Organising your desk

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We asked you for your favourite tip for keeping your workspace organised

Helen Maxwell (United Kingdom)

My very best top tip is to leave your desk in a state for another secretary to take over. Then you really do organise desk and to paraphrase a Peanuts and Snoopy observation, “… the top of my desk looks real neat …”

Lynne Ehrhart (United States)

I use (some of) my to-be recycled paper for scrap and keep a notebook for everything else–even stray phone numbers–and mark the date every day. It has proved handy. Clean and neat are a must for me.
I learned to keep my tools clean, sharp and dry in the kitchen–just like my wit. At home and at work, I believe in taking care of my (and my company’s) investments. I do regularly clean my desk, keyboard (yes, turning it over and tapping works!), phone, etc. And, I confess that, during the height of flu season at the office this year, one morning I disinfected all the door knobs, the elevator buttons and the keyboard of the main copier. Hey, somebody has to do it!

Simona Urgelta (Italy)

Common sense tells us that something we use on a daily basis should be closer than something we use once a week, or once a month. However, sometimes people arrange their desks so they “look good” or simply keep things closer that they used last. By keeping priority items closer you’ll save time having to move everything around trying to find what you really need.
Mary Miraglia (United States)

I think there are two kinds of people in the world — clean desk people and messy desk people. I could never in life imagine wasting time every afternoon “tidying my desk” — nor have I ever had a job that afforded me the time to do it. I come from journalism, we had a saying for this:
There are ONLY three reasons to clean your desk: 1) the pile is going to fall, but only if it’s falling toward you; 2) the phone is ringing and you can’t find it; 3) there’s a fire.
This is of course tongue-in-cheek. But while I agree that organization is very important, it’s not necessary to have a neat desk to be well organized. For my part, and it was dealt with, a good and up-to-date filing system is much more important than a neat desk.
Today’s workspaces don’t contribute to neat desks because most of us work in cubicles that offer not a desk, but a bare slab that usually doesn’t have adequate drawers or files. Yes, you do have to be enterprising and go out and find more storage. And there are three things I consider essential to civilization: an electric stapler, sticky notes, and gummed flags. Staple documents immediately, those you don’t need discard immediately, file things in drawers and binders. If your colleagues remark on your desk, as them if you work for them? Because I’ve never had a manager who had a problem with it. They’d much rather you spend time tidying THEIR desks than your own.

Ursula Grace Resuena-Medrano (United Arab Emirates)

In good house keeping there’s a rule, “when in doubt, throw it out!”

Marina Baker (United States)

I believe that ones desk ought to be organized to the point that if you got hit by a bus tomorrow, someone could come to your desk and locate what needs to be found

Jane Beattie (United Kingdom)

I just tend to put stuff back where I took it from -hence a tidy desk. My keyboard is filthy though!

Cynthia Frank (United States)

I’ve been an EA since 1989 and have always been organized, whether I was always busy or not. I was in marketing and sales, real estate, manufacturing and now a non-profit trade association. I am not always busy at my current job, but when I am, I can’t stand clutter and disorganization. As the years progressed, I found I don’t work as hard, I work smart. It comes with experience. I was well-trained in house and through outside courses. We have tools at my current job; databases, shared sites with co-workers which centralizes projects and helps keep accurate information. I am the ONLY EA in the office. I use tasks for small projects or reminders. I also use contacts. I manage contacts through using a business card scanner for 3 people and keep separate files for each. I also work with several calendars in Outlook.
A tip for keeping things clean – I keep a bottle of alcohol in my cabinet for cleanups. It works well on germs, stains and leaves a clean finish. I also have a retractable brush for my keyboard to occasionally clean debris and also use alcohol to clean the keys.

Alicia Martín Gracia (Spain)

Re tip no. 5, a sheet feeder scanner has been the best purchase we have ever done. If we don’t need the original documents in paper, we scan and file them. It’s quickly done, makes easier to find a document and it’s space saving

Ruth Berman (United States)

I also believe that one needs to be organized enough to know what they are doing. One can not organize someone else IF, one is not organized. I use a tickler file as my command center, for all the paper that flows through my hands. Things are kept neat and clean and in their place, at all times. I scan everything and keep electronic files. The originals are sent to our corporate office for further processing. Electronic files are a great back-up!

Traci Thompson (United States)

Discourage excessive visitors. Move the candy dish. Put it far away from your desk. Why? Because food is a friend when you’re trying to attract or meet your peers but it’s also a foe that cuts into your time. If 12 people stop by your desk for sweets and initiate a five minute chat each, you’ve lost an hour of your day.

Micheala Mitchell (Germany)

Minimize the time it takes to file and retrieve items. You should be able to do this without moving your chair or getting up. Making filing easier is an important tip as the harder something is to file, the more likelihood you are to put it off and the clutter increases.

Toni Benton (United States)

Stickys are my life saver in my day to day insane worklife. I put them on everything! I also print out all emails with requests and prioritize them on my desk in order of what’s more important to what can wait a little and then I delete the emails and throw the papers away as I do them (in the recycle bin of course). That helps me to not to forget to do my many many email requests I get. That’s just what helps me . . . I need the visual in my hand and it saves me lots more time rather than writing them down in a notepad.

Annie Chan (Singapore)

It is important that you feel relaxed and comfortable whilst working, and having a set place for pocket items like mobile phones, Bluetooth devices, keys etc, will help with this. This will help you find them quicker, too.

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About Author

Lucy Brazier

Lucy Brazier is one of the world’s leading authorities on the administrative profession. As CEO of Marcham Publishing, specialist publishers of Executive Secretary Magazine, Lucy’s passion is for the Assistant role to be truly recognised as a career and not just a job. With access to the most forward-thinking, passionate and knowledgeable trainers and administrative business leaders in the world, as well as personally meeting and speaking to literally thousands of Assistants over the last nine years, Lucy’s knowledge of the market and what Assistants all over the world are facing on a day to day basis are second to none. For full list of speaking topics or for further enquiries please contact Matthew Want at [email protected] or visit http://executivesecretary.com/lucy-brazier/

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