I used to think that organizing your workspace meant going to Staples and spending a fortune on office supplies – and somehow that the shiny new folders and pens would immediately ignite my productivity fire. I learned the hard way that blowing my paycheck on mechanical pencils and binder dividers had no bearing on my organizational success. In fact, the tools and tricks that cost little to nothing are what most of us really need to keep our work spaces tidy. Here are 7 free ways to organize your office space that are so simple you can’t help but do them every day and say goodbye to clutter for good!
1. Make friends with Google Calendar
Label each event and activity (appointments, your work schedule, holidays and anniversaries, etc.) in different color-coded calendar categories. If everything work related is labeled as red, and holidays are blue, you can look at your Google Calendar and have a very visually clear picture of when you work and when you’re free. You can also type in tasks and check them off when you’re done. Sync Google Calendar with your smartphone and iCal, or opt in to have Google text or email you to remind you of important events. It comes in seriously handy and there’s no better feeling than checking off completed tasks and knowing exactly what’s planned for the day without having to leaf through a notebook.
2. Drawers = Hierarchy
In order to successfully organize your desk drawers, you need to start associating drawers with your work priorities. The drawer closest to you should have only the things you use the most often, and the drawer furthest from you should only contain items you use the least. You shouldn’t open up your top drawer and find things you haven’t touched in 6 months because that hinders your productivity and promotes clutter.
3. Part with your pens!
Stop hoarding and hiding all your writing utensils, and throw out old pens and pencils. You shouldn’t need more than 5 to 10 pens and pencils in your desk drawer at a time. Throw out pens that are missing caps, pencils with worn out erasers, and keep the tools you like and use the most at hand.
4. Do it digitally
Save tons of space and trees by having a digital file cabinet. Create a folder (with subfolders) on your computer for all your work-related files, scan all your paper documents and label them appropriately. Try to keep digital records of everything and then use either a online backup service like Dropbox or a flash drive to keep them safe.
5. Say farewell to junk mail
You can opt out of unsolicited mail like credit card offers for up to 5 years at a time. You’ll get less mail, making it easier to keep track of your important documents and you won’t want to tear your hair out because you got another insurance offer in the mail. Make sure you extend this to your email as well – unsubscribe from mailing lists you don’t actually read, and be sure to delete any emails you don’t need on a daily basis so you don’t get overloaded later on when your inbox is 99.5 percent full.
6. Limit personal items
You don’t have to get rid of all of your photos and decorative items from your workspace but you do need to evaluate which ones are most important to you and limit yourself to keeping only those items. Keep one or two photos of your family/pets/etc. and maybe a little plant and your favorite hand sanitizer/lotion, and let that be that. Too many non-work related objects will distract you and take up valuable desk space.
7. Label, label, label
Always label drawers, folders, cabinets, and boxes or plastic containers – if it has a variety of things in it, label it. The next time someone asks you if you have any extra staples, you can look down at your drawers, easily locate the correct one, and hand them over. Labeling everything will save you time and inspire you to continue organizing easily!