Work zen: organizing your work space

Work zen: organizing your work space

Every one of us spends more time at work than at home. If having a clean and organized home is important to us, it becomes obvious that having a tidy office will help us work better, too.

Many people judge their coworkers by the neatness and cleanliness of their offices, just like they judge other people’s homes. While we shouldn’t let ourselves be influenced by what others think, if those others are one’s boss or one’s clients, it’s smart to keep a tidy work space to make a better impression. Here’s the best way to tidy up in a short period of time so that you not only have a clean office, but one that will help you work better.

Papers, and more papers! 

Don’t start by organizing those. Instead, why not pick a spot in your office and while you’re doing the other steps of this process, any time you run into papers that aren’t directly going into recycling, you pile them up in that spot? As you stack them, you can turn them in different directions to help you go through them later, but leave it at that. It’s best to have all papers together in

A pile of papers, seen from the side.
the end and you’ll save time by going through them all at once.

Within reach 

Take a look at your desk top, right in front of where you sit/stand to work each day: think objectively of what you need constantly within reach. Maybe a couple of pens, a pencil, a notepad, calendar… decide which are the things that must be there all the time, set them out, and find a place out of sight for everything else, keeping closer those things that you will need more often (just not as often).

That drawer… 

We all have one. And many of us have made a jumble of it. If you are one of those who just toss everything unseemly into that drawer, this should be your first spot to organize and clean. Throw out/recycle all pens and materials that don’t work or you don’t use. If you have repeated items: for instance, I’m an expert at losing my stapler refills, so I end up collecting several boxes because when I need them, I can’t find them. If you do something similar, why not help others and return those repeated items to the common stocking area? You’ll even get some space back.

Consider tidying up this drawer every couple of months. Not only will you save space to put other things, you’ll find everything more easily.

Organize your space 

Think of your work functions, dividing it into sections; if it helps, write them down to organize them. Then, examine your work space and try to divide the storage space you have into areas

A closeup view of a desk organizer with pens, clips, sticky notes and markers.
dedicated to each function. That way you’ll have a place for everything and be able to locate stuff easily.

Three trays 

A convenient way to organize work is with three trays: to readto do, and to file. The reason

for this is that it’s the way most of us process through our work, be it in one day or over the course of days or weeks. If you use this system, you’ll always know where to find things.

A transition zone 

Consider the idea of having a special drawer, basket or tray, to handle the incoming daily

tide of things. There’ll be times that you won’t be able to go through everything that comes in on the day it comes in; if you have a place to put incoming mail, press, and those files and folders for projects you have yet to start, it’ll all be there waiting for when you have the time, and it will be neat and organized.

Once you’ve gone through all these steps, now’s the time to go through that pile of papers that I mentioned in step 1, sorting them into their newly designated areas.


Why not take the time to make sure your office equipment is set up so that it’s comfortable and healthy? Are your mouse and keyboard well placed, not just comfortably but promoting good posture? What about your chair? If you work at a standing workstation, the distances and angles on arms, wrists and elbows must be equivalent to the sitting ones but with respect to your standing desk, while allowing you to work looking ahead or slightly down.

Three-tray paper organizer

We all have germs that we bring in from outside and. Get disinfectant wipes to clean everything you touch regularly (remember your armrests!).

Outside and extra work clothing 

Do you store jackets and clothing for casual days, as well as outdoor clothes you take off when you get to the office? If you don’t have a hook to put away these things, now’s the time to think of a solution for keeping them out of sight.

Now let’s look at your other work space, the computer.

Your desktop 

Why not organize your desktop? Group icons, create folders to store less-used apps, files

and documents, and to help you sort through the items you work with more effectively. This gives you a chance to locate items you no longer need and trash them. Remember to empty the bin at the very end!

Analyze and defragment 

While you’re at it, this would be an ideal time to defragment your hard drive: When you use your computer constantly, saving items, updating others, you create –without knowing it- sections in which many items are duplicate, triplicate or more and, with time, all this redundant data takes up space on the hard drive, making processing times slower over time. Defragmenting consists of analyzing the data to remove redundancies, freeing space and resources. It’s a process that takes time, so leave this for the very end, as you shouldn’t work on your computer while it’s defragmenting.

Your email 

Email is not a to-do list. The same way you divided your office space in work sections, why not do that with email? Create folders in your inbox; if possible, make a folder for each job function, with to do and to file subfolders.

Those deleted items
A person's hands work on a laptop keyboard, which is seen form the side.

We all store emails from eons ago in our email accounts. Completely useless things that we don’t erase just because we don’t think of it, and because we figure that they do no harm just sitting there. But, if your emails sit in an online cloud-like service such as Outlook or Gmail, or email managers like Zix One, they are harmful. All the data in those cloud services are consuming crazy amounts of energy just to keep our useless deleted items in servers built of large amounts of resources, and putting out loads of CO2.

And no, it’s not a matter of “everyone does it, my data won’t make a difference”. That’s a flawed argument, because  every bit of data has a quantifiable energy storage cost. If you care anything for your planet and the environment, now’s the time to erase those deleted items, and archive those you think you might need. Archiving frees up space on your system and the cloud systems alike.

Have a great spring!

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