First, let us note that half-hearted attempts to clean up your desk simply postpone a long-term solution. Whilst your desk may be tidy for a time, it is unlikely that haphazard cleaning attempts introduce an effective system of organisation to your workspace. Let us suppose that you take ‘Mission: Desk Cleaning’ more seriously. In the worst case, a thorough desk-cleaning operation will take no longer than three hours.
Begin by vacuum cleaning the floor around your desk. Then, empty the drawers of your desk and anything on your desktop onto the floor.
The four-field system is helpful for organising and decluttering your workspace. Imagine that the ground around your workspace has become four distinct fields that each has a different meaning. The first is for garbage, the second for items that you no longer need on your desk, the third is for important items and the fourth for items that you need to do something with immediately. You then put each item that occupied a space on or around your desk—from post-it notes to your calculator—into the relevant field. This system allows you to declutter and rearrange your desk effectively. It prompts you to ‘process’ each item on your desk, to objectively evaluate it and to put it into the relevant category. It is efficient because you only need to take a look at each item, put it into the relevant field and move on to the next item. The four categories are quite self-explanatory, especially ‘garbage’. The second category is for items that you no longer need on your desk but may have use elsewhere. Such items include documents for the archive, a library book or a folder from a nearby shelf.
Items that belong in the third category are ‘important’. They belong on your desk or in a desk drawer. The final category is for items that are indispensable to your work, and they may have a very strict deadline. They can be completed in connection with your spring-cleaning and do not take longer than a few minutes. For example, your foray through your stationery may lead you to a letter that urgently needs to be signed, stamped and sent, or you may need to quickly organise or postpone a meeting.
So, let’s get started! Where do you put a receipt for gummy bears or cough lollies? In the garbage. The gummy bears themselves? Take them home. A pen that doesn’t work anymore and for which you had wanted to buy a new ink cartridge. Garbage. The manila folder filled with ideas for new projects? Write ‘organise later’ onto a post-it note, stick it onto the folder and put the folder into the ‘important’ category. A file with a crusty-looking post-it note saying ‘urgent!’? Read it and either move it somewhere else or put it into the ‘important’ category.
Once your desktop is completely clean, your drawers empty and your filing cabinets free of obsolete files, the next step is to go to the cleaner’s closet. Wipe all surfaces, dust off your computer, keyboard and printer and vacuum clean all drawers. Then, put all the items you need on a daily basis back into their proper place. Query the need to keep items that you may not require or have no room for? If you really cannot do without them, allocate them some space in a drawer or on your desk. But do you really need two differently sized hole punches, three rulers, your 25 treasured pens and two pencil cases at work? Any superfluous items should be returned to the stationery depot at work, or, depending on their condition, thrown in the bin.
Afterwards, organise the top drawer of your desk. A rubber and a maximum of five pencils and pens have a legitimate place there. Your notepad and telephone should be returned to the top of your desk. In summary, your desk should be organised simply and logically. A simple system of organisation is effective because it saves you the time you would otherwise spend looking for things on your desk. Empty your wastepaper bin, filled with the ‘garbage’ category, into the bin at work. Finally, move the items that no longer have a place on your desk. Done. Congratulations! Mission accomplished.