Three Tips to Productivity at Your Desk

I am a visual kinesthetic – that is my learning style and that is how I function. I am happiest when I am looking at colors or graphing/drawing a project or touching the fabrics, tiles etc. You are probably wondering how this relates to productivity at work. For me a happy desk situation is one in which I can see my files and be able to put my hands on them immediately. I have vertical files and each has color-coded files within it – seeing a visual pattern here, aren’t you? I have yet to meet an organizer who doesn’t go insane with glee over my color-coded file system.

So I am color-coded but I am also a piler. I know lots of pilers. I also know filers and filers would tell you that the worst thing you could have is a pile of paper on your desk. In fact, they would say it is even better to scan all of that paper and only have it on your computer. But I am not sure that that is entirely true. And what do we call those folks – scanners? Hmmm…

Malcom Gladwell states that “Paper enables a certain kind of thinking. Picture, for instance, the top of your desk… The  piles look like a mess, but they aren’t… The pile closest to the cleared, eighteen-inch-square working area, for example,  generally represents the most urgent business, and within that pile the most  important document of all is likely to be at the top. Piles are living,  breathing archives. Over time, they get broken down and resorted, sometimes  chronologically and sometimes thematically and sometimes chronologically and  thematically; clues about certain documents may be physically embedded in the  file by, say, stacking a certain piece of paper at an angle or inserting dividers into the stack.”

So if Malcolm Gladwell is cool with my pile of paper then you can be too. Just sayin’. Those piles of paper are super important but sometimes they can get super big. So how do you tackle it? Here’s my methodology.

1. Set a timer. I hate filing. There I said it. It helps me to have a tongue in cheek timer if for no other reason than to have a chuckle while I set it. I have had a cow and a pig but my new favorite is this bomb timer. Really. And yes of course it’s fake. If I set a timer for 15 minutes and know that I only have to clean up my desk for those 15 minutes then I will do it. And you will too. By the way, I am a big fan of that circular file underneath my desk – aka the trash can. What you will surprisingly find is that you are likely to set that timer for another 15 minutes and keep filing because your mind is going to free up as your space does and then you will rock your work. You will. Just trust me on this.

2. Clear your desk before you leave work for the day. Grab that timer again and take the last 15 minutes of your day to organize your desk for tomorrow. Reviewing today’s to do list and then making tomorrow’s is a super productive thing to do at this time too. Overnight, your subconscious mind is going to be hard at work on some of those items on tomorrow’s to do list. And you are going to wake up in the morning with a great idea. Or maybe you will come up with one washing your face or taking a shower. I don’t know what is in the water but that is some powerful idea-generating stuff.

3. Work from left to right. The natural propensity, if you are right-handed, is to work from left to right. So sticking with the visual piles here, place your inbox on your lefthand side. Keep the center portion of your desk clear for the project you are working right now. No, not the project you are working on next – keep that in your inbox. And then on your righthand side place your outbox for your completed projects. If you are lefthanded it is the reverse.

Does your office or organization want to learn more tips on how to make your workspace more productive? Please feel free to contact me about my signature talk “How to Take Your Office from the Stone Age to the Tech Age”.

Have a productive week!

Read more…‘The Social Life of Paper’ by Malcolm Gladwell

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5 Responses to “Three Tips to Productivity at Your Desk”

  1. Mer Says:

    I file on the floor, too. It’s absolutely NOT trash. Hands off!

  2. Blog name change: “Eating at my Desk” « Eating at my Desk Says:

    […] Three Tips to Productivity at Your Desk (averydesigninteriors.wordpress.com) […]

  3. Shelley Mack Says:

    I already file like this! Thanks for letting me know my way of organizing is not crazy!

    • averydesigninteriors Says:

      Not at all Shelley. What is important is that you can find your files and follow your system. If it doesn’t work for you, you won’t do it. No one would – we can’t put a square peg in a round hole right?


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