Spring cleaning? Don’t forget your desk

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To me, the idea of spring cleaning has always been a bit puzzling. After months of being cooped up inside during the gloomy winter months, why would cleaning be the first priority once it’s finally nice enough to go outside and do things that are actually fun? I prefer to do my cleaning when it’s raining or cold and there’s nothing better to do.

Which is why, in my eyes, the fact that there was snow on the ground here in Chicago this morning makes today the very best day of spring for cleaning, and I figure I might as well start at work. Why? Besides the fact that my cube is in need of a good feng shui, a recent survey by OfficeTeam found that 83 percent of human resources managers said that “the appearance of an employee’s desk at least somewhat affects their perception of that person’s professionalism,” and I don’t want my cube sending any mixed messages.

Think your desk could use a good spring cleaning? Here are a few tips on how to neaten up your workspace, according to OfficeTeam and the International Association of Administrative Professionals.

1. Get another perspective: If you have an office, sit in one of the chairs in front of your desk so you can see what others see when they meet with you. Cube dweller? Stand in the cubicle across or diagonal from yours to get a different perspective, and clean accordingly.

2. Get a system in place: Effective organization is different for everyone. Some people prefer to organize alphabetically, others categorically — by project or client, for example. Figure out a system that works for you and stick with it.

3. File, don’t pile: Taking a messy pile of papers and stacking them into a neat pile of papers doesn’t count as organization. Go through the papers and put them in the appropriate file or folder. Clearly label or color-code documents as you go.

4. If you touch it, do something with it: When you touch a piece of paper file it, recycle it, toss it or pass it along to the next person. Resist the urge to merely shuffle it around on your desk.

5. Only hold on to what you need: The common gauge for cleaning out a closet is “If you haven’t worn it in a year, throw it out.” Apply this same principle to your desk. If you haven’t used it in a year, you probably don’t need it. Keep only the materials needed for your current project on your desk.

6. Go paperless: Cut down on your printing in favor of electronic records, calendars and email alerts that will help you remember and track important information without cluttering your desk and wasting paper.

7. Keep up the good work: Once your space is clean, keep it that way by taking a few minutes before lunch or just before leaving the office to straighten it up.

Do you have any tips for staying organized at work? Tell us about them, below.

  1. I’d prefer for my work product, not superficiality, to reflect my “professionalism.” I think most high-productivity workers would agree — hours wasted creating precious carefully-labeled files and pretty desk layouts are better spent creating outstanding work products that improve revenue and profitability (not to mention ensuring continued paychecks for all employees, including 83% of HR managers).

  2. I gotta say, the mentality of those 83% of HR managers is exactly the kind of superficial junk that has driven me screaming from the corporate world and in to self-employment.. too many people are worried about what “looks professional” and that becomes a cover for poor work output.

    “Oh you stayed up late working on and finishing the project? Should have got a haircut, shave, and beauty sleep instead.”

    Luckily, I don’t have to worry now about whether or not my organizational systems meet someone’s aesthetic values. A lot has been written on the efficiency value of messy desks, but a picture is worth a thousand of those words:


  3. Many companies are spread thin these days- people are no longer doing just “their” job. They are usually doing the job of 2 to 3 people- if you set a system in place from the get-go (as far as things being organized) you will be more efficient in the long run. If you spend 20 minutes looking/ searching for a document and multiple that times 10- you’ve wasted the better half of the morning just looking for something.Put the systems in place from the beginning and you are saving yourself 10 steps and time in the long run!

  4. Pingback: Not getting that promotion? Try ironing your shirt : The Work Buzz

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