How to Organize Your Office for Maximum Productivity and Efficiency

Larry Alton

February 20, 2019

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If there's one thing most people struggle with, it's organization. We all tend to be a bit sloppy and careless—especially when it comes to our offices and workspaces. Unfortunately, the average person is pretty aloof to the need for systematic organization. Is this shortcoming holding us back?

The Negative Effects of Disorganization

Disorganization affects us each in unique ways. But when looking at the overarching negatives, one will find that the following consequences are pervasive:

  • Trouble finding things—Naturally, a messy desk or office is going to make it challenging to find items that are needed. Whether it's a specific sticky note with an important phone number on it or batteries to the keyboard that just died, difficulty locating an item can create issues.
  • Dampened productivity—When constantly looking for items or having to shift piles around in order to do work, productivity suffers. Eventually, this will hurt the wallet.
  • Increased frustration—There's a lingering sense of frustration that hangs around like a dark cloud when constantly surrounded by disorganization. It puts one in a chronic bad mood and makes it difficult to get along with.
  • Higher frequency of errors—One is much more likely to make an error when the workspace is disorganized. This may eventually lead to lost accounts, costly mistakes, or a lack of job security.

Disorganization can happen on both a macro and micro scale. While not much may be done about big-picture disorganization in the company, one can have control over how well-organized an individual office or workspace is. Ignore this issue at one's own peril.

Five Tips for Organizing an Office

Every office is unique, but simple and proven principles can be used to overcome disorganization and bring simplicity and stability to a workspace. Here are a few pointers:

1. Purge Stacks

Before organization can happen, go through the items in the office and figure out what is needed and what can be trashed, donated, or sold.

"Take one area at a time. If it doesn't work, send it out for repair or toss it. If you haven't used it in months and can't think of when you'll actually need it, out it goes. This goes for furniture, equipment, supplies, etc.," creative strategist Royale Scuderi writes. "Don't forget about knick-knacks, plants (real or artificial), and decorations—if they're covered with dust and make your office look shabby, they're fair game."

Depending on how disheveled the office is, this phase of the process could take quite a while. But in order to achieve results, this is an absolute must.

2. Establish Work Zones

Regardless of how big or small the office is, it should be divided up into zones. This will ensure you know where to place items, while also providing space to optimize productivity.

Depending on the type of work done and the spatial limitations of an office, there could be a main workspace, a reference area, a supply area, etc. In some cases, a reference area may simply be a drawer or a cabinet. The point isn't to have as much square footage as possible, but to have a purpose for each square foot.

3. Organize Desktops

It's essential that both physical and digital desktops are clear of clutter.

For a physical desk, only keep what's integral on the desktop. This may include a weekly planner, notepad, keyboard and mouse, a water bottle, and a couple of basic office supplies. For a digital desktop, avoid icons that don't serve a purpose. Put all files into folders and systematically organize them in a grid.

4. Use a Whiteboard

Sticky notes are ubiquitous in the modern office, but they typically coincide with disorganized workspaces. Instead of scribbling notes down on sticky notes and placing them around the office, keep one whiteboard on a wall, and use it to record information. This keeps everything in one place and allows the ability to easily erase a note when it's no longer needed.

5. Establish an End-of-the-Day Routine

People have said that every productive day starts by making up one's bed. Well, it could also be said that every productive day ends by cleaning off the desk before heading home. Establish an end-of-the day routine, giving time to quickly organize any loose documents, notes, or items in the office. This will ensure more productivity when returning the following morning.

Take Control of the Workspace

It's a lot easier to maintain a clean and organized workspace if it's done little by little. Once there's a clean slate to work with, take the extra time to organize. A couple of minutes per day will save hours of frustration and lost productivity.

Larry Alton is an independent business consultant specializing in tech, social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Opinions expressed by the author are not necessarily those of WITI.

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