Desk organization has always been difficult for many of us that work from home or at an office.
For example, when I was a journalist, I stacked old newspapers, printed pages, and layout designs all over my large desk and a conference table.
My preferred method was to stack all of the paper, brochures, and old notes in a file cabinet next to my desk and then not look at it for a really long time.
Good luck finding my to-do list or finding a file at a moment’s notice.
Here’s the good news: there’s a better way to keep your desk organized (13 of them to be precise)!
Here are our 13 desk organization tips and tricks to help you stay on top of work and find anything at a moment’s notice.
- 13 Desk Organization Tips And Tricks
- 1. Keep your desktop computer in front of you
- 2. Put the things you use most near your dominant hand
- 3. Keep only what you need on your desk
- 4. Group similar items together
- 5. Ditch the sticky notes
- 6. Slow your roll on personal stuff
- 7. Control your notifications
- 8. Keep open desk space
- 9. Only keep relevant and urgent documents on your desk
- 10. Color code your files
- 11. Use your books or take them home
- 12. Clean up before you go
- 13. Create a schedule to re-evaluate
Let’s get started.
13 Desk Organization Tips And Tricks
I’ve done my fair share of research on ‘how to keep your desk organized.’
I spent hours going through tons of websites and blog posts to find the ones that work.
And it’s time to share the wisdom of best desk organization with you!
Here are my best ideas and tricks for better office storage and work efficiency.
1. Keep your desktop computer in front of you
Keeping your desktop or laptop in front of you helps you stay focused.
However, it should also be comfortable, so ensure that the monitor stands in a way that you can sit facing it with your back up straight. Give yourself enough room, about 1.5 feet in front of you.
And what about computer cords?
Keep those behind your desk and try computer wire ties to keep those cords and chargers at bay.
You can always put up a desktop organizer, too, if you like.
2. Put the things you use most near your dominant hand
Once I had a desk set up where my office phone was on the left side of my computer. But I was right-handed.
What does that have to do with anything?
Every time I was on a call, I had to reach across my body to get the phone.
It’s a good stretch for sure.
But it’s also not one of the best desk organization ideas.
Moving the phone or re-orienting my desk to where I could reach the phone a little easier would have saved some time.
Is your desk against a wall?
Then you can even install floating shelves or a pegboard right above it.
Or even wall files.
Trust me. It can be a fun DIY office or at-home improvement project too.
These storage options will clear out some desk space, give you new storage space and yet keep things within reach.
Quick Tip: Use your wall space. If you don’t have a lot of storage space in your office area or a small desk, the solution might be a floating shelf. However, if you don’t have any free wall space buy a stackable desk tray.
3. Keep only what you need on your desk
Try limiting yourself to just one pen, not an entire pen holder.
Similarly, try keeping a few paperclips or binder clips, not one thousand.
You don’t need that many pens or paper clips. They’re just knick-knacks that you can avoid.
Need a desk lamp?
Place it far enough away so that it doesn’t become an obstacle in your working space.
Need a magazine holder?
Think about it first.
Is it important for your work?
If yes, only then keep it.
Do you use a stapler a lot?
Fine. Keep it on your desk.
Don’t really use it much?
Then put it in a designated compartment in a desk drawer or use a desk organizer.
However, remember that a desk organizer or desk accessory is supposed to help you stay organized and not to make your office desk look pretty.
So you’ll have to stop yourself from buying pretty office accessories from Amazon and The Container Store for your desk!
The point is, your paperclips, business cards, post-it notes, stickers, and gum can have a place.
But that place isn’t your desk.
Your desk is only for the things you use at the ready. The rest is just clutter.
Instead, use your filing cabinet for storage or throw the clutter away. This will help you easily maintain an organized desk.
4. Group similar items together
Unless you’re an artist who uses acrylic paints, brushes, and lots of other supplies, all of your office supplies can probably fit in one drawer.
Just keep one office drawer for your office supplies that are multifunctional.
And it’s okay if your scissors go in there, along with your sticky notes, push pins, and favorite Washi tape.
Now, you can use your other drawers for other things, like those wires you never forgot to throw away or maybe even a designated junk food drawer. 😉
In ClickUp, you can incorporate grouping into your virtual office too!
Use our Organized Project Hierarchy to group related tasks and put things where they belong.
5. Ditch the sticky notes
Are you the person who lines their whole monitor with sticky notes and then calls everything “important”?
As far as office organization ideas go, that’s probably not the best route to take.
Not only could one of those notes fall off and end up in the trash can, pinning so many notes on your monitor looks tacky and cluttered.
You’d be better off getting notifications in your project management or productivity platform where they’d be safe away from the dangers of the office vacuum.
