Paperwork, post-it notes, folders, notepads, post-it notes left by other people, scissors, tape, pens, pictures of the family, a plant or two, a stapler, paper clips, candy…you get the picture. If you have an office job, you know what a mess this can become. And if you’re stuck in a cubical, many of those things start to climb up the wall.
For some, a messy desk or office space is perfectly functional. Me? Not so much. In the past, I generally tried to keep my desk, walls, and cabinets neat. But after having a few office jobs, I’ve learned that neatness just isn’t enough for me. What I found is that every office job I’ve ever had has produced some sort of stress/anxiety which triggered my symptoms, or I was really bored due to a level of creativity that was lacking. So I would subconsciously devise ways of destracting myself.
Sometimes that would translate into organizing and reorganizing things, color-coding or labeling, creating unnecessary spreadsheets, or rearranging the information I kept on my cubical walls. Sometimes I would shift around the photos I kept at my desk, mess around with my computer monitors, reorganize my binders, and rearrange other desk items over and over until I was finally satisfied. Then weeks, days, or even hours later, I would get distracted again by something slightly out of place, or by some colorful label I hadn’t noticed before, and it would start all over again.
My neighbors would often notice and chuckle at me. It didn’t matter how perfectly fine everything already was, I would always find a much better system or way or arranging something. But once my boss took notice and I wasn’t being as productive, it wasn’t so cute and fun anymore and I knew there was only one solution for me; to GET RID OF IT ALL! It didn’t necessarily cure my boredom, but it did lessen some of the stress by having less visual distractions to tear me away from what I really needed to focus on.
Over the past couple of years, I’ve come up with a few tips to help keep me from falling back into my own trap. I hope you’ll find at least one of these tips useful!
You must first let go of the need to display your personality and personal life through the things you place on and around your desk. Make that mental shift that your workspace is NOT an extension of your home.
At the end of each day, all items like stapler, tape, pens, scissors, note pads, etc. gets thrown into a drawer. Nothing is left out unless it doesn’t fit in a drawer. This also eliminates the need for a desk organizer.
Kill the paper as much as possible! Get rid of the desk calendars and start using a planner, or learn how to use an electronic one. Get rid of phone lists and start creating contacts in your email, or use a roladex if you’re old school. Use the sticky note feature on your computer!!!
Limit photographs and rid yourself of unnecessary chatchkees. Keep a single frame of your child or hubby, but leave the rest at home.
Keep only the very bare minimum piece of information that you absolutely have to commit to memory. Once you know that piece of information, replace it with something else you are trying to master. But don’t have everything out all at once.
Instead of various folders and files of work that needs to be completed, keep a nice SINGLE stack of paperwork. Divide the pile by category or priority using a sheet of blank paper.