To bring order to your desk, file or discard unneeded items


You could have the perfect ergonomic chair in a spacious room with state-of-the-art equipment, but unless your desk is well-organized, your work will surely suffer.

How you organize your desk will be based on which of these two adages you ascribe to: "A cluttered desk is a sign of genius" or "A messy desk means a messy mind."

Some creative people swear clutter indicates they are doing and thinking about more important things than cleaning. The piles of papers are comforting -- inspirational even. This works for them; so be it.

But many others find their messy desks hinder their work. For them, the following tips for cleaning up a messy desk act could be liberating.

The main causes of cluttered desks are: excessive paper, ineffective filing systems and indecisiveness.

The best piece of advice is to have on your desk only files or papers relating to what you are doing that day, that morning, that hour. Put everything else in another location in the work space -- someplace accessible, but not right next to you.

Then deal with all those papers: Read them, pass them along, file them, recycle them, if appropriate, or throw them away. Even a home desk is prey to the junk monster: Catalogs that you can't bear to part with because you might order something someday are clutter. Figure out which ones you absolutely need; pass along or recycle the others.

Develop a filing system that suits your space and needs. Desks with file drawers could be a good solution to clutter, or perhaps you have room for a filing cabinet within easy reach of your main work area. Even desk-top dividers can be effective organizing tools. Get file folders and label them. Use them. Take 10 minutes at the end of each day to file what you need for future use.

An organized office is possible. It takes some thought -- What do you want to achieve? How will you accomplish this? -- as well as some sort of filing system with provisions for periodic sorting, sifting and throwing out.

An organized office can lessen work-related stress. Researchers have shown that feeling in control benefits both our professional and personal lives. Being organized is a way of feeling in control readily available to all of us.

Jan Yager has a Ph.D. in sociology and is the author of 10 books, including "Business Protocol: How to Survive and Succeed in Business" (Wiley, 1991, $14.95). She is a Stanford, Conn.-based consultant and speaker.

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