By: Abby Quillen
When it comes to productivity, where you work is arguably just as important as how you work.
You can be the most dedicated worker in the world, but your ability to get things done will be compromised if you feel so uncomfortable in your workspace that you can’t think straight, or you’re constantly wasting time tracking down files or office supplies.
Luckily, a few organizational strategies can mean the difference between a productive workspace and an unproductive one. Whether you work from home or in a traditional office space, here’s how to organize an office for maximum productivity.
Office organization ideas for greater productivity
Here’s a quick overview of the steps we’ll cover in this post:
- Store items by frequency of use
- Develop a system for managing paper and digital files
- Designate different work zones
- Get hip to ergonomics
There’s some evidence that a few lucky folks actually thrive on clutter because it enhances their creativity. But for most of us non-artisans, clutter has been shown to inhibit focus and even make it harder to process information. For this reason, any office organization tips worth their salt will emphasize the importance of decluttering your workspace.
To get the ball rolling, set aside time to go through all the items in your office. Sort items into piles designated for trash/recycling, donating, and keeping. Then find a home for everything you plan to keep. To maintain order, use a label maker to note where everything belongs.
2. Store items by frequency of use
While you create a storage system for your newly decluttered office, consider storing items based on their frequency of use. It will streamline your workflow to keep frequently accessed items near your work station(s), while items that you don’t use as frequently can be stored farther way.
For example, you can store scissors, a stapler, extra writing utensils, and similar items in a desk drawer or desktop holder. The same goes for paper files you access every day. When it comes to items you use less than once per week, feel free to stash them elsewhere in your office so your desk remains as uncluttered as possible.
3. Develop a system for managing paper and digital files
Books have been written about the best way to manage paper files, so we’ll try to keep it brief. (If you want more detailed ideas for organizing your paper, head on over to this post.)
Start by digitizing everything you can, which will cut down on the amount of hard copies you need to store. While you’re at it, make sure to organize these digital files in a way that feels intuitive and easy to navigate. (Dumping hundreds of files onto your desktop isn’t going to cut it.)
Then designate bins for different categories of papers such as:
- Incoming mail and papers
- Outgoing papers
- Papers that need to be filed
- Papers you’d like to read (but that aren’t critical to your work)
If you store any hard copies after they’ve been processed, make sure to organize them into clearly labeled folders.
4. Designate different work zones
If you work at a computer all day every day then feel free to skip this step. But if your work sometimes takes different forms—say, a mixture of computer work, writing or brainstorming by hand, and meeting with clients or coworkers—then it may be worth designating different work zones to accomplish each type of work.
This may be as simple as creating two zones: one for computer work and one for non-computer work. The former zone would consist of your computer and any files you regularly need to access while doing computer work. The latter could simply be a cleared desktop or other surface where you’re able to sort through papers, sign documents, prepare mail, brainstorm ideas, and more. By dividing your workspace into zones, you’ll create the optimum conditions for different types of work.
5. Get hip to ergonomics
Organizing your workspace according to ergonomic principles offers several notable benefits.
First and foremost, it’s better for your body: An ergonomically designed office helps reduce strain on the eyes, back, shoulders, and neck (and the rest of your body), thereby helping you feel comfortable throughout your workday.
Additionally, greater comfort leads to greater productivity. This makes sense when you consider that feeling physically uncomfortable is likely to inhibit focus and can make you feel fatigued more quickly. In contrast, when your body is feeling good, your mind is more likely to stay on task.
To embrace ergonomic organization, start by purchasing an ergonomic office chair that provides adequate back support (especially in the lumbar region) and allows you to customize its settings to your body. The goal is to sit with your back straight, your feet flat on the floor, your thighs parallel to the floor, and your forearms parallel to the floor as they rest on your desk.
Additionally, it’s a good idea to:
- Elevate your computer so you can look straight ahead at the screen (instead of looking down, which can cause neck and shoulder strain).
- Purchase an external keyboard (if you work on a laptop or tablet) to reduce wrist strain.
- Make sure your computer or tablet monitor is approximately 24 to 36 inches away from your eyes to reduce eye strain.
Once you implement these office organization tips, maintain your new organizational systems by committing 10 to 15 minutes to tidying up your workspace at the end of every workday. Before you call it quits, make sure your desktop is free of clutter and everything in your office is in its proper place. That way, you’ll never fall into an organizational hole that feels too big to climb out of—and you’ll have the pleasure of stepping into a squeaky-clean office the next morning.