It’s hard for anyone to get things done in a messy office. It’s even harder at a cluttered desk. In fact, according to Wendy Pike, president of Twist Office Products, the Wall Street Journal estimated that in 2002, the average U.S. executive wasted six weeks per year searching for missing information on messy desks and in files. And, for every lost piece of paper, businesses lost $120.
“One can assume that the costs are much higher in today’s economy,” she said. “The cost of clutter and the ramifications of being disorganized for the business person often include decreased productivity, wasted time, and even loss of clients or sales.”
So, how can a busy business person easily clean up their desk to avoid productivity and revenue loss?
“Paper is by far the number one item that clutters desks,” said Maeve Richmond, founder of Maeve’s Method. “It shows up as bills, envelopes, sticky notes and notebooks. What we must keep in mind is that paper comes into our homes in only one of two ways, either we carry it in, or, we print it from our printers.”
“Practical Glamour” Author and Self-Improvement Media Pundit, Constance Dunn recommends cleaning your desk from right to left.
“You are not allowed to proceed leftward until all that is in your path is dealt with. ‘Dealt with’ does not include re-shuffling,” she said. “Play hot potato. Handle a file or piece of paper only once, and once picked up, you are not allowed to put it back on your desk. Imagine the item glued to your hand if you must.”
Since you can’t put it back on your desk, it has to go into a file, trash can or recycling bin.
If this process doesn’t work for you, Mitzi Weinman, founder of TimeFinder, said the best way to begin cleaning a desk it to gather up the clutter, making piles and going through each pile.
She suggests using DAFT, a different method of sorting through papers that helps you decide what to do with it:
D: Distribute or delegate.
A: Act on it.
F: File it (now!).
T: Throw it away.
When filing papers, Professional Organizer Laurie Neumann recommends labeling your file folders with action words, such as “To call,” “To enter” and “To pay.”
“Be sure the labels make sense to you and be consistent. Avoid any files labeled ‘miscellaneous.’”
If you’re buried under paper that you must save, Richmond recommends using a digital scanner to store it electronically.
Keep your desk clean all year by adding recurring organization events to your calendar.
“For example, every Friday before you go home, make sure that all loose papers have been moved to a paper tray and all trash is thrown away,” said Brittany Berger, digital content supervisor at ezanga.com. “Then once per month, do a more thorough organization and file all of those papers in the tray into their appropriate folders or binders. This ensures that your desk never looks like a disaster zone, which is when cleaning it is most intimidating.”
Additionally, you can keep your desk clutter-free with vertical organization.
“Using vertical space such as a door or wall where you could hang cubbies to house all your files and/or supplies could free up your desk, but still allow everything out in the open,” said Karen Eschebach, cofounder of Clever Container.
Finally, all the experts agree that you should put away when you leave work.
“At the end of the night, put everything back in its place so that you start fresh and clear the next morning,” said Eschebach.