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Take Five: Make Your Workspace More Efficient

Tips for decluttering and organizing a desk

A messy desk can minimize efficiency.
A messy desk can minimize efficiency.

Penny Ferry-Leeper is a research analyst, but she's known as a gatekeeper within the Duke Eye Center where she oversees storage of files and all sorts of important documents and information.

She'll be the first to admit, however, that her work area could use some cleaning up. She may know where to find items, but her coworkers may not.

"If someone has a question about dealing with regulations, supplies and all kinds of stuff, they come to me," said Ferry-Leeper. "But I don’t want to be the only person who knows where things are."

That's led her to begin tidying up her storage system and focus on creating things like a file index, making it easy for her coworkers to find documents without asking where to look. Ferry-Leeper said such a change makes tracking information easier and more efficient.

If you're looking to better manage your workspace for efficiency, here are five ways to get started.

1. ErgonomicsThe thought of ergonomics may bring to mind ideas of posture or standing desks, but another aspect to consider is the overall setup of your desk space. By keeping items within an arm's reach, it means less time sorting through cabinets, drawers or under stacks of paper.

2. Decluttering a deskLori Bruhns, a Triangle-area professional organizer with Everyday Tidy, said creating a paper flow system is helpful, using multiple trays to store incoming documents and using a physical inbox for items that haven’t been reviewed. She also suggests storing technology and equipment on one side of a desk, leaving the other half of the space free to spread out while you work.

"When it comes to phones, I recommend putting it on your non-dominant side of the desk so you can use the dominant hand to take notes and not worry about moving things out of the way," she said.

3. SuppliesBruhns said using stacking trays for any letter or legal-sized items is an easy way to save space and note pads, envelopes and smaller stationary can go in vertical divider racks. Minimizing the number of personal items like photos or knickknacks is also a quick way to get more space for work.

"Don't waste your space hoarding supplies at your desk - only keep what you need nearby and put the rest in storage," she said.

4. FilesAmong the steps Ferry-Leeper plans to take to better index items at the Eye Center is to create a filing system with broad categories and then divide each into subcategories. For example, a broad file could be labeled "equipment," and a subcategory might be "for repair."

Pairing that with a file index - listing the location of each category and folder - will make it easier for her or anyone else to find items right away.

"I need something like that in place because I'm the person a whole lot of other people depend on and if I'm not there, they won't know where to look," she said.

5. Time managementCut down on procrastination by taking easy steps like sorting incoming items daily and divide items up into "to-do" folders. More important, Bruhns suggested keeping papers and memos requiring immediate action stored separately from items kept simply for reference.

"It's also helpful to put dates on incoming items so you'll realize when things came in and how long you've put them off," she said.

For more tips about making your workspace more efficient, read these tips by Lori Bruhns.