A clean desk is an efficient one. Here's how to get your workspace in order.

By Maridel Reyes
May 09, 2019
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gray office desk with lamp and chair on wheels
Credit: Kana Okada

People spend a lot of time at their desks each day-an average of five hours and forty minutes, in fact. We eat at our desks. We mindlessly stare at screens. We race to meet deadlines while sitting at our desks. But is a messy desk keeping you from being more efficient? "An orderly workspace is a productive one," says Beth McGee, author of Get Your House Clean Now: The Home Cleaning Method Anyone Can Master. A chaotic desk makes it harder for you to find essential files and can add stress to an already jam-packed day. An added bonus of keeping your space in order: a clean and hygienic workspace can also head off illness. To that end, McGee recommends tidying your desk daily and spending 10 minutes cleaning it before you leave for the weekend. "As with any cleaning, the more often you do it, the less time it'll take, so you maximize the time you have for yourself," she adds.

From the floor to the monitor, these are the things you need to keep your workspace orderly-and exactly how to do it.

Take time to de-clutter.

It's hard to focus in a busy space, which is why taking a little time to de-clutter can be great for your productivity. Remember that cleaning and clearing go hand in hand, so plan to toss any scraps or unnecessary items and file completed projects, then tackle those dreaded paper piles. "If you get professional magazines or resources sent to you and you haven't looked at them in three months, unsubscribe from them immediately," she says. "You don't get any benefit from it. And that way you won't have clutter coming to you." McGee suggests moving items like your cup of pens, stapler, and clips to a flat organizer inserted into a drawer for a neater appearance. Limit yourself to one framed photo or, better yet, make the photo your screensaver.

Give your surfaces a sweep.

De-cluttering supplies is all well and good, but giving your space a regular clean is important, too. To quickly clean your surfaces, wipe everything down with a microfiber cloth and all-purpose cleaner; follow with a dry cloth. You'll also want to take your keyboard and tip it over your garbage can to shake out crumbs. Run a disposable electronics-specific wipe over it; do the same with the monitor, mouse, and printer. This five-minute refresh can be the short break you need to get the creativity flowing again.

Keep cleaning supplies on-hand.

You can't clean with the right tools, which is why you should always keep a few basic cleaning essentials on hand. Since you're cleaning a compact, confined space, you really only need a few items: microfiber cloths, a gentle all-purpose cleaner for surfaces, and wipes made especially for electronics. Keep the supplies in a basket under your desk or in a drawer so that they're out of the way but you can still tidy up easily and often.

Dive into drawers.

Use trays to keep your drawers neat and organized. When everything has its own place, you'll always be able to find what you're looking for. Keep files in one spot, supplies like extra pens, notepads, and paper clips in another, and business cards for colleagues in another still.

Reset your chair.

Take an audit of your desk chair-is the lumbar support right? How about the height? Are your arm rests in a comfortable position? Making sure your seat is comfortable is an easy way to boost productivity. You can give it a good cleaning a few times a year, too. Spray laundry stain remover on food and drink spills and dab it with a cloth to lift away stubborn residue. Use the same cloth to wipe down the entire chair.

Get under and behind your desk.

Tie up any errant cables to avoid an under-the-desk eyesore. Staring at a tangle of wires does not make for a pleasant work experience. You'll also want to make sure that each one is properly labeled so you know exactly which one to yank if the router (or printer, or monitor) inevitably goes awry. "It's a time-waster if you don't have the cords sorted out," McGee says. One a week, try to run a vacuum under your desk. "Your shoes carry in all the grime of the outside world," she says. "And you're bringing that into your workspace.

Prepare for tomorrow.

This depends on how you like to work. Some people prefer everything put away at the end of the night, that way they return to a clutter-free desk. If you fall into this camp, discard any papers you don't need and file away anything you're done with for the day. Should you be of the mindset that it's better to set yourself up for success with everything you'll need the night before, go ahead and pull out all of the items you need to work on the next day. Organize them in order of due date to create a visual to-do list.

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