Take a glance at your desk. If you’re like, well, everyone, you’ve got a few stacks of paper, a cup jammed with pens, and some leftover lunch keeping you company as you work. Open a drawer and there’s a dusty collection of business cards stuck next to menus and a stapler (so that’s where the stapler went). Look underneath and you’ll probably spot a broken umbrella and a pair of shoes—that don’t even belong to you.
I get it: You get to the office each morning and dive right in. Organizing your workspace sounds lovely, but never seems to rank “mission critical” on your day’s busy schedule.
Well, maybe it should. Work is where we spend the bulk of our waking hours—and yet most of us put little thought or effort into creating a space that inspires creativity and boosts productivity. Here are four ways to transform your workspace in ways that you’ll benefit from every hour of the day.
1. Organize Your Papers
Repeat after me: Less is more. In the age of Dropbox, inexpensive scanners, and email, there are very few documents that merit keeping. Whittle your files down to what you really, truly need—and you’ll never look back.
Need help in figuring out what you really need? Marie Kondo, author of the mega-bestselling book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up:The Japanese Art of Decluttering ,suggests a minimalist filing system that divides paperwork into three categories: needs attention (for example, invoices that need to be paid), should be saved forever (such as contractual agreements), and should be saved for short term (that research you’ve gathered for an upcoming presentation).
Your goal is to keep the “needs attention” folder empty and the long-term and short-term “save” folders as pared down as you can. Having less paperwork staring you in the face will allow you to more readily focus on the work that needs your immediate attention.
2. Get Rid of Extra Supplies
The next step is to take inventory of your actual desktop. Before you start moving things around, close your eyes and make a quick list of the supplies you need at your fingertips daily. In my case, it boils down to a few pens (not 20!), one pad of Post-its (not 10!), and my go-everywhere notebook that holds my to-do list and every waking thought (not three spare legal pads!). Then there are the items that I use less frequently: a stapler, a dry erase marker and eraser, some extra plastic sleeves that I use for filing, my business cards, and stationery.
Once I spent a moment thinking about what I actually use and need, it was surprisingly easy to rid my space of all the extra stuff that had accumulated over time: the excessive pens and Post-its, the dusty label maker, the highlighters in every color, the three rolls of Scotch tape (When was the last time I needed tape at work?). These extra supplies found a new home in the shared company supply closet, which is within reach in case I never needed them. (Spoiler alert: I haven’t yet.)
3. Make it Easy to Keep Your Desk Clean
Simple but true: If you keep basic cleaning supplies and a trash can at arm’s reach you’ll be more likely to develop the habit of straightening up. If you have to traipse down the hall to get paper towels, or borrow a neighbor’s cleaning spray, you’ll do it less often. I’d recommend keeping a small box under your desk that has the essentials, such as a spray or wipes and paper towels.
Oh, and beware of desk organizers that hold tons of products you rarely use. (After all, you just finished storing the non-essentials!) Instead, go for small pen or pencil holders and shallow file organizers.
4. Own Your Space
Once your space is clean, neat, and looking new—you can make it your own. But this time around, instead of personalizing it with piles of clutter, make it a place you look forward to spending time.
A few ideas, inspired by my own co-workers:
- Keep slippers in your drawer and wear them if you’re working past dark.
- Have a few of your favorite snacks handy.
- Switch out your company’s default screensaver with one you love.
- Pick up a small plant, a nice lamp, or anything else that makes you smile.
- Purchase a quality pair of noise-canceling headphones.
If you’re stuck on how to personalize, check out these awesome and unique desk accessories.
Cleaning your desk sounds like a pretty boring to-do list item. However, on top of how a super-organized workspace will make you feel, there’s the added benefit of how it makes you look: pulled-together, organized, and ready to tackle whatever the day brings. And that’s exactly how everyone who walks by your desk should see you.
Andra Newman is a co-founder of QuadJobs, former head of college recruitment for Abercrombie & Fitch + J.Crew, and a regular contributor to Teen Vogue. This article was originally published on TeenVogue.com.