Tips on Minimizing Your Workspace

As I came back to my desk after taking vacation, I couldn’t help but feel relieved by my clear workspace. Especially after time away, it feels so good to have a clean slate to help me focus on the tasks ahead when I catch up on what I missed while I was out. Think of minimizing your workspace as a great way to start fresh at any time of the day or week. Below are some tips for re-thinking your space and minimizing the clutter.

Take time to clean your space.

My dad likes the adage, a clean house is a clean mind and it wasn’t until my teens that I understood the power of what he said. I’m an organized and tidy person by nature so for me, it takes one look at my desk to get some insight into my mental state. It needs care and maintenance as much as any project you work on. Like the ‘working clean’ and mise en place concepts in cooking, make sure you keep your space organized and have the essential materials on hand for your job. Since I’m on the topic of food, if you eat or drink at your desk, tidy up afterwards instead of accumulating dishes, especially ones with food residue. It will only be harder to clean later on anyway.

Keep post-its and reminders to a minimum.

It defeats the purpose of reminders if these start to take over your environment. Wall o’ text. It reminds me of cramming for exams in college by highlighting the whole page. Time to back away slowly, my dear. It may be too late for you to ace the exam…

For this tip, I’m excluding a task board or anything else that you might rely on as visual feedback for planning projects. For my reminders, I keep two default post-its on my desk at all times. One is a list of item numbers since part of my role is to manage inventory movements and at risk stock levels. For the life of me, I can’t seem to memorize this series of four numbers and I need to reference them often. I have over fifty item numbers memorized but these four seem to trip me up. Instead of worrying about it, I keep it as a reminder until eventually it serves its purpose. If it doesn’t, no biggie. More important things to stuff in my noggin’ anyhow.

The other reminder on my desk is a list of ten key stats and although it’s accessible online and only takes a few minutes to look up, I have it written down because I get asked for these reference numbers regularly, which makes it easier to have at the ready. Unlike the previous post-it, this one changes monthly so it’s less taxing on my brain to remember when the data is slightly different. As a rule, it’s always good to re-visit what you have hanging in your space and replace some of the reminders with art or inspiration instead. Think hard about why a reminder is there in the first place and whether it can be stored elsewhere. I also have a bulletin board hanging behind me, which mostly includes holiday closures for key external contacts, a calendar, and an employee contact list. Most of the items are for reference when someone pays me a visit. My goal is to keep this board as sparse as possible.

Don’t overstore items at your desk.

If you need items semi-often, store them in a drawer to keep the space more minimal. If you need items daily or regularly, keep those in reach but only what you need. You can always stock extras in drawers or out of sight. Do you need seven different pens, some of which may or may not work mixed in with ones you don’t enjoy using? I doubt it. Take this opportunity to move all but a couple in a drawer until needed.

What’s on my desk, you ask? Aside from my external monitor, mouse, and laptop/stand, here’s what I keep on my desk:

  • I have a supply of stereotypical desk items since my job relies on paper more than previous companies, which means a file organizer with essential files only, stapler, scissors, one sharpie, one highlighter, and two different colored pens. I also have a phone, blank post-its, a cup, chapstick, and a small notebook for meetings or ideas. Of all these items, I use my water glass and chapstick the most. Go figure.

Yeah, you say. Show me the goods! What do you keep in your drawers? Well here’s what I stow:

  • My top drawer includes backup pens in a variety of colors, tape, a mini-fan since we don’t have a/c, business cards, and a small supply of spare post-its, stapler re-fills, and tiger clips.
  • Bottom drawer includes my tote bag/purse.
  • Side drawer includes any paper I can’t scan and discard quite yet (mainly files for auditing purposes).

Easy enough. If what I’ve mentioned is doable or old news, think about sprucing up your computer files. Stop rooting around on your server and set-up shortcuts or create a better daily workflow. If you’ve done that, try improving your environment so that it relaxes you — look for anything that stands out in your physical or digital environment and find ways that it can be done better.

Now go forth and do some spring cleaning!

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