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Need to Introduce some Organisation to your Workspace?


We value it, bosses want it and countless studies affirm it every year… Your workspace should be cleaned up at regular intervals. People who believe that a bit of chaos fosters creativity do have a point. However, more than a small degree of disorder on your desk will decrease your productivity. The mess on your desk, which may inspire creative thought, should give way to a better system of organisation. Experts recommend using the next opportunity to treat your desk to some serious spring-cleaning!

The Four-Field System for Fast Results

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.

The Eight-Point System for Long-Term Organisation

Chaos at the workplace does not develop of its own accord, and it increases in size if left unmanaged. One dirty coffee cup quickly multiplies into two or three, and a fourth one will often manifest as well. The one document you had to read and take action on has suddenly become a whole pile. And the drawer you assigned to things that would certainly still be of use one day—but then never needed—is bursting at the seams.

Even if you are a tidy person, take your calendar and mark two dates with the following note to self: spring-cleaning. December is generally quite busy at work due to Christmas, but January is more relaxed. Mark a date in January and one in June. Cleaning every six months is a good idea because regular cleaning makes for a smaller job each time. Nevertheless, try to heed the following eight points over the whole year:

  1. Return: Leave things in their proper place and return them after use.

  2. Declutter: Use the bin as soon as any rubbish accumulates.

  3. Take notes: Use a big notepad rather than a heap of post-it notes. The latter have a tendency to disappear. A large notepad will make your work a lot easier when you have to transfer telephone numbers into your address book and appointments into the relevant calendar.

  4. Organise: Use the same file system on your computer as on your desk. Using the same system of organisation for physical and digital folders helps you to keep organised in the long-term and to find things quickly.

  5. Hierarchical system: put new and urgent documents on top, and put the least pressing ones at the bottom.

  6. Control your cables: Organise your cables and put any unneeded ones into boxes.

  7. Beware of distance: Keep often used items nearby and rarely used items further away.

  8. Evening cleaning: Cleaning your desk in the evening allows you to start the following day in a more relaxed way.

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