Tips for organizing your desk for the new year

Organize your workspace during National Get Organized Month (yes, this is a thing!)

The start of the new year is a great time for making resolutions and trying to change bad habits which is probably why January is also National Get Organized Month. And if you’re thinking about trying to organize your workspace, be it your company desk, or that nook you’ve carved out in a corner of your house, we have a few tips for cleaning up your space and setting up systems to keep you more organized all year long.

Organize your desk

The image of a perfectly clean desk with just a laptop and a coffee mug on it may sound nice but is unrealistic for most of us. Instead of aiming for an empty desk, spend a few minutes taking stock of what exactly it is you have on it. You may be surprised to find a take-out menu mixed in with an important proposal!

Then, create a hierarchy for your office space that helps you tackle the important stuff first. Let’s assume that if it’s on the top of your desk, it must have some urgency: Things you need to get to today or in the next couple of days. Your planner, if it’s not online, should be in view. Keep a pen, highlighter, stapler, and a couple of paper clips nearby so you don’t have to jump up every 10 minutes. . .but you also don’t need to keep every single office supply on your desk either.

Set aside a space or a file folder nearby for moderately time-sensitive documents or things you need to get to in the near future but not necessarily this week. Schedule time 1-2x week to flip through these papers to make sure an item hasn’t gone from “due someday” to “urgent”. (TIP: Consider using colored file folders to group your files by either urgency or topic).

And, remember with so much information on our laptops, it’s no longer necessary to save every letter, document or presentation in hard copy! Create some simple files on your computer and vow to spend 5-10 minutes a day (set a timer!) to file things where they need to go, or delete the items you don’t need at all.

Another great tip for paper files? Download a free scanning app (we love CamScanner) and quickly scan items you want to hang onto and then toss the paper (shred it if it’s confidential or sensitive in nature). It’s so easy to scan and then transfer those scans to your computer to file where they need to go for safekeeping.

Clean up your virtual meeting backdrop

While you organize your workspace in front of you, consider what is behind you as well. With so many of us having online meetings and virtual interviews, your background is more important than it’s ever been. We’ve already made recommendations about this in our post 6 Tips to Prepare for Your Next (or First!) Virtual Interview, but if you’re newly back in your old office space after months at home, you may want to spend some time making your background look professional and clean for all of your virtual meetings.

Tackle your computer desktop mess

Ways to clean up your desktop | Photo by Christina Refford

How does my computer desktop look to you? Compared to some I’ve seen, not bad, but the number of files I have sitting on here still makes me feel unorganized. If you do not have time to review each individual file, consider sorting your desktop by “kind” and then batch moving all the PNG and JPG images into one desktop folder for “Images”, and all Word Documents to a folder called “Docs”, etc. This will not reduce the number of items, but it WILL give you a little visual break from seeing all of them scattered across your screen. It’s the equivalent of opening a closet and shoving all the mess inside and shutting the door.

Then, at a later date, you can go through a folder or two to re-file important items or delete things you no longer need. But, make sure you put that “later date” on your calendar so that you don’t let things get out of hand again.

Organize your workspace: Email management, Step 1

How many unread emails do you have in your inbox? If the number makes your heart sink every time you open your email, it may be time to aim for a technique I learned from Cool Mom Tech called “inbox zero”. No, this does not mean you delete everything, which could be problematic should you need to reference back to an important email. But, in just a few clicks, you can batch file all of your emails by year and start 2021 with an empty inbox You get all the benefit of a beautifully clean inbox without the fear that you may have lost an email you may need.

Organize your workspace: Email management, Step 2

Now that your inbox is clean, try to incorporate some new strategies to manage your incoming emails throughout the year. We personally like the “deal with it now” strategy which is better than the “hope it goes away” strategy (ha). When you open a new email, either reply, delegate (or forward it to someone to deal with), or delete it.

If you read it and need more time to decide what to do, mark it as “unread” after you close out of it, so you can visually remind yourself that you need to get back to it. When you delegate it, ask that person to confirm that they’ve taken care of the issue. And if you know you will never, ever, ever read that newsletter or attend that Zoom event, just delete it. Or, better yet, unsubscribe from email newsletters, store sales offers, or other communication that you find yourself deleting every week anyway.

Then, at the end of 2021, batch all your remaining emails into a folder and start 2022 with Inbox Zero again!

And here’s to getting a handle on office clutter—of all kinds—in 2021.


Wish you could change your office entirely by finding a new job? We can help! Contact us to find out how South Shore Staffing can help you in your job search.