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45 Life Hacks to organize your workday, your workspace and your life - part 1

tim00visible's picture
Submitted by tim00visible on Mon, 10/30/2017 - 11:39


45 Life Hacks to organize your workday, your workspace and your life

(part 1 of 3)

There are a million and one ways to get distracted at your desk, during your workday, and while doing work on your computer or online.  Distraction due to social media alone has risen to almost 2 hours per day, per person.

You may be the exception to the social media stats, but they remain true for a majority of people in the marketplace.

Whether you are an employee, manager, C-level executive, or solo entrepreneur, there are many ways you can save time by being more organized at your desk, during your daily workflow, and while doing work on your computer / online.

Here are 45 tips, ideas and hacks to help you focus and be more organized and productive every day.

Part 1 - 15 Hacks and Tips to Organize Your Personal Workspace

1- Customize your personal desk layout

desk-organizer-computer-monitor-all-in-oneCNN Money has a neat little image of a general layout for prioritizing your desk. 

Writer/Contributor, Kathryn Vasel, recommends prioritizing the location of your files, your monitor, your phone, your personal items, your supplies and your white space.

She recommends getting your layout right and tweaking it based on your personal workflow.

There are even affordable all-in-one desktop computer organizing stands (see image) that have organizing slots and a pre-designed layout to help you organize your most important desk items, including the computer monitor, pens, smartphone and even your favorite coffee cup!

An organizer / stand like this even creates more space for notebooks, logs or other flat items that can fit under the stand.

She also recommends not having too many personal items and allowing for plenty of white space (empty space) to keep clutter low.

Other tips like optimizing your desk supplies (not overdoing or under-doing it) is vital too.  You have to have the supplies that you need every day, but not so much that you end up wasting time with clutter and reorganization. 

Make a priority desk supply list and tweak it as needed.

2 - Get your desk organized

When your workspace is free from clutter, when your paperwork and files are organized, when the information you need to do your job is readily accessible, your productivity and ability to focus will soar.

desk-organizer-imageSometimes, adding a simple, affordable desk organizer can really help.

There are several sizes and kinds of desk organizers you can use to fit your personal desk space and workflow, and you can get all kinds of desk organizers for under $12 bucks at

When I need to stop what I am doing to search for information, a report or a file, and it takes a while, I find that it is easy to wander off into other activities, to start doing something else and in some cases completely forget about what I started off doing.

3 - Use your wallspace effectively

If you do a lot more paperwork at your workplace or home office, or you have certain papers or files that you use often and you have limited space, it might be a good idea to use some of your wall space to organize papers in a workflow that you have to use every day or every week.

wall-organizerThere are many kinds of wall organizers that you can find for under $25 bucks that are easy to hang and can really help you clear up desk space and effectively use wall space, when you have limited workspace, for more efficient workflow.

Imagine starting a home repair project and not having all the tools and supplies needed when you start, or not knowing where they are.

If you’ve ever worked on a project like that, you know that it takes 3 to 5 times as long to complete the work as opposed to having everything you need readily available. The 2 or 3 trips to the hardware store for the right tool and supplies is annoying when you just want to get it done.

You typically find yourself frustrated that you don’t have what you need and may even leave the project unfinished until you can get the needed supplies. In some cases, the trip to the store derails the project all together simply because you ran out of time.

You can get more done in less time when you get your space organized, get your necessary supplies in order, and use wall space to your advantage.

4 - Don't overdo the sticky notes and reminders

If you use sticky notes, keep them limited to 1 place and to a certain number.  If you are finding that you are using sticky notes all over the place, you might be better off using a productivity app and you might need to build a better filing system.  Sometimes, people overuse sticky notes because they are multi-tasking and are not getting closure or completion of their tasks.  Another issue might be that they do not have good office boundaries and get interrupted too often by others.  Whatever the issue is, work at putting a little more effort in setting healthy boundaries and getting things completed while you can so you use less sticky notes.  The other thing you can do is to consolidate sticky notes to 1 task sheet when you find that you are using too many.

