Although I consider myself to be a fairly tidy person, I wasn’t always that way. As a teenager, I kept an empty coke can collection that towered to impressive heights, and my schoolwork was always scattered on my bedroom floor so densely that you needed a shovel to find out what colour the hardwood was. One day, my brother stood in the doorway of my room as I waded through a sea of assignments and said, “Corrie, paper is your bane.”
It might have been the title of my autobiography.
15 years later, I was sitting at my desk and realized that the teenager in me lived on through my workspace. (And my car, but that’s another story for another time.) A perpetual stack of files served as my cubicle walls, and hundreds of crumpled post-it notes rolled across my desktop like tumbleweeds. At any given time, there were three empty water bottles and a week-old cup of coffee conspiring on the corner of my desk. The snapshot was more than a little depressing!
It was time for my workspace to grow up.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned since then, it’s that an organized desk is a happy desk. Your space should be a place that welcomes you and inspires you to do your best work.
Take your workspace from messy to dressy!
Obviously, this is a tip that has some personal significance for me. The less you print off, the less paper on your desk, and the more trees you save! It’s green, and it’s practical. Get savvy with your computer’s backup functions and email archiving.
If you absolutely must keep hard copies, then make sure you have an adequate filing system in place. Trust me when I say that it’s a situation that can easily get out of control if you don’t keep on top of it. Papers breed like rabbits; you may start out with just two innocent little sheets, but you return from your coffee break to find a whole ream has colonized your in-tray.
So once a file is closed, get it off your desk and filed away in the proper place!
Get a Plant
You’ll be surprised how much a little greenery can do to lift your mood. Just do the plant a solid and set a recurring reminder on your Outlook calendar or phone to water it a couple times a week. Even if you don’t have a green thumb, there are numerous low maintenance plants that are almost impossible to kill, like a succulent or a spider plant.
My favourite viney friend is a pothos plant, which I’ve had for a good four years now and has yet to croak, despite periods of questionable care.
Frame a Friendly Photo
This could be a framed picture of your spouse, your kids, your pet iguana, whatever. As long as it’s someone you care about whose face still makes you smile when you’re in the thick of a tough situation or a tense phone call. Keep it to one or two pictures, and keep it professional. Your workspace needn’t contain a collage of photos from the weekend you and your girlfriends toured wine country. (As great as those memories may be!)
It seems a tad pretentious at first, but adding this small piece of identification can do a lot to boost morale and make you feel valued. The only thing about nameplates is that it only really works if everyone has one. Otherwise, it’s a little weird. My office got them for everyone a few months ago and somehow it’s really motivating to have something with your name on it that so clearly stakes your territory.
If nameplates are not an option for your office, try getting a business card holder to keep on your desk. (This also helps when you have visitors so you’re not rifling through your desk at the last minute trying to find your card!)
Adding one or two useful or fun desk accessories can be a great way to personalize your space and make it a more appealing place to be. There are lots of practical ways to accessorize, like getting like a phone dock or a coffee mug warmer. Or, you could go with something that’s tailored towards making you smile, like a Notester or a decorative paperweight.
Again, keep your accessorizing to a minimum and keep it appropriate!
Every now and then when things get hectic, you may find your workspace reverting to its old evil ways. Don’t sweat it, work happens! Just regroup when things calm down and clean up. With practice, you can keep your desk an organized, personalized, and comfortable place for you to crush your workday.
How messy or dressy is your workspace? Let me know in the comments!