How to Keep Your Work Desk Clean


If you want to keep your work desk clear, follow these four steps:

In the past, I've had a messy desk in my home office because I moved too fast to get around to cleaning it.

I didn't have time to keep track of what I was doing, and when I finally got around to cleaning it, it would become cluttered again within just a few days.

I was overwhelmed with too many projects and ideas, and I couldn't focus on any of them.

Lately, I've found that when I'm not distracted by too many competing work tasks, I get more done. I've been thinking about this a lot more lately and wrote about it earlier this week in WC22: The Rule of Thirds.

Now my desk is usually clear of any clutter, except for anything related to the one project or task that I'm currently working on.

I'm also mostly digital these days as I split my time between St. Augustine and Costa Rica.

I use Apple Notes to jot down notes or ideas as they come up.

I'm currently using Sunsama to help me organize my life. It's helped me get rid of a lot of mental clutter and focus on what matters most.

It has been the best digital system I've found to stay organized and focused. I  use Sunsama to write down any tasks, reminders, or things I need to remember later.

If you are struggling to keep your workspace clean and would like to have a clearer mind, here is a simple 4-step system for maintaining a clean desk:

1. Set a 5-minute timer and take everything off of your desktop and put it where it belongs. For me, this usually consists of putting away things like empty coffee cups, power cables, phone chargers, my reusable water bottle,  and miscellaneous papers. If there are physical papers or documents that need to be filed, set them aside in a folder or pile. Take some warm water, a natural cleaning solution, and a microfiber cloth, and clean the entire surface of your desk. I also like to use a disinfectant wipe on my keyboard, for an extra clean feeling.

2. If you've created stacks of paper or a physical file folder in step 1, now is the time to process them. The first step is to start at the top of the pile and go through each item. If it's something that you no longer need, put it in the recycling bin, or shred it if it's sensitive. If you'd like to keep it for reference, decide whether you want to scan it (I use Apple Notes for this), or keep it in a filing cabinet. Scan the ones you can, and quickly move on.

3. It's time to find a permanent storage location in your workspace for the documents you would like to keep a hard copy of. Even if you are mostly digital, it's not a bad idea to dedicate a filing cabinet or desk drawer to your most important documentation.

4. Ideally, repeat this process daily to keep a tidy desk. 5 minutes is all that it takes. If that's not possible at least aim for tidying up your desk a few times a week. It doesn't have to be a complicated process, and the more frequently you declutter, the faster you'll be transforming a messy workspace into an environment that supports deep focus and getting things done.

This is a good habit to develop for yourself. Go easy on yourself if it's not perfect at first but know that this is a great step to empowering yourself if you are experiencing a cluttered mind at work.  So, just keep reminding yourself and doing it.

Soon maintaining a clean workspace will become a habit you can't imagine being without.