20 Desk Organization Ideas to Keep You Ahead of the Game
What would you most like to change about your desk? Does it take fifteen minutes to just clear it off before you can get down to work? Or do you have a “desk” that functions more like a pretty piece of furniture, and all your work gets done at the kitchen table? For many, the desk serves as a dumping ground for anything and everything–kids’ homework, junk mail, receipts.
A person who works only part-time spends 1,500 hours every year at a desk. That’s a lot of time!
As the desk plays such a central role in our lives, making sure it’s working for us, and not against us, is crucial.
From selecting the perfect desk, to controlling clutter, to creating a pleasant space that maximizes workflow, here are twenty desk organization ideas to keep you ahead of the pack.
Selecting the Perfect Desk
Even more than the computer you work on, the desk is the foundation of your career.
When choosing a desk, carefully consider your daily systems and all of the equipment you need. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all, but there is a solution that is best for you!
1. Close the Deal With an Executive Desk
Executive desks give your office a stately, professional air. From the comfort of your home, you’ll have the confidence you need to work with the best and the brightest.
At 6 feet long by 2.5 feet wide, the executive desk provides a spacious work area, easy to keep clutter-free. And ample storage means that files and papers are ready at hand.
2. Stay Versatile With a Sit-Stand Desk
Our bodies pay a price for sitting down all day: achy backs and low circulation.
The versatile sit-stand desk keeps you working through the day without paying the physical cost.
Additionally, having the option to stand allows you to bring a higher level of energy to Zoom meetings or podcast recordings.
3. Secure Your Work With a Secretary Desk
When closed for the day, the secretary desk is a statement piece that beautifies any room in the house.
If your desk is in a room where your family or company gathers on the weekend, the secretary desk works perfectly, as it conceals any work-in-process, or clutter left from the end of the day.
Plus, secretary desks have droves of cubbies and nooks, meaning all of the little items that tend to float around on top of a desk have a designated space.
4. Choosing a Location for Your Desk
Determining the location for your desk is as important as picking the right one.
Finding a quiet space is key to hours of productive, focused work. If you work in a house with kids, converting a garage or storage room into an office provides a space to work without frequent interruptions.
Similarly, if you work in an office setting, placing your desk away from the doorway reduces interruptions and allows you to work diligently.
For maximum peace of mind, situate your desk so that you have space on either side of you, rather than pushed against a wall.
Maximizing Wall Space
The walls surrounding your desk provide potential to inspire you and keep you organized. Here are a few ideas.
5. Stay on Task with Chalkboard Paper
Chalkboard paper is affordable and easy to apply. It provides a way to focus on the things that matter most to your business.
You can use chalkboard paper to write your goals, and key action items related to each goal. It’s also a great way to record daily to-do lists and weekly sales goals.
The best part about chalkboard paper is that it’s easy to erase and clean for the next day. To jazz things up, use liquid chalk markers in vibrant neon colors.
6. Visualize With a Whiteboard
A large whiteboard provides a space for brainstorming sessions when you’re embarking on a new project or goal-setting.
A calendar whiteboard provides a visual map of your month and keeps all of your must-dos right in front of you.
Consider placing the whiteboard in a spot that you see as you enter the room, to serve as a visual reminder during the day.
7. Keep Aligned With a Vision Board
It’s important to keep your actions throughout the day aligned with your goals and aspirations.
A vision board keeps you focused on your WHY. Placing a vision board in sight of your work area keeps you thinking big during all the mundane tasks of your day.
8. Stay on Top of Things With a Bulletin Board
It’s so easy to have a random stack of papers accrue on your desktop—including urgent to-dos and articles you’re meaning to read.
A bulletin board allows for everything to be spread out and seen at the same time.
For maximum organization, divide a bulletin board by topic: articles to read on one side, and to-dos on another.
Rather than the standard beige, a colored cork board adds a nice pop of color to an office environment.
When organizing everything on your desk, carefully consider the flow of your day and all of your tasks. Placing items in strategic places allows your work routine to flow with minimal hangups and frustration.
For example, put things you rarely use in the back of drawers, and things you use all the time front at center.
Here are some ideas to maximize the organization of your desk.
9. Add Drawer Organizers
There is nothing worse than opening up a drawer and shuffling through a pile of clutter to find what you are looking for.
Desk inserts make everything neatly arranged and easy to find. No more struggling to look for pens, pencils, erasers, scissors or highlighters!
Drawer organizers come in all shapes and sizes, so once you’ve determined what you need in your drawers, you can find one that suits you.
10. Establish Zones
Establishing zones at your desk space clarifies the purpose and function of each area. A careful demarcation of each zone keeps your work day fluid.
Block out zones based on the function each area serves. Every desk needs a work zone and an office supply zone.
Depending on the kind of work you do, you may also have a papers-to-be-filed zone, a podcast recording zone, or a planning/brainstorming zone.
If something is exceeding its zone, such as too many office supplies, it may be time to purge. Establishing boundaries eliminates a tendency for unnecessary things to accrue.
11. Use a Paper Sorter
Even as things become more and more digital, we still come across plenty of paper in our daily lives. Everything on your desk poses the potential to distract you, and a stack of miscellaneous papers prevents focus.
A paper-sorting tray with open shelves provides a way to distribute papers by topic. Labeling each tray (“blank paper,” “urgent to-dos,” “papers to file”) makes it very clear which papers go where.
