Clean up Your Workspace and Get More Accomplished

The other day I offered a few time management hacks that included advice about watching less television. I haven’t changed my outlook on what a time waster the old boob tube can be, but whenever I flip across one of those reality shows dedicated to cleaning out someone’s uncontrollably messy house, I can’t help but watch (especially with my dad who loves those shows).

Although the majority of us don’t have to sleep in a living room recliner because our beds are completely covered with dirty clothes, shopping bags, photo albums, and who knows what else (hey, haven’t you seen Hoarders?)  but I’d have to guess that a lot of people reading this do have messy work areas. I know I’m guilty of it from time to time.

A Place for Everything, and Everything in its Place

It doesn’t matter if your desk is in an actual office or you keep your computer in a corner of your kitchen:  if your workspace is full of piles of paper, pens that no longer write, and so many Post-it notes that you can’t even read them all, you’re not going to get as much accomplished as you would if things were organized.

“But it’s organized clutter! I know where everything is!” is an argument that a lot of people have. Well, maybe, but try thinking of it this way. When you get dressed in the morning, you probably know which dresser drawer has your socks inside and which one has your pants.

Your shirts are most likely hanging in the closet, and I bet your shoes are in there, too. Getting dressed is usually a piece of cake because your clothes are all in their designated spots. (Unless you’re on Hoarders, of course.) If you treat your work area the way you treat your dresser and closet —if you actually put things in a proper place—you’d get things done more efficiently.

I had a professor in college who was notorious for keeping so many file folders and books piled on top of his desk that he’d wind up losing students’ term papers in the mix. He’d often hand back tests with a grade and a coffee cup ring. The guy was a genius, but he was a slob.

Your workspace should be organized to support the activities that you perform regularly. It should be a place where you can be creative, but it also needs to be set up so you can accomplish your routine tasks easily and efficiently.

Ideas for Organizing Your Workspace

This list is by no means conclusive, but the following ideas are a good start:

  • Keep only the absolute essentials on top of your desk. This will probably include your computer and possibly your printer, a cup with a few pens, paper, and a stapler.
  • If you need your phone for work, keep it within easy reach so you can answer it quickly.
  • Keep a trashcan nearby so you lose the urge to hang on to papers you no longer need.
  • If you’re going to decorate your workspace with photos, hang them on the walls or set them on a shelf away from your desk. Setting a bunch of frames on top of your desk only adds clutter.
  • If your desk doesn’t have drawers— and a lot of modern glass-top desks do not—you can use a rolling file cabinet or a plastic storage bin with a few drawers to house supplies such as extra paper, rubber bands, highlighters, and file folders.
  • Try to avoid eating lunch at your desk. Food at your desk can lead to crumbs and spills, like my professor with his coffee cups.

I know that space can be an issue for those of us who work from home (or from the road, as I’ve been doing this summer!) and everyone’s work situation / work area  is unique, but I’ve found that I can think clearly and get much more accomplished when I keep things organized and have everything I need within reach.

If you’ve decided to tackle your own workspace, good luck with your efforts.

Be sure to let me know how it goes!

Take Action. Get Results.

24 thoughts on “Clean up Your Workspace and Get More Accomplished”

  1. Steve,

    This is very true. I find I can focus much better and be more productive when I keep my work area clean and organized. When I let the clutter creep in (a few books, my daughter’s volleyball team folder, some papers I’m not sure what to do with) it can be quite an energy drain (in addition to being a distraction).

    That being said, I think I’ll take a few minutes now and get this stuff put away.
    .-= Joe´s last blog ..Weekend Reading =-.

  2. Hey Steve,
    I can see the benefits of an organized workspace. I should try it soon, but it seems the clutter on my desk is a sign of home. I’ve cleaned it off a time or few and then felt like a stranger on an alien planet LOL
    These tips are pretty cool, especially the file cabinet or plastic doober with drawers. Great way to find somewhere for your extra supplies, AND make a good place to put your pictures or other non-essential but want to have in view kind of things.
    .-= Gurl´s last blog ..My Blogging Trials and Tribulations A Ramble =-.

