3 Steps to Organize Your Desk


organize your desk

Whether it is your home office, your small business office or your corporate office, getting down to business at your desk is a chore if it is piled with papers!  You need both a plan for what goes where on your desk and what to do with all those papers.   A plan for your desk will save you time finding papers. The more organized your desk is, the more confident you are  and the more professional you are perceived.


Follow these three steps to organize your desk and create an efficient and productive work area.

1. Planning your space
As you begin, determine what tasks you are doing in your office and the tools needed for these tasks. By making these decisions at the outset, you are preparing your space for accomplishment. Most of us want to pay bills, write a card, and keep important papers easy to access.  Create areas designating the best access for most frequent activities. As for room arrangement, place your desk in a position that allows maximum use of natural light. Position the desk in a direct ion that allows for direct viewing of all who enter without you having to turn.  Add additional space to your desk area with an L shape or credenza behind your desk for storing items you need to access.   Adding this space creates work space, compute space, and printer space.


2. Organizing your desk

Your desk top should be an inviting space.  Keep out only basic tools that you use every day. Minimize your photo gallery and knick knacks.  Desk drawers should have only what you use at the desk in them. Store your additional office supplies in another area. Keep specific categories of items individually stored in different drawers. One drawer should contain bill paying tools such as checks, stamps and envelopes.  One drawer should focus on writing a note and should include stationary and note pads.  One drawer should hold supplies with a pencil tray holding pencils, pens, tape, stapler and scissors. Again, keep just enough to use and do not over stuff the drawers. Place books on book shelves and magazines or reading material in a basket to grab and go. Be sure that your telephone, computer and other essentials are placed ergonomically.  Your calendar should have a specific spot so you can see it all the time.

3. Organizing your papers
Think about paper in terms of what you need to do with them.  Some papers require an action and some papes need storage to be retrieved.

Create your command center for “Action” files. Label them according to what actions or terms fit best with your needs. These files can be call, file, mail, or pay. Or these can be named by client name, project name, or other key word that comes to mind quickly. Clearly label your files so you will always know what is in them, and just as importantly, the labels will remind you what not to put in them.  At the end of every day, there should be a spot to put away the files you have used that day. The files in your command center  are the most actionable.  Your command center can be a desktop sorter or a section on your wall.

Less frequently accessed files can be placed in your file drawer in your desk or an accessible cart. These can be references, projects that are completed this year, or general files for running your business.  As for filing cabinets, use a low-lying, two-drawer cabinet that can be placed next to or near your desk for the added use of its top for other items that you often need.  This is what makes an L for your extra desk space.  Having easy to access files makes it more likely for you to file.

Have a spot for incoming mail and other papers.  It can be a wall pocket, basket or inbox.  Having this space set aside will give  you a place to drop all papers before you have time to review them. Alert your family or colleagues to drop papers in this spot to keep your desk clear.


Go Paperless

Set up a Neat connect (affiliate) to eliminate scraps of paper like business cards, tax related receipts and meeting notes. It’s an efficient way to access small bit of information easily. No more hunting for notes or trying to find a phone number for a potential client.




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16 replies
  1. Kathy Earthrowl
    Kathy Earthrowl says:

    Thanks Ellen. What is a Neat connect? to eliminate scraps of paper etc? Please explain. Sounds like a mini tornado that enters and cleans everything up….if so, I want it.. ‘

    See you soon.

  2. Nancy Robertson
    Nancy Robertson says:

    I really enjoy your blogs. There are always tips that I can and do use. I also pass them along to my clients.

  3. Ellen
    Ellen says:

    Thanks Kathy!

    Neat connect is a device by the Neat Company. It scans papers and keeps them on the “cloud” where you can access them by computer. When you scan you can categorize the tax papers and simplify your tax preparation.

    It’s one alternative to keeping paper that makes it easy to find, document and archive.

    Thanks for stopping by!

  4. Janet Barclay
    Janet Barclay says:

    I’ve wanted a business card scanner ever since the first time I saw one! I’ve looked into smart phone apps, but they all seem to add them right to your contacts, and I don’t necessarily want everyone who entered my business card draw at a trade show in my address book. Any suggestions?

  5. Olive Wagar
    Olive Wagar says:

    Thanks for posting this helpful article to POBC! I especially liked your suggestion to make decisions that prepare your space for accomplishment. I recently moved a few things around in my office for that very reason. And it really does help to have a dedicated home for your daily planner.

  6. Sue West
    Sue West says:

    Hi, Ellen – These two points were so motivating ! – 1) about getting down to business. So true, that if it’s not clear, the desk can be such a block to getting up the energy to work and 2) “By making these decisions at the outset, you are preparing your space for accomplishment.” I love that last part — accomplishment! There is always an ‘end’ to the ‘means,’ the means being organizing, and you’ve got it nailed here. Thanks !

  7. Sabrina Quairoli
    Sabrina Quairoli says:

    I must have missed this one, Ellen. Great post! Being that my desk is a walking treadmill desk, I only have so much room on top. So, I limit papers to only that day’s tasks. The rest gets put in sorting bins per client in a separate area of the office. It helps keep me focused on one admin client at a time.

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  2. […] are simple steps to organize your office space.   Refresh your desk every evening and do a major overhaul monthly to keep productive in this […]

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