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LaNella Hooper-Williams

Personal Branding Tips and Tools for An Authentically Empowered Career

Is Your Desk a Hot Mess?

December 4, 2019

I’m generally a neat person.  I make my bed every morning. I also take pride in having the house in tip-top shape within five minutes of someone visiting. Nevertheless, when it comes to keeping my desk uncluttered and organized, I must tell you—the struggle continues to be real! 

I know several colleagues whose desks are always neat. For instance, anytime I have walked into my friend Bev’s office, her paperless, picture-perfect desk amazes me.

“Where’s your stuff?” I asked during one of my visits.

“It’s here,” pointing to her desk file drawer. She explained that most of her files are electronic. 

My friend Deborah is another one that I’ve often accused of being OCD. Not a single piece of paper is out of place in her office.

Every few months when I’ve had enough, I start uncluttering, sorting and organizing. I promise myself I’m going to take one project folder out at a time, and at the end of the day put everything back in its rightful place.  However, old habits die hard, and within one to two weeks my desk is back where it started—a hot mess! Various files and papers magically reappear.  And where did these little post-it notes, which are now scattered across the surface, come from?

As 2019 winds down, I’m attempting to Marie Kondo my desk area. Notice I said trying. I know there are benefits to an orderly workspace. For instance, I lose precious work minutes every time I go searching for a lost paper on my cluttered desk. Research also shows that our physical environments significantly influence our cognition, emotions, and behavior, which affects our decision-making and relationships with others. Scientists at the Princeton University Neuroscience Institute have used fMRI (Functional Magnetic Resonanance Imaging) and other approaches to show that our brains like order, and constant visual reminders of disorganization drain our cognitive resources and reduce our ability to focus. In other words, disorganized people tend to procrastinate more!

Some argue that a messy desk is a sign of creativity. That was my story for many years.  In fact, in my quest to be organized, I would sometimes put things away only to forget where I put them.

However, in the long run, there’s probably more upside than downside for keeping an organized work area, including: increased efficiency, more room to work, better time management, stronger security, and better focus on the task at hand.

So how do we tackle this project for good?  Here are some tips:

  1. Regularly Tidy Your Workspace. Instead of letting things get out of hand, use the last 15 minutes of the day to tidy up your workspace and put things back in their original location.  Make sure you have designated storage space.
  2. Spring Clean. Establish regular spring-cleaning days throughout the year.
  3. Organize Technology Cables. Keep wires from electronics organized with Velcro ties, etc.  Also, if you haven’t already, invest in a label maker and use it to label cords, folders, etc.
  4. Reduce Desk Accessories. Make sure everything is usable on your desktop.  As I look around my desk, several things should be removed—calculators, store coupons, etc.
  5. Finish Tasks As Soon as Possible. Avoid procrastination by finishing tasks as soon as possible—especially those tasks that only take a few minutes to complete. Time blocking also helps with larger projects. 

How do you keep your desk organized?  I would love to hear additional tips and tricks that will help all of us tidy up in preparation for 2020!

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