Home Professionalisms Use Desktop Management To Stay Focused 

Use Desktop Management To Stay Focused 


home office desk management

By Lea Schneider

While you might get a laugh from some over the saying, “A cluttered desk is the sign of genius,” I’m pretty sure you won’t get a laugh from everyone.

As a professional organizer, I’ve been hired by bosses to help employees learn organization. I’ve seen firsthand the reaction from clients and the frustration of co-workers. To the person who ends up apologizing on your behalf, your clutter isn’t funny.

Of all the people clutter is bothering, it is hurting you the most. Not only does your messy desk convey a don’t-care appearance, but it is the opposite of efficient.

Dispelling Clutter-Owner Myths.

Those with a cluttered desk may tell you they can find everything they could need, as they gesture toward piles that have grown from desktop to floor. Really, all they know is that whatever they need is in there somewhere.

The clutter-owner shuffles through reams of papers to find what must be done. By the time that matter is handled, it is time to shuffle the piles and find the next most urgent task. The shuffling happens over and over all day, the next day and all week. There simply isn’t a priority in stacks and piles.

Build in Efficiency.

Although we do a lot of business online, many jobs have papers of all kinds associated with them. This means there is a constant need to be organized and efficient. Desktop management means creating a management system to handle paper flow so jobs are prioritized and handled efficiently. Get organized by adding these four basic organizing tactics. Create a routine to use them and you’ll be on the right path to being organized and focused. 

1. In-Box.

Discourage others from cluttering your desk and distracting you from tasks at hand by dropping mail, papers and sticky notes on your desk. Get an in-box. This might be a tray, wall basket or mail box. Put it as close to the entrance of your office or cubical as possible. Hopefully, people will use it to save a few steps. It will save you from frequent distractions.

2. Tickle File.

A tickle file does just that — it tickles your memory. It would be nice to think we are going to remember to do something as we set it aside for later, but more often than not we often don’t remember. This might result in missing deadlines or opportunities and losing money. Create a tickle file by numbering a set of file folders one through 31, representing the days of the month. Label another dozen with the months of the year.

Empty and use a file drawer in your desk or buy a desktop file holder. This system is going to replace the stacks that are cluttering your workspace. Take each item from your cluttered desk and decide when it needs to be seen. Use the 31 folders to hold items that need to be done each day this month, sliding them into the folder for the date you need to begin that item. If they need to be looked at in future months, put them in the right month’s folder.

Each day, take out the folder for that day and your work will be prioritized. You’ll be much more likely to quickly find an item that you suddenly need because you will have some idea of when it was due — plus, you’ll only need to search through a folder or two rather than messy piles.

3. Bookcase Holding Area.

A bookcase located adjacent to or behind your desk is a key component to being efficient and making your tickle file work for you. There are many occupations, such as contractors, accountants and lawyers, which often have giant files associated with current work. You could not physically squeeze them all into one drawer or desktop tickle file. Or, you may have a stack of products or samples associated with upcoming work.

Use your bookcase as a holding area. Place the name of the file or job you need to do in the tickle file, then arrange your large files or samples on the bookcase so you can find them easily when their turn comes up in the tickle file. Select the appropriate professional containers to hold items on the bookcases. It makes it so easy to pull out everything for a given project when it is needed.

4. File Drawers.

As part of your organizing, you should either buy additional file drawers or empty out existing ones so you have room to file away completed work. If you need to keep older materials, box them for storage and keep only the most current work in your office.

Organization doesn’t happen when you get around to it. It happens when you plan on it. Build time into your schedule to sort your papers and put them where they belong. Staying organized will make you both more efficient and productive, and you’ll find it pays off in many different ways.


Lea Schneider

Professional organization expert Lea Schneider draws on her years of experience advising employers and employees on productivity planning to write for The Home Depot on topics of interest to business professionals. To review a large selection of bookcases, which can be a major part of your reorganization process, you can visit the Home Decorators website.