Submitted by: Janet M. Taylor, President, Totally Organized, LLC

Do you know what information is in the piles on your desk? Has important mail gone unanswered because they were hidden under piles in your home office? Have you missed deadlines because you don’t have systems in place? 

Contrary to popular belief a cluttered desk is not a sign of productivity.  Instead a messy desk can become emotionally draining and hamper your ability to get things done.  In addition your unorganized paperwork sends a terrible message to your co-workers and clients that: “My work is out of control.”

Generally, you’ll find yourself with a messy desk because you have no system in place for incoming and outgoing paperwork.  If you truly want to better organize your desk it will require changing old habits and discipline on your part. Do you have what it takes to overcome the barrage of paper covering your desk?  YES you do! 

File First!

Filing can be boring but an organized filing system provides a home for the paperwork on your desk.  Never set aside a piece of paper without taking some action on it.  As a first step, make sure the paper you file meets the following criteria:

  • The information is useful.
  • The information cannot be obtained from any other source (internet, memory key).
  • This document will be used again in the next six months to a year.

In addition, use hanging file folders – your files will look neater, last longer, and be more accessible. Also consider color-coding your files.  By using vibrant colors for your manila folders and hanging file folders, files will be easier to identify. Finally, schedule time to file regularly, either daily or weekly. All paperwork should be filed until you are ready to work on it.

Sort Incoming Mail

Separate correspondence into the following categories:

  • Action: Create a file for letters that require your action. Review these documents regularly and pencil deadlines into your calendar.  Discard any correspondence where 1.) deadlines have passed 2.) they’ve already been answered or 3.) you have no interest in keeping them.
  • Information: Any documents that don’t require action but must be read immediately should be put in an information file.  Schedule time to review these documents because they are critical to your project.
  • Read: Create an “in-office” read file or place the folder in your briefcase or tote so you can review documents that you want to read.  Discard any paperwork that becomes outdated.
  • WasteBasket: Make the trashcan your best friend and get rid of as much as you can.

Muddle Through Your Magazines

Cancel subscriptions that no longer meet your needs.  When sorting through magazine piles, quickly scan the table of contents to identify interesting articles.  These articles should be clipped, read and tossed. Throw out any magazines that you don’t intend to read. For magazines you need to keep store them in magazine files.

Clear Your Desk

Always straighten your desk at the end of the day so each time you enter your home or work office you can start with a clear desk and clear mind.

Janet M. Taylor is the President of Totally Organized, LLC an SBA 8a certified firm that provides office organizing, contract administration and project management to their clients.  Janet is the author of 101 Secrets To Living An Organized Life.  Visit her website at