Papers piled high on a desktop, stacks of magazines crammed into a corner, disorganized drawers filled to the brim — this is the stuff of office clutter. It’s not only unsightly, but also may hurt your productivity and, ultimately, your career.
But don’t just take our word for it. More than half of Americans surveyed by retailer OfficeMax last year agreed. Among them:
- 77 percent admitted that disorganization has a negative impact on their productivity.
- 65 percent said the disorder impacts their motivation.
- 53 percent think negatively of co-workers who have messy desks.
So, what are you waiting for? Finish reading this post, then break out your calendar and set aside an hour or so to give your workspace the once-over. It might be the smartest career move you’ve ever made.
To get started, here are five ways to cut clutter in your office:
- Practice “mise en place.” Chefs use this French term to describe an organizational method that aims to have “a place for everything, and everything in its place.” One reason offices become so congested is that things that don’t have a designated spot to return to and just get piled up on any available surface. To prevent this from happening, create a permanent home for every major item you use. When you’re done using that item, put it back in its designated spot.
- Store your nonessential documents. Despite the proliferation of online communication, most of us still don’t work in paperless offices. One way to create some space is to go through your office files and piles and gather, box up, and store all of the must-keep — but rarely used — documents lying around. This way you can access them whenever you need them, but they won’t take up room day to day.
- Make it a point to purge. Are you one of those types who refuses to throw anything away, regardless of how outdated, broken, or unused it is? If so, learn to make friends with your trash can and recycle bin. At least once a week, set aside 15 minutes to get rid of old magazines and newspapers, inkless pens, misshapen paperclips, and broken office equipment. If an item is lurking that you don’t use but is still in good shape, donate it to Goodwill or another charity for a tax write-off.
- Get your cables under wraps. In addition to not being paperless, most of our offices aren’t completely wireless, either. As a result, cable management can become a concern. To tame your cable clutter, go to a hardware or office-supply store and pick up a selection of clips, clamps, ties, and Velcro wraps that you can use to bundle various cables. Whenever possible, place cables out of the way, behind furniture, where they can’t be seen and where you are less likely to trip over them.
- Curb your online clutter. The physical spaces in your office aren’t the only ones that need organizing. We tend clog up our email in-boxes and clutter our computer desktops with just as much gusto. To give your online office life a clean sweep, begin by deleting messages (including spam) that you no longer need. Next, set up an email filing system in which your email folders mirror the way you organize your paper files. For example, if you generally reference your work by account name, then set up your email folders by account name; if you generally reference by date, then set up your folders by date, etc.