Additionally, if your desk functions as both a personal and professional space, be sure to separate personal papers, such as stationery, address books, and daily mail from everything related to your work.
12. Add Shelving in Dead Space
Certain desks, such as L-shaped or corner desks, have harder-to-reach areas that don’t get a lot of use.
Utilize this dead space by adding shelves to store things you need but don’t use a whole lot. Open shelving makes things easy to reach, while closed storage eliminates the look of clutter.
The space under a desk can also serve as a suitable spot for adding a cupboard or shelving.
Creating Your Happy Place
A desk space that is cramped, drab, and uninspiring probably won’t generate brilliant work.
Giving your desk some TLC will put you in the headspace to tackle whatever the day brings.
Here are some ideas to organize your desk in a way to facilitate a productive frame of mine.
13. Match Everything
Have you ever seen a pencil cup bulging with every brand of pen, pencils of various size and circumference, broken crayons, and several pairs of scissors? Not a calming, cohesive look.
Bringing harmony to everything in your space gives it an ordered and organized air.
When sprucing up your area, don’t worry about getting too matchy-matchy. Establish unity with the colors you use, and purchase containers and shelving from the same supplier. Even details like even staying with one brand of pen, whiteboard marker, and liquid chalk marker help establish a cohesive look.
A harmonized look lends itself to an ordered day.
14. Have a Snack Drawer & Tea Station
Speaking of making yourself happy, there’s nothing like warm tea and your favorite treat to keep you going during a long afternoon.
An electric hot water heater allows you to fix yourself a hot drink with the simple push of a button. Designate a drawer to snacks, and always keep a fresh stash on hand.
You’ll be satiated and refreshed without having to interrupt your work flow.
15. Personalize it
Incorporating mementos, tchotchkes, trinkets, kids artwork, inspiring quotes and other items that make you happy provide warmth and atmosphere.
Rather than the standard Ikea penholders, consider finding something handmade and one-of-a-kind from an artisan on Etsy.
To maximize the space, tape quotes and photos to the wall rather than using a frame.
Keep these things fresh by clearing them out quarterly; Christmas cards still displayed in May feels pretty stale.
16. Curate a “Less is Best” Look
Working at a desk full of stuff can be as distracting as listening to loud music. For this reason, some people find they do their best work at a hotel desk, as it has none of the “physical noise” their home office brings.
To eliminate overflow, organizational guru Marie Kondo advises evaluating each thing on your desk to determine if it “sparks joy.” If not, and it never gets used, time to say “sayonara.”
Creating a minimal look at a desk space not only reduces the “noise of clutter,” but it also puts into the spotlight those things you choose to keep.
Albert Einstein said, “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what then is an empty desk a sign?”
If only you could just sweep everything into a drawer and finish off the day with a fresh, clean desktop.
If only. Controlling clutter is probably the trickiest thing to achieve and maintain in a desk space.
Here are a few systems and methods to assist with clutter control.
17. Create a Catchall Zone
It’s very easy for a desk to function as a catchall for things that have nothing to do with the function of the desk at all: kids’ toys, keys, a purse, spouse’s books, files from a previous career, sunglasses.
To create focused energy, you want to feel great when you sit down at your desk. Miscellaneous items can really hamper this by depleting your energy.
Creating a “catchall zone”; perhaps at one end of the desk, or on a separate table entirely; eliminates these distractions and allows your desk to function solely as the place where you work.
Similarly, if you find the same thing showing up in your workspace (pens, papers, files), establish a place for it somewhere else on your desk.
18. Apply the Home Edit System
Clea and Joanna of The Home Edit on Netflix and Instagram use this simple three-step system for achieving amazing organizational results.
- Edit: Go through everything in your desk and purge what doesn’t need to be there. For sentimentals, recall Marie Kondo’s principle and ask yourself if it “sparks joy.”
- Categorize: Put things into categories. At a desk space these include paper (organized by category), office supplies, computer equipment, etc.
- Contain: Find the right space and the right bin to put everything.
Following these three simple steps ensures that each item at your desk really needs to be there….and it has a designated space.
19. Do a Daily Desk Reset
The activity and business of the day yields a major build-up of clutter by five or six pm.
Performing a simple desk-reset at the end of the day (putting everything back in its place) ensures that it’s fresh and ready for use the next morning.
When everything already has a designated space, the desk reset only takes a few minutes.
20. Routinely Re-Evaluate
As your systems and work routines change, so does everything you need at your desk. Periodically (quarterly or bi-yearly) go through to re-evaluate desk inventory to ensure it’s still necessary.
Some things we never need on our desks include:
- Things that are broken.
- Anything you never use.
- Things unrelated to the work you are currently doing.
- Too much of any one thing.
In the spirit of simplicity, it’s important to curate the things at our desk, rather than acquire.
From Subpar to Sublime
Your desk is a deal-breaking aspect of your career. Having a great desk allows you to focus, use time efficiently, and do your best work. It’s certainly nothing to be taken for granted.
How long does it take to bring a desk from average to spectacular? Brendan Gailey of “0 to 7 Figures” podcast says it took him 36 hours to remodel his space. Not a huge setback when you consider the benefit.
Here’s to optimal desk organization and leveling up your career! Sláinte.