The Ultimate Guide to Organizing Your Workspace
Looking to increase productivity and avoid workplace distractions? Assert control over your success by manning a tight ship— that is, keeping a neat and organized workstation.
Some believe that internal organization must take place before we can bring order to our surroundings; if our trains of thought are clear and direct, then our environments will follow suit. Others propose that external order will naturally bring about inner peace and clarification— how can anyone hope to think properly when their surroundings are a mess? Personally, I borrow from both of these philosophies: a clean space will inspire and motivate, and a clean mind will naturally curate peaceful surroundings.
I promise I didn’t bring up this philosophy to bore you. It’s actually pretty topical to what I wanted to talk about today: how (and why) we properly organize our workspaces.
The Daily Stoic published a piece talking about how a clean, organized workspace impacts our productivity and personal well-being. The author posits: “The space where great work is done is holy. We must respect it because a person comfortable with a messy workspace will become comfortable with sloppy work.”
Whether you agree with this admittedly dramatic philosophy or not, there is an undeniable truth to the idea that respecting your work area pays off. Take gourmet chefs, for example. Everything has a place, and everything is brought back to square one before and after they begin their craft. It’s highly unlikely that they would produce their cuisine as efficiently and successfully if they did not spend so much time caring for their workstations.
“Imagine what you could get done,” says The Daily Stoic, “if you had the discipline to proactively put everything in order first. If you committed to orderliness and enforced it on yourself. Don’t think of this as another obligation... in practice, it will free you.”
You set yourself up for success when your drawers aren’t jammed with papers. You avoid distractions when your utensils are in a designated location. And you can enjoy working unencumbered when you start your work day with a clean slate.
HOW IT’S DONE
The goal of organizing your workspace should be to increase accessibility, productivity, and ease. If you’re looking to improve your workspace (and maybe make it look a little prettier), here are some fundamental tips to get started:
Deal with one corner at a time. It’s not in your best interest to start organizing by dumping everything into one giant pile— that’s how you overwhelm yourself before you even begin. Start with one corner, drawer, or bin, then keep going. Take breaks between segments if you have to.
Take everything out. That goes for any drawers, bins, or containers you use to store papers or supplies. This way, you know what you’re working with as you start to put everything back together in a way that makes sense.
Divide things into categories. It’s best to store items that have a similar function together (i.e. tape, paper clips, and glue sticks). Also, consider dedicating drawers to specific categories, like “Paperwork”, “Art Supplies”, or “Wires”.
Eliminate duplicates. How many blue pens do you need? Notebooks? Calculators? Sticky notes? Only keep the essentials handy, and store your “backup supply” stash somewhere out of the way so it’s not using valuable space in your immediate work area.
Only keep your favorites handy. If you find yourself consistently reaching for the same supplies, make those more accessible than your less-used stuff. Also, consider letting go of supplies you simply don’t like using— for example, if you hate how a certain brand of pen writes, toss them and replace them with ones you prefer.
Use drawer inserts. This helps preserve the order you’ve established while organizing your supplies. Invest in some shallow containers or low dividers so your drawers can close easily— nothing fancy, just anything that works!
Use labels. Giving your materials a home and then denoting them with labels will make them easier to find later. Avoid using sticky notes if you can help it— they tend not to stay put.
Keep your surfaces clean and clear. Try to avoid keeping piles of things on desks, work benches, or tabletops, and minimize accessories like picture frames and plants to a special few. Also, give your station a good wipe-down once a week to keep it fresh and dust-free.
Think ahead. Notice how and where you collect junk at your workstation, then adjust your area to discourage those habits. For example, if you tend to throw papers around willy-nilly, get labeled baskets so you can keep them sorted as your piles grow.
Focus on sustainability. If the organizational method you’re using doesn’t suit your work style, then maybe it’s time to rethink your approach. Don’t follow trends— try different systems, then choose which one you can keep up with.
At the end of the day, your workspace shouldn’t hinder you from doing what you need to do. As The Daily Stoic writes: “If something is not adding value, it’s more than likely costing you—physical space, mental space, or maybe both–and it needs to go.” Investing effort in your workspace gives you your best chance at success.