together to customize your drawers.

You shouldn’t have to get up to create, label and put away a file. If your filing supplies and your file cabinet are within arm’s reach, you will be so much more likely to handle your filing quickly rather than let it stack up and become a headache.

Are you always too hot or too cold when you’re working? Keep an extra sweater on the back of your chair or keep a space heater close by. One of those on-desk coffee cup warmers could be a handy addition to the desktop. Also, a full water bottle at the start of each day should be on everyone’s desk — the brain works best when well-hydrated.

Think about what each item in your “cockpit” means to you and ask yourself if it is essential to your ability to do your work or adds to your work satisfaction.