For many office workers, keeping a tidy workspace proves to be a daily challenge compounded by hefty workloads and back-to-back meetings. In fact, in one 2020 survey, 31 percent of respondents included “getting organized” on their New Year’s resolution list. The same survey found that 36 percent of workers 18 to 34 years old worried about others judging them for how organized they appear, and 22 percent thought their supervisors felt their organization and productivity skills could use some work.
But for other individuals, the root of desktop clutter—and the difficulty to focus on one task at a time—goes deeper than accidental piles of paper and a growing stack of empty coffee cups. These employees can be incredible company assets, but they may need a little help to stay on track, maintain an orderly workspace, and keep deadlines top of mind. When workers get and stay organized, they may decrease anxiety, cut down on time spent looking for important items, improve relationships with coworkers, and increase productivity.
To help you get organized, we’ve rounded up some of our favorite simple but effective office products that can help you feel empowered to do your best work.
Helpful tools to organize your workspace
Whether you work from home or in an office, you’ll inevitably accumulate trash. Rather than collect a growing pile of sticky notes, snack wrappers, disposable coffee cups, and paperwork you no longer need, set up a duo or trio of easy-to-access bins for trash and recycling. You’ll likely want separate bins for trash and recycling and may consider a shredder bin for more sensitive paper waste. If your bins aren’t already labeled (many recycling bins feature a recycling logo), you may want to choose different colored bins or add helpful labels. Once you set up your waste and recycling system, be mindful of when you need to empty each bin to prevent unsightly—and potentially pungent—overflow.
Sure, most workers have smartphones with note-taking, reminder, and calendar apps already built in. But sometimes those vital reminders vanish into the ether as they flee from sight (and mind). Keep your most important messages—be they appointment reminders, workflow steps, positive affirmations, or anything in between—on display with a bulletin board or dry-erase board. You can even opt for a combination cork and whiteboard or choose a dry-erase board with a monthly calendar built right in. Update and clear your boards on a weekly or biweekly basis so they don’t turn into clutter zones.
Calendars and planners
If dry-erase calendars aren’t your cup of tea, a paper calendar can help you keep tabs on each workday while providing the benefits of handwriting your events and tasks. For instance, research shows handwriting activates larger networks of the brain than typing and may be a superior option for learning and information recall. If you’re not the desk calendar type, you can also choose a more compact day planner with the option to add page refills at the start of a new year.
A timer may not be the first item you think of regarding workplace organization. But when it comes to time management and meeting deadlines, timers can help you stay on task and take performance-boosting breaks at set intervals. Take, for instance, the Pomodoro technique. The idea is that by focusing on one task for a set period—and then completely taking the focus off that task during designated break periods—you’ll be much more productive and efficient. And while you could easily pull up a timer on your computer or phone, a handheld timer can help you concentrate even more by keeping digital distractions out of view.
Depending on your line of work and how much paper you need to keep track of at any given time, you may be able to properly organize physical documents with a small, stackable desktop letter tray. Alternatively, you may need to invest in a filing cabinet to sort and secure important papers. Don’t forget to stock up on folders and labels to keep your files organized and easy to find. Once you settle on a filing system, consider which items you can scan (and then recycle the hard copies) and which ones you can shred.
One of the most effective ways to clear productivity-hindering desktop clutter? Get yourself a desk organizer. If you have a desk drawer and a lot of supplies, you may opt for a drawer organizer for items you use once a week or once a month and a desktop organizer for daily-use items, including pens, pencils, scissors, hair ties, lip balm, reading glasses, your phone, and a phone charger. If you have multiple drawers in your desk, you may also be able to convert one into a charging station to free your desktop of unwieldy cords.
While these tools aren’t the be-all and end-all for office organization, investing in some tried-and-true decluttering supplies will be a helpful foundation to set you up for workplace success. One simple change—like hanging a whiteboard or sticking to a clearly labeled filing system—can help you get on track as you commit yourself to a more orderly workspace.