Has anyone seen that phone number for my interview? I know I printed out a good-looking blog layout but I can’t seem to find it. I know I have that blog idea somewhere in this mess; was it written on a napkin? It’s referenced in a newspaper clipping, but which one? Where’s the thumbdrive I just had?
If you have had any of these thoughts, I’ll bet you have a desk or work area that might need a little bit of improvement. When this becomes an everyday occurrence you may just need a complete makeover … or even a bulldozer.
Even though you have organized folders on your computer (well, maybe semi-organized), your desktop or work area tends to gather the detritus of a blogger’s creative life: scraps of paper, napkins, envelopes and just about anything else you can possibly use as an idea collector. Advertisements and articles ripped out of airline magazines and the ever-present jumble of newspaper clippings add to your desk’s adornment.
Soon, your blogging career will be spent with 10% idea collecting, 10% writing and 80% searching your desktop for what you just saw a minute ago. There is an old saying “A clean desk is the sign of a sick mind.” We have to toss that by the wayside and improve our writing environment.
If you prepare properly, you will be successful. First, prepare your mind for a clean and uncluttered work environment. Yes, you can do it. You can really work in a shipshape space.
If you have thought about getting a more ergonomically comfortable workspace and chair, this is the time to do it. Consider all kinds of office furniture: desks, chairs, filing cabinets, small tables (for you coffee or power drinks so they don’t spill on the keyboard, laptop or computer) and lamps for your desired lighting.
Now, let’s delve in!
1. Start fresh
Depending on how messy your workspace is, you might need to set aside a full day to start over. If you don’t have time for that, write twice as hard so you can queue posts to publish while you’re clearing your environmental disaster.
Get some empty boxes that can hold all of your stuff. Set some on your left and make this your trash pile. Line the boxes with large green trash bags so once they are full you can immediately deal with them. Mark one of them “Shred.”
The boxes on your right will be everything that is not trash. Mark the boxes “Office Supplies”, “Immediate Use”, “File” and “Computer Stuff.”
Now comes the hardest part of the job, at least emotionally. Pick up one item at a time and put it in one of the boxes or the trash. If you have to think about it for more than half a second, the Trash or File boxes are the best places for it. Continue, one item at a time.
If you have a group of papers, either staple or clip them together, but don’t waste time looking for the paper clips or stapler; stack the loose papers on top of each other in the appropriate box.
Anything that is computer-related, but not attached to your computer, goes into the Computer Stuff box. USB thumb storage sticks, backup drives, wireless mice and keyboards and anything else not physically attached to your computer goes into this box.
Keep working until there is nothing left. The idea here is to get rid of everything from the work area. What you should have left is a bare work area devoid of everything but your computer or laptop.
If you have drawers, go through these also. Empty everything.
If you have a can of compressed air, lightly dust the keyboards while holding them upside down to get rid of all the debris they have collected. If you are good with computers and screwdrivers, take the cover off your computer and blow out the dust; if not consider having someone qualified clean the insides for you after you finish getting your workplace in order. No time for breaks!
Take a damp (not wet) cloth and wipe everything down to get rid of dirt and dust. Don’t forget the inside of the drawers. If you have drawer organizers, clean those too!
Remember to wipe down the computer and display screens, and clean the screens with a dry cloth that has just a light spraying of glass cleaner on it. Do not spray glass cleaner on your display screens.
3. Organize your computing tools
Look at your power wiring and straighten it out. You may wish to take a quick trip to an office supply or electronics store to get some wire and power management covers. If you have to make multiple outlet strips, pick up one that has enough outlets. Tidy up the printer and other peripheral cables to eliminate tangles.
Next, arrange all the items in the Computer Stuff box in your work area so you can comfortably access them. Leave the USB thumb drives in the box—we will take care of them later.
Make sure you keyboard and mouse are in a position where you can comfortably work. If you use a headset, consider using an adhesive hook attached to the side of your monitor or other convenient place for easy and immediate access.
Now create a place for your USB memory sticks. This can be a cup, plastic box or even a compartment in a desk drawer organizer. The idea is to choose a storage area that can be a permanent place where you keep the memory sticks.
Place your backup storage where you just have to power it up and back up your files. Now, create a schedule to back up your data and stick to it. If you can, automate the procedure. Back up your data files (documents, pictures, etc.) separately rather than as a part of a total system backup.
If you need to use the data on a different computer, you will be able to. If your data is embedded in a system backup, you might be in trouble (depending on your backup software) if you have to restore to a different system or even the same system with a different or replacement CPU.
If you use one or more tablets to keep live feeds running, you may want to consider getting a couple of holders for them. There are some nice gooseneck and movable stands that mount to the back edge of a desk that will position them to be easily seen without being in the way or taking up desktop space.
4. Office supplies
A desktop organizer may be good for storing supplies like pencils, pens, paperclips, rulers and other such items. But it can also be a distraction.
Here is a good rule of thumb: if you do not use an item every day, it shouldn’t be on the desktop. Your work surface is exactly what the word says—a work area, not a storage space. Put that stapler away in a drawer where you can easily grab it, unless you use it every day. Even then, keeping it in the drawer might still be a good idea. Use drawer organizers so everything has its own place.
By keeping your work surface clear of all clutter, you encourage your mind to be more productive and make it easier to concentrate on your main task: blogging.
5. Filing and organizing
Next, attack the box that says File. You should have a file cabinet or a desk drawer that is set up with file folders. There are also plastic and cardboard boxes sized perfectly for files. You needn’t spend lots of money on a top-of-the-line filing cabinet.
Go through the papers and file them one at a time. Use a filing system that makes sense to you and enables you to find what you are looking for in a hurry. Do not file every piece in a different folder; use categories that make it easy for you to remember what information is in what folder.
If you have to think about where to file a particular item, you probably don’t need it.
Do not be afraid to use drawer organizers to sort out odd items. Just make sure the drawers do not become a junk drawer, or you may just have to dump the drawer and start this process all over.
6. Urgent items
Now tackle the Immediate Use box. This should contain a relatively small amount of material. Take each piece and process it. If it contains names, phone numbers, or house or email addresses, enter the information in your smartphone and/or email programs—immediately! Then throw it in the Trash or Shred boxes.
If the item contains an idea, open up a document titled Ideas on your computer and enter the idea. Save the document each time you enter new information so you will not lose any of it.
If you run across a picture, scan it into the computer for your blog and then file the picture away. The same goes for newspaper clippings that you will use immediately.
If you can’t immediately use the item you pick up, file it instead.
Keep working until you have gone through everything and everything is in its place. You should now have a clean and organized work area.
7. Wrap up
Before you congratulate yourself and sit back for the rest of the day admiring your handiwork, finish the rest of your job—the trash.
Take the box or bag marked Shred and run it all through the shredder if you have one. If you do not have a document shredder, look up the location of the nearest paper shredding company.
Gather up the trash bags of trash and dump them in the trash can or dumpster. Take a trip to the shredding place if you need to.
Now you can relax and congratulate yourself on a job well done. You might even be inspired to start writing!
Contributing author Alex Ion is the founder and Editor in Chief of Decoist, an interior design and lifestyle magazine which promises to deliver fresh inspiration to even the pickiest. Follow Alex on Twitter for latest trends, and Decoist if you’re looking for some amazing design ideas.