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The working world: The all clear

A clutter-free, organised desk can do a lot more for you than just free up space. Caroline Allen reports

If your desk is piled high with paper, your inbox overflowing and you’re constantly chasing your tail, it’s time to clean up your act. According to a new book, giving your workspace an overhaul can do wonders for your productivity, confidence and sense of direction.
Author Dawna Walter started The Holding Company, the UK’s first specialist retailer of products to help sort and store possessions in 1994, before going on to write seven books on ‘dejunking’ and life organisation. She believes that cluttered workspaces significantly impact our ability to concentrate and achieve.

 
Dawna Walter has written seven books on the merits of decluttering

“Give it a day and you can develop an organised filing system, clean up your computer and arrange your office to use the space you have as efficiently and comfortably as possible,” writes Walter in The Great Office Detox. Her top tips are to break things down into manageable chunks that can be completed in short periods of time and to stick with your new plan for at least 30 days.

The first task is to clear out your workspace and clean it from top to bottom. “Once done, you will breathe better, gain a new perspective and feel more energetic,” she says. If you’ve let your office become a dumping ground for personal items, it’s time to get ruthless. The rule is that each item you put back should be thoroughly cleaned, in good working order and necessary to enable you to function in your job. “Assign everything a home so it can be put away on a daily basis,” she says.

The layout of your desk is important, according to Walter. A U-shaped or L-shaped desk is most efficient, she says. “Organise your desk so that all your equipment is on one wing with the computer close to the corner. This gives the maximum amount of working space.”

Right-brained, creative types who like their work laid out around them should store their daily work in perspex drawers on their desk, while left-brained, logical people who work more efficiently with a clear desk should stash files and paperwork in vertical shelving units, keeping the desk clear.

To avoid a paper mountain resurfacing, Walter suggests setting aside time each day during non-productive hours to throw away unwanted documents and enter business card details into an address book. She recommends designating a time once a week to read information, bin old magazines and learn more about your computer.
Computer desktops should be cleared of everything except relevant applications and current folders. Files should be set up for all projects and business contacts. All emails that require no further action should be deleted and unwanted emails blocked from your inbox.

Procrastination, Walter says, consumes mental energy. She advises refocusing that energy on making a list of all things that need to be done to finish one task and not stopping until you get there. “The state of your office reflects the state of your mind,” she says.

Spaced out

  • Designated time should be set aside twice daily to read and acknowledge emails. Delete all correspondence that requires no further action and archive anything that needs to be kept
  • Untangle computer and equipment wires and tape them together under your desk, so they’re out of sight
  • Check the layout of your desk — are you maximising space?
  • Put time aside for filing once a week and touch each piece of paperwork only once
  • Keep a diary incorporating all personal and work-related activities to ensure you never miss important events
  • Schedule one big monthly clean-out to keep you on track.

For more information visit - www.lifeorganizers.com

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