Keep Your Desk Tidy (No Matter How You Use It)

What is your main working space like?

When you sit down to study, what do you encounter?

A haven of minimal zen mastery? A sea of junk that’s pretty stormy at its best? A makeshift area of whatever space is currently available?

Because where you work matters. Presentation shouldn’t be left to your work. You need to get serious about your surroundings too!

A typical student's desk. Okay, okay, perhaps the mechanical stamp is a step too far...

A typical student’s desk. Okay, okay, perhaps the mechanical stamp is a step too far…

Some desks are (supposed to be) for nothing more than study. In reality, that leaves a lot of space begging to be used.

Other desks have multiple purposes. Work, entertainment, storage, you name it.

However you use your desk, let’s take a look at how to keep the space tidy.

For a dedicated work space:

Use your desk as a desk – A smooth surface is such an easy dumping target. It’s easy to succomb to temptation. Make sure you have a system in place and remove things you don’t physically need there.

Accessibility is key – Keep the important items nearby and find appropriate housing for everything. Boxes, holders and folders give active spaces for everything and keeps you focused on your work, rather than where your stuff is hiding. A focused mind is crucial, since it can take around 23 minutes to recover from interruptions. Ouch.

Love your space – You need a welcoming area to inspire you. But there’s a fine line between too sparse and too distracting. Have just enough to inspire and cheer you.

Have a 2-minute clean-up process – You know how quickly things can get messy. Clear up each evening so you’re ready for the following day. If you don’t create too much clutter, you could do a 10-minute clear once a fortnight instead. Think ‘little and often’. A short and simple system is easy to keep on top of when you get used to it. Make a habit of removing the rubbish straight away.

Not everyone has the luxury of a work station. When you use your desk for several purposes, remember these things:

Prepare your space – The stuff around you competes for attention and importance. Make sure you have enough space to do work. Arrange the space in advance as far as you can. A makeshift space at the last minute doesn’t help productivity at all.

Stick to priorities – With junk all over the place, you’re easily distracted. You can also spend too much time looking for necessary books and equipment when they aren’t laid out in a suitable place. Consider the priorities you need, not the priorities you want. When coursework and reading is important, ensure your desk is primed for that priority. Everything else takes second place. If other uses take over, it’s time to take action.

With no dedicated study space, a basic order is a must – I used to put everything in random piles so I could hide them out of sight very quickly. I soon realised that it’s far better to give everything a suitable home. It was easier for me and it looked even more presentable than keeping everything hidden.

You live and learn! And now you’ve read this, you can start as you mean to go on. You tidy, wonderful person, you!