5 - Keep personal knick-knacks to a minimum. 

It's great to surround yourself with pictures of your family or images of sweet memories, rewards or vacations you will take when you reach a certain goal, but don't over-do it.  Use your wall and desk space to put up a few images that help remind you of the important people in your life, and of the inspirational things in your life.  Whenever you need a boost, take a look at one or 2 of them and re-charge a sense of thanksgiving inside of you.  Then you can get back to the grind with a sense of inspiration and purpose.

6 - Defend your clean space

There is a famous saying, "nature abhors a vacuum".  The white space or empty space on your desk is a vacuum that can very easily be overcome by clutter (especially if you work from home).  Make sure that you allow for clean space on your desk to reduce the distraction of clutter and the feeling of being disorganized.  One piece of advice a pastor gave to me when work and life were going at the speed of light, and I could barely keep up, was to find one small personal space in my life where I could establish order in a relatively short period of time.  He said, "if all you can do is straighten your bed or sock drawer, do it."   When work and life are speeding out of control, sometimes our workspace suffers and becomes cluttered.  Taking 5 minutes to clear the clutter in you workspace will bring a quick sense of accomplishment and order, allowing you to move on to your regular work tasks with more confidence and a sense of order, instead of clutter.

7 - Schedule a regular PURGE

Some people need to purge their office once a week.  Some may be able to get by doing it once per month.  It all depends on how busy and how organized you keep your space.  You have to schedule a purge during a time when you know your productivity will be low.  Take advantage of a 10 to 20 minute time each week when you know you can clean up quickly, purge old stuff, replace worn out office supplies with fresh ones, and compile your sticky notes to 1 master task list.   You might even turn this time into a nice coffee and music break, as long as you do not disturb your co-workers! Some people like to purge at the end of the week so they can return to a tidy office at the beginning of the next week.  Some people like to start early on Monday morning and purge their office space junk the first 10 minutes of the day to get a jump-start.  Others like to purge in the middle of the week as a brief "hump day" break.  Find which works best for your schedule and PURGE!

8- Create a "Catch-it" space

Every office has incoming traffic, whether you work alone or in an over-crowded office with your own cubicle.  Create a little filter area or "catch-it" space near the entrance of your office or cubicle to take care of 3 kinds of items to file later or store.  You will need a simple file tray for important documents that need reviewing, a hanging area for jackets, backpacks, or bags, and a good sized trash can.  When you get good at setting up your intake filter area to your office, you can head off some of the clutter before it hits your desk!

9- Design a 2-zone work desk

There are things during most people's office workday that require the use of a computer.  There are other things that require non-computer work like signing documents, sorting and sifting through old and new files to review, stapling and organizing presentations, or any other desktop work that is not done on your computer.  Simply set up your desk into 2 zones to keep your workspace clear and organized.  This way you won't have things cluttering up your computer space, and you'll have a better sense of organization.  If your desk is too small to have 2 zones, simply use another small table, if space permits, to handle the paperwork and non-computer tasks.

10-  Minimize your document trays

If you deal with a lot of documents coming in and out of your desk-space, consider a simple 2-tray system.  One tray is for new documents, mail and other important files.  The other tray is for documents and files that you have already viewed but have not dealt with or filed yet.  If you have an assistant or office visitors, you can direct them to put new items in the new basket only.  Be sure to label them clearly so it is easy to see which tray is open for new deposits.  Also be sure to schedule regular time, perhaps once or twice a day only, to finalize the old files and move new files to the old file bin or to the trash, or wherever their final resting place will be.