Save those sticky notes for only the most urgent tasks or that last crazy idea that you don’t want to forget over lunch.
Remember, stick notes are for urgent reminders only. They are not a to-do list.
Want to find out more office organization options? Check out the 30 best tools to help you immediately.
6. Slow your roll on personal stuff
Dog pics. 🐶
That epic Cabo trip. ✈️
Your last family Christmas. 🎄
The kid’s graduation. 🎓
All are super memorable and fun additions to the corkboard near your desk.
But save them for your social media feed or your fireside mantlepiece, not your workspace or desk.
Remember, your workspace is just for focusing on work.
7. Control your notifications
Notification overload is a real thing.
Though it may only happen digitally, it can still affect your mindset at your desk.
And I get it. Notifications are tempting.
If you put your cell phone away in a drawer or off to the side in a phone holder, you won’t be as distracted.
Alternatively, opt for tools like ClickUp that let you customize your notifications!
You can also decide when you want to receive a notification.
For example, you can schedule a due date notification to alert you three days or even five minutes before the due date.
You’ll have a more productive work space and schedule.
8. Keep open desk space
Keep the area immediately next to your computer, free of any clutter.
This way, you can review papers or documents right away without clearing any desk or office space.
And don’t keep things here too long.
Review, edit, approve, and move them along.
Sort of like a Kanban workflow!
This is another area where organization apps and project management software are great resources to have. In many tools like ClickUp, you can review and attach documents right there, keeping your digital space organized as well.
Want more tips on organizing your office? Check out our guide on building the perfect home office.
9. Only keep relevant and urgent documents on your desk
Remember how I started this article talking about all that paper?
How much of that was necessary?
How much of it was extremely urgent?
Not all of it, that’s for sure.
Once I reviewed a document, I should have tossed it out or filed it away for more long-term safekeeping.
Dreaming of a paperless office? Take a look at these 11 tips to make it a reality.
10. Color code your files
Yes, keep the urgent and essential stuff.
But you can take an extra step and separate them into different sections with colored file holders, file organizers, or sorters. 📂
- Red is for marketing
- Green is for sales
- Blue is for creative/design
- Yellow is for reports, and so on.
This way, you’ll quickly recognize a color when you need a particular item.
Apply this same level of color-coordination to your virtual office with ClickUp’s List Colors. Customize Lists with different colors to visually connect related tasks and quickly grasp Task Statuses or Priorities.
11. Use your books or take them home
At one place I worked, we had a book club where team members would read different books each month and then share them.
We also exchanged books quite often, and I even brought in a few from home.
This was great in theory until I started stacking them up high on a shelf. 📚
I used them for reference only occasionally and not frequently enough to keep them around.
If you don’t want to part with your books, get yourself a bookshelf or a shelving unit for them instead of scattering them on your desk.
Feeling creative? Try DIY bookends to keep the books where they should be.
12. Clean up before you go
One great habit is to clear your workspace before you go.
No one is perfect, and in the heat of battle that is the daily workday, things will get out of place.
A loose paper here.
A tipped over pencil cup there.
An open lid Mason jar full of jam that you forgot to close after lunch.
Trash from that evening’s Twix bar.
All this is normal.
Just clean up every day, so you get a fresh start the next day. And de-clutter the entire workspace or home office every week or month.
As for your virtual desk space in ClickUp, you can be just as productive!
Make sure to clear out your notifications in your Inbox before you sign off.
This way you get a fresh start every day!
13. Create a schedule to re-evaluate
Need a little more elbow room?
More labels for your office supplies?
Running low on file folders and pens?
Disorganization happens when the system falls apart.
Schedule time in your day to take down those now-meaningless sticky notes and think again about how you’re actually using your system.
A Recurring Task to remind you of this is perfect for this!
You can also ClickUp’s Calendar view to schedule your events and keep track of everything.
Organize Your Way To Productivity
You can use these organizational ideas to stay focused, productive and avoid a cluttered desk and mind.
Not to mention, your desk organization affects your ability to contribute at work. Your work environment has a trickle-down effect on your projects, tasks, and your team collaboration.
And when you’re free from clutter, you’re free to create.
It helps you put away distractions to make something new, work on the next big idea, or build something great.
Cleaning your desk can be the best thing you ever do.
So one day, when you find yourself bored at work, make sure to clean your desk!
Greg is a Content Strategist at ClickUp, where he crafts copy and content for the most productive people in the world. When he’s not living in ClickUp Docs, he’s spending quarantine somewhere in San Diego, drinking wine, reading his Kindle, watching documentaries, or eating shit on his surfboard.
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