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This 5S Japanese Principle Will Help You Declutter Your Desk And Keep It Organised

How to organise your desk to do your best work

Thomas Oppong
May 8, 2019 · 4 min read

Clutter makes you less productive.

Your office space is just as important as your home space.

If you spend greater percentage of your time at work, it’s worth giving that space some attention to do your best work.

The mess on your work desk inhibit your overall productivity because everything is competing for your limited mental resources.

The more stuff you have around your immediate work environment, the more each item competes for “neural representation”–i.e, your attention.

A disorganised desk makes it harder to focus, according to research.

So the more clutter keep on your desk, the harder it is to process information, and switch between tasks successfully.

Think about how stressed you are when you can’t find something (if you have to keep moving objects everyday, or you can’t see your desktop, it’s time to declutter your workspace).

If you have to keep a few important things on your desk, follow the “essentials only” rule, according to Jennifer Ford Berry, best-selling author of the Organize Now!. “Keep the items you need to get your job done within arm’s reach — and only those items” she says.

To improve mental clarity and concentration, keep items you rarely use away from your desk. Non-essentials should always be kept in desk drawers.

Aim to make the space as open as possible.

Use the 5-S Principle to clear your desk

5S is a simple method for organizing your workplace in a clean, and efficient way to enhance productivity.

It’s the name of a workplace organization method that uses a list of five Japanese words: Sort (Seiri), Set In Order (Seiton), Shine (Seiso), Standardize (Seiketsu), and Sustain (Shitsuke).

  1. Make work easier by eliminating obstacles (Sort)
  2. Arrange all necessary items so that they can be easily selected for use (Set In Order)
  3. Clean your workplace on daily basis completely or set cleaning frequency (Shine)
  4. Maintain high standards at all times (Standardize)
  5. Self discipline, also translates as “do without being told”(Sustain)

It’s a simple principle to maintain a productive desk.

You can use it as guide just before you leave the office to declutter your desk.

The last 20 minutes of your work day is the perfect time to prepare for tomorrow

You can easily embrace the declutter habit if you clear your desk before leaving the office.

“Clutter isn’t evil during a project, but it certainly isn’t necessary all the time. That’s why I adopted the practice of “desktop zero,” just like inbox zero for email: At the end of a task or project, I clear my desk of everything I don’t need sitting out,” says Jeff Sanders, author of The Free-Time Formula and The 5 A.M. Miracle.

When in doubt, rearrange.

Your workspace is now your command centre.

You don’t even have to spend a lot of time tidying your desk. A simple re-arrangement of essential objects can do the trick.

Put frequently-used items on your dominant side. This saves you time.

You won’t need to reach across to grab an essential item when necessary.

“Getting up even just once a day for a pencil or paper clip is shutting your brain off a project you are working on and you will have to come back and re-center,” says Amy Trager, a certified professional organiser.

If you still feel still distracted after rearranging objects, try sweeping everything off your desk, except the computer, phone, planner, notepad, pen, and desk trays if use them to organise pappers.

Keep it minimal and functional with only the items you use every day.

You can go a step further by making the one thing you’re working on the only thing that gets to occupy space on your desk.

Be deliberate and selective about what goes where.

The same desk arrangement may not work for everyone.

Adjust your workspace according to how you work. If you do a lot of brainstorming, paper trays, pens, and highlighters might be your essentials.

If your work is primarily digital, a minimal approach ( computer, journal, and a pen) may be your essentials.

Organise your desk based on how you get things done.

For maximum productivity, reassess how frequent you use essential items on your desk. Take a weekly scan of your desk to make sure everything still deserves a spot on your desk.

Commit to a personal organisational system to keep your desk clutter free.

Before you go…

If you enjoyed this post, you will love Postanly Weekly. It’s an email I send to 30,000+ readers once a month, filled with my best essays, posts about behaviour change, great books, tools I find useful and more. Join us today.

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Thomas Oppong

Written by

Founder @AllTopStartups | Contributor at Business Insider I share tools for wealth, health and happiness at

The Startup

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +681K people. Follow to join our community.

Thomas Oppong

Written by

Founder @AllTopStartups | Contributor at Business Insider I share tools for wealth, health and happiness at

The Startup

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +681K people. Follow to join our community.

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