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Spring Clean Your Desk and Boot up Your Efficiency: Message From The Mrs Mop of the HR World

Being untidy in the workplace is a pain and working with a cluttered desk is a real efficiency killer. I know there are a few people who had exceptionally messy desks (Roald Dahl, Albert Einstein) who were highly productive in their field. But for every one like that, there are a few thousand who are just plain disorganized. As a general rule I am fairly tidy and have well-defined habits when it comes to putting things like keys and passports away. I have to be. If for some reason they’re not put in the correct place I wouldn’t have the first idea where to look for them and panic ensues.

The main problem for me is schooling myself to put things away when I have finished using them and before starting anything else. A friend of mine, Alan, works to a “one job at a time” approach. He gets the file out relating to a job, deals with that and puts it away. The he gets the next file out …. And so on. Admirable and straightforward. Why is it so hard to achieve?

When I am hugely busy I get tired and then tend to let things slide. By the end of the week you can’t even see my desk, never mind find anything on it. I hate it when it gets like that (it makes me more tired and creates an additional job for me to sort out). For some time now I have been trying to re-educate myself and reorganize not just my desk and my habits, but the rest of the office. Progress is being made!

Regular readers will know that we have recently moved to a lovely grade two listed office. We now have lots more room, which is wonderful. At our old office we were so tight for space we had to take turns to breathe. The move motivated us to re-think our tidiness habits. We now have a rule that all filing has to be done by the end of the day and the files put back in the cabinets. Busy we may be. Untidy we are not and visitors are impressed by both the building and the efficient working processes.

In addition to being tidy, team members are also asked to clean their desk at the end of the day with an antiseptic wipe. It can be done very easily when the surfaces are not cluttered. Desks can be really filthy and some say that there are more bugs on your keyboard and phone than in the average loo. Yuk. Having a clean desk and a tidy office has several major benefits.

A tidy desk means that there’s nothing lying around to distract you. If there are no visible piles of paper with unfinished tasks, you can focus on the task at hand. A clean desk means you have better hygiene habits and are less likely to become unwell.

If your desk is clear and you have space to put all the relevant paperwork in an orderly fashion on the desk, this helps you to get the task at hand done with the most convenience. You won’t have piles of work taking up the available space and no piles with paper to get mixed up together or fall on to the floor.

Make sure that your desk drawers are properly organized too. There’s no point in just shifting the whiskery mess from A to B. The idea is to sort it out and keep it sorted out.

A messy desk is tiring and drains your energies. A clean and tidy working space creates an atmosphere without distractions, without stress and enables you to focus better. Don’t use post-it notes to remind yourself to do things. They add to the clutter and get lost. Have a bound note book (just one!) and use it to make your “to do” lists. I was a shocker for having about five different books on the go at any one time. I am now working with one notebook and unsurprisingly it’s working well.

A clean desk and a tidy office bring up the appearance of someone who has things organized. If you’re able to maintain your office in this state, you must have your business in perfect order. Even if this is only the appearance (I hope not) this already is a benefit when you have people coming in your office, your boss, your subordinates or whomever.

Having got your desk in order, keep it that way. Use my friend Alan’s approach. Do one thing at a time. By single tasking and focusing on one thing at a time, you can significantly increase your productivity. This step alone can make a huge difference in not only the speed at which you work, but the quality of work that you produce. Turn off Twitter, e-mail, and Facebook for a period of time to allow you to accomplish your tasks.

Being disorganised is tiring, bad manners and bad business. If you’re trying to multi-task in a mess, do yourself a favour and sort it out today.

Russell HR Consulting provides expert knowledge in HR solutions, employment law training and HR tools and resources to businesses across the UK.

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