    • Jennifer,

      Yeah, often creative people specifically are drawn to clutter. But in my opinion you can still be creative but much more efficient with a tidy work environment. Of course it is easy for me now, traveling forces you to work in a tidy environment.


      • I can only imagine, Steve. One day I will be able to say that myself 🙂 Maybe not because I am traveling, but simply because I finally got around to keeping the desk, etc neat 😉

          • 😀 That made me giggle… there’s only one problem, Steve. I don’t do paper clips so there’s none to start with *cries* 😉 Have a good one!

  3. Steve,

    Just stopping by to continue the conversation. Great looking site. Proper workspace design is very important for people to get more done with less distractions, which will help their productivity in the long run.

    -Joshua Black
    The Underdog Millionaire
    .-= Joshua Black | The Underdog Millionaire´s last blog ..Why I No Longer Do Joint Ventures or Sell Affiliate Products =-.

  4. Hey Steve,

    Just great, now I have to clean my desk too :p.

    I spent a long time yesterday cleaning up my desktop (computer), my documents and Gmail of free ebooks, videos, audios that I would get to later, but never did.

    It was hard at first, but when I got into a rhythm, click buh bye, click buh bye… it went pretty good. I figure if I didn’t know what it was I couldn’t miss it.

    Oh BTW I kept yours for reference 🙂


    .-= Neil´s last blog ..Premium Themes For WordPress and Socrates =-.

    • Neil,

      Yup !
      Gotta keep you working! Tomorrows post is on vacuuming and mowing the lawn. 🙂 J/k Once you shed yourself of all the mess though it becomes habit and gets a lot easier.

  5. Hi Steve,
    My workspace consists of my laptop, two notebooks (journal and jotter) and one pen. My mobile is on silent. It’s not that I’m naturally neat (far from it) but I just don’t have the space. I don’t have a printer, so there’s no temptation to print out reams and reams of paper, and anything that comes in is either actioned, filed in the bottom of the wardrobe or binned right away.
    .-= Gail´s last blog ..Down to three =-.

  6. Interesting stuff, Impressed 🙂 Your blog is awesome and You share great content dude, keep rocking ! I need to organize my work table. Clean work space will bring more creative ideas.
    .-= Srivathsan G.K´s last blog ..3 Blogging Tips For College Students =-.

  7. Steve,
    One of the best ways to handle clutter in my life was getting married. My wife fusses about my piles of stuff until I clean it up.

  8. Hi Steve,

    I don’t think I missed anything regarding this in this great post but a post about how to de-clutter your computer workspace might be a good topic. Keeping the space in my external work environment is not a problem but when about 90% of what I do in on my laptop, there are files and folders and emails all over the place to the point I can’t keep track of them anymore.
    So yes, I am begging for help in that arena 🙂

    Thanks for such an informative article.


    • Doug,

      Yeah, a clean desktop environment can be a great help but ut is a pretty tough thing to accimplish. The stuff builds up fast. I will look into a method to streamline a cleanup process and maybe do a post on “just that” sometime in the future

  9. Hey Steve
    I agree with your points.. A neat and clean workspace offers better peace of mind and less distraction points.. Earlier my workspace used to be cluttered and dirty..but from last 2-3 months I made sure my work space is neat and clean and I can see how good it is for me to work in such way… 🙂

  10. I agree with everything that Steve is saying, a well and organized workspace is a good place to accomplish everything that we have to. Thanks for sharing all of these.

  11. Gday Steve

    A clutterfree workspace is kind of like a balanced life…a great goal and something to keep in mind, but you don’t get much done if your sole focus is keeping it clutter-free.

    Yes, I’m guilty of a very cluttered office space, but I am working on it:-)

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