11- Digitize when possible

fujitsu-iX500-scansnap-document-scannerMany people carry un-necessary paper file loads.  If possible, use a scanner at a normal interval to scan and store documents and purge the unneeded papers.  There are many office scanners that are designed to scan important files to PDF very quickly, up to 25 pages per minute.  A top-selling document scanner such as the Fujitsu ScanSnap Document scanner is fast and it has multiple scan and store options.  It can send the digital files to a local computer wirelessly or via USB, or directly to secure cloud storage without a computer in between.  There are also options to scan with different resolutions and colors, including color, grayscale and monochrome.  You might have to set a regular schedule to convert important documents to digital versions or create a digital archive.  Your paperflow and personal tolerance for paper files will determine how often you need to convert papers to digital.   Also, whenever possible, request and send documents via digitally secure means to reduce the use of paper and postage.  This can save time, costs and trees.

12 - Don't use a tiny, hidden trash can

Using a larger trash can is a great way to hack some more time into your workday while reducing desktop clutter.  Also, making your larger trash can more visible is a great way to remind you to pitch trash as well as papers and advertisements that will just waste your time and money.  Having a small trash can creates more trips to the large dumpster.  Having a trash can that is large enough to be emptied only once per day will help you optimize your office productivity time.

13- Hide what you don't need for productivity

Perhaps you bought a pretty new stapler or you just upgraded to the latest iPhone or iPhone accessory.  Unless you collate papers all day long for a legal firm, you probably do not need to stare at your stapler.  And, unless you use your smartphone for making sales calls all day, it is best to file your phone and your glitzy stapler into a drawer and turn off the phone ringer.  Your desk is supposed to be the place of productivity and keeping it clear of unnecessary items and smartphones that might hypnotically draw you on to social media or funny Youtube videos with cute babies and playful kittens will help you focus and be more productive.

14 - Use color labels, folders and tabs

colored-labels-imageUsing a color coded system can help make your office more visually organized and easier or more efficient to organize.  Let me explain.  If you create a system of labeling different types of documents with different colored labels, and then have similar colored folders to organize files by client, subject, week or month, then it will be easier to find files or folders when you need them to store or retrieve documents.  It will also be easier to direct an office assistant or partner to a particular file or folder when you have created a color-coding system that works for you.  Figure out how you can organize your office paper items by color coding them into major color groups if possible.  You can purchase very inexpensive colored folders, tabs and labels to match.  Then your color system will help streamline your document workflow.  You can also color code your computer and online files to match the coloring system for your paper files.

15 - Create a "meeting box"

One of the easiest and best pieces of advice I got for organizing my day was to set up a "meeting box" near the door of my office.  If you share your office and have cubicles, you can place this box near the exit of your cubicle.  The meeting box is simply a box that you have near the exit of your office or cubicle where you stack every necessary item for any meetings you have that day.  Do you have prospect meetings, office meetings, or out-of-office meetings during your day?  If so, take the first 10 minutes of your day and place the items you will need for your important meetings into that box.  Then, go on with your normal work day.  When it is time for your meeting, everything you need will be in that box.  All you have to do is remember to take the box with you when you leave for your meeting!

These 15 tips on organizing your workspace are critical to creating a physical working environment that is conducive to doing your best in your office with minimal distractions and wasted time. 

You can read Part 2 of our 3 part series here.

Do you have other work-space organizing tips that have helped you?

Please share and comment with your ideas below.

Focus Fixes are designed to help you get your day, your week, your career and your life back and on track with what matters most to you. While each Focus Fix, by itself, is a very simple step, when you apply each of them, they will become powerful tools that will help you take charge of your journey. Let me know how they have impacted you and share your tips with me so together we can help others make the most of their own adventure!



Aaron's picture

Wow- this is a great list. Having a clean working space and being organized is a must. I need to get better at this! I must be one of those creative types because my desk always seems cluttered. I think I saw on Oprah years ago that the average person spends 1 to 2 years of their life looking for lost or misplaced items!!

tim00visible's picture

A clean desk makes a ton of difference. I find I get more work done when things are organized. Even when it gets messy, and it does, I am still more productive when I clean things up, then get after the work. Go figure......

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