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19 Jan

Eight steps towards an empty desk every morning

Datum: 2011-01-19 10:01

Do you get eas­i­ly dis­tract­ed by all the papers on your desk when you real­ly need to focus on a par­tic­u­lar­ly dif­fi­cult, com­pli­cat­ed or urgent task? 

Do these papers and piles con­cern oth­er things and tasks which you are not deal­ing with right now, but which are in line”, wait­ing for their turn to be completed?

What if you could be left alone” by all these dis­trac­tions and be able to work focused with the one task at hand which is the right one to do right now?

Sure­ly it would be nice to have plen­ty of space to spread out all the mate­r­i­al you need to get an overview and eas­i­er solve the task you are work­ing on now?

Well, I believe an emp­ty desk would do you good.

How emp­ty is emp­ty”?

When I say emp­ty, I don’t mean emp­ty and des­o­late and as in an IKEA store, but just emp­tied of any mate­r­i­al you’re not using and need right now, that is, piles, loose notes, mag­a­zines and news­pa­pers you should read, fin­ished cups of cof­fee, et c. 

If your desk was emp­tied of this clut­ter, you would have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to decide for your­self what visu­al impres­sions you are get­ting when you need to work focused with­out get­ting dis­tract­ed or dis­turbed by things which are irrel­e­vant at the moment.

The eight steps

Take these con­crete steps towards get­ting an emp­ty desk.

  1. Get an inbox, so that all the mate­r­i­al which enters you office has a des­ig­nat­ed land­ing– strip, instead of end­ing up scat­tered on the desk. 
  2. Have your to-do-list in a dig­i­tal for­mat (that is, on the com­put­er), so that you don’t have to see all the things you don’t have time to do now once you have pri­or­i­tized what the right thing to do right now is. 
  3. Get a tick­ler file (http://​en​.wikipedia​.org/​w​i​k​i​/​T​i​c​k​l​e​r​_file) for all the doc­u­ments you know you will need at some point in the future and which you would like to keep track of but not have right in front of you until then so that you won’t miss them when you need them. 
  4. Adjust your sys­tem for ref­er­ence mate­r­i­al, so that it’s unam­bigu­ous, easy to get an overview of, easy to expand, easy to store away into and extract things from. Make sure to always have emp­ty fold­ers or binders avail­able so that you don’t have to inter­rupt what­ev­er you are in the mid­dle of” to run to the sup­ply-room and get more when you need some. 
  5. Get a waste­bas­ket with com­part­ments, that is, a waste­bas­ket or wastepa­per bas­ket with two sep­a­rate com­part­ments, or if you don’t have that, sim­ply get two sep­a­rate bas­kets. Fill the first one, fill the sec­ond, then emp­ty the first one before start­ing to fill it up again. When it’s full as well, emp­ty the sec­ond and start to fill that instead. Since you have the time of one bas­ket” to regret your dis­pos­al of things, you will feel much more com­fort­able with throw­ing things away. 
  6. Every time you sit down by your desk, emp­ty notes, meet­ing notes and what­ev­er you car­ry on you into the inbox from which you then can make deci­sions on what every note means to you and where it real­ly belongs. 
  7. Clear your desk before going home every after­noon, so that it’s emp­ty every morn­ing when you arrive at the office. Then it’ll be much eas­i­er to keep it clean and emp­ty through­out the day. Three Dutch sci­en­tists who did a study in Decem­ber of 2008 arrived at the con­clu­sion that the num­ber of peo­ple who broke a rule increased by 303% when they saw that some­one else had bro­ken the same rule before them. The same goes for us and our desks. If you start leav­ing papers about, the piles will mount fast. Tough, but true. 
  8. Start again with struc­tur­ing your desk as soon as it starts to fill with clut­ter, no mat­ter how many times you have to do it. Nev­er give up – no one is hopeless!

Not feel­ing too comfortable?

You might say Yes, but…I need to have it all out and about on the desk to know what I have to do”. Is that real­ly the smartest way for you to get an overview? Is there some oth­er way for you to keep track of all your big and small ongo­ing projects? A list of all your ongo­ing tasks and their next, con­crete to-do-tasks or steps?

Focus eas­i­er

If you take these steps, you will feel in charge of your own plan­ning. You will be able to eas­i­er focus on the task you are pri­or­i­tiz­ing at the moment and you will leave the office after an inten­sive work­day with a greater sense of satisfaction.

How do you do it?

What’s your method of keep­ing your desk cleared of any­thing that doesn’t belong there at the moment? 

Feel free to com­